A few days ago I tweeted an article (that unfortunately I forgot to bookmark) about the move, “The King’s Speech.” I’ve yet to see this movie myself, but I’m very interested in checking it out as it focuses on a topic near to my heart - stuttering. I mentioned this when I sent my tweet out and a few minutes later I got an email from JG:
I follow you on twitter and noticed your tweet about stuttering. I too stutter and I am just wondering how it has affected your career? How are you able to speak at conferences and stuff without stuttering? Sometimes the word i will stutter on is a proper noun such so its kinda hard to avoid it. Anyways Just wanted to reach out and I think its always cool to know that people have the same issue as yourself!
I’m not sure how well known this is - I don’t really hide it - but I struggle very hard with stuttering. I’m not sure when it started, but I’m pretty sure in college. Like most nerds I was teased in high school, and I can distinctly remember not being teased about stuttering. (I was fat and into computers - so take a wild guess as to what I was teasted about.) My major issues are with “Leh”, “Deh”, “Meh”, “Neh” sounds. So words like Linux, database, Google, are words I struggle very hard with. I’ve gotten very good at avoidance. For example, I’ll use the “Lie-nix” way of saying of Linux. I’ll say “back end” instead of database. When you practice using alternate words for many years it simply becomes second nature. Sometimes it’s hard. When my family I went to see “Gnomio and Juliet”, I knew I was going to have a hard time. My stomach was literally clenching up as I moved forward in line. I ended up saying “5 tickets for Juliet”, as if I had forgotten the name, and then said something like “Oh wait - um” and I let the saleslady correct me. It was 100% intentional but it got the job done.
The article I tweeted also made mention of something I had never known. Apparently some stutterers have an easier time when singing or acting. For me, when I present, I typically have no issues stuttering. Presenting feels… different from most social situations. If I’m presenting on a topic I like and the audience is into it, it’s very comfortable to me.
But then immediately after the presentation when I’m speaking one on one - the problem returns. Weird, right? JG also mentioned having issues on the phone. My boss likes to tease me about preferring IM over audio, but the fact is, phones scare me too. If I know I’m calling for someone and their name is one I’ll have issues with, I’ll typically practice the name beforehand, or, when I call, I’ll pretend like I’ve momentarily lost the name of the person I’m trying to reach. Having that second or two to ‘stumble’ around kind of lets me come back to sound from the side and get it out.
At the end of the day - I’m lucky. I can communicate. It’s only problem words - not the entire language. I’ve met folks far worse than I am and I hear how they have to struggle. At the end of the day - I look it like my dandruff. There is a long list of ailments that are far worse than flakes and a stammer so I’m just going to live with it.