One of the simplest forms of communication is talking. So many people take it for granted that they can just talk to someone without anything going wrong. For people who stutter, speaking is a chore. Even saying your name becomes a circus act with repeated mistakes during the crucial parts. Many people never actually get over the fact that they stutter and it becomes a plague on their life.
For me, it’s been a little bit different, but we’ll get into that. While stuttering hasn’t been easy, I’ve been able to use it to teach myself some lessons about life. Many of these life lessons can be applied to people that don’t stutter simply because I probably see the world a little bit differently due to my disability.
A support system is imperative
Luckily I have very supportive parents. My friends were also very understanding growing up and I actually suffered very little from bullying. Perhaps I was lucky, but it helped me look introspectively about my stuttering and realize how important a support system is. My parents and grandparents offered me speech therapy outside of school therapy. I also had the latest devices that helped a stutter. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to any National Stuttering Association meetings because they were a few hours away, but I felt comfortable with myself during that time.
Not every person who stutters has a fantastic support system. If there is a person you know who doesn’t have many friends, this is an opportunity to see the world from a different lens. Personally, I didn’t have trouble making friends. But I knew people who stuttered who didn’t have many friends and still don’t to this day. This isn’t advice to overcome a stutter, but a reminder of how support can help friends and family members when they are going through difficult circumstances.
There is beauty in the unconventional
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is how to recognize beauty in things that aren’t generally seen as beautiful. Having a speech impediment has really forced me to see the world from a lens. Perhaps it’s coping, but it’s helped me find a new world of art and creation that is absolutely fascinating. Like a stutter is different from conventional speech, some of these more modern pieces are different than conventional sounds or art.
Personally, music is the medium I’ve experienced the most. The most unconventional beauty I’ve ever heard is from Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The Russian composer managed to create a piece full of distressing sounds and bizarre melodies. The piece was so controversial that there was a riot when it premiered as a ballet in Paris.
One of the best gifts stuttering has given me is perspective. It has taught me how to look at the world in a different way, especially when it comes to art.
Hard work is more important than talent
I know people who have lost their jobs simply because they stutter. When it comes down to it, having a person who has trouble with such a simple function isn’t ideal. For people looking for their first job, stuttering in an interview can be a huge detriment. Trust me, I know. I applied to more than 100 jobs before I found a place willing to take a chance on me.
Even when studying journalism in school, I realized that people would be less respectful of me and my work simply because I fumbled over my words a little too much when interviewing them. I realized I had to work so much harder to be respected. I had to report stories better so that when people read them, they would respect me for my professional work and hopefully forget how I spoke and talked in person. Frequently it worked and I was able to create many working relationships.
Confidence can be faked
This plays into my last point a little bit. I have found that confidence is important when it comes to meeting people for the first time, from networking during Detroit Startup Week or meeting people at career fairs in college. Even if I had occasional blips and stutters while talking with important people, it was okay. If I had a smile on my face and could get them to laugh, I knew I had a chance at creating a connection.
For people that don’t stutter, this can be terribly important when it comes to networking around the city and attending random events. Even if you feel like you have no confidence deep down, just putting on a smile and acting normal for a little bit can be huge. It can be the difference between landing a client or falling short on a month of rent.
Group therapy is extremely effective
For many years, I was never near people who stuttered. I knew one person, but it wasn’t until I was in college that I actually met other people that stutter. When I worked for the Communicative Sciences and Disorders department at Michigan State University, I made aware of a National Stuttering Association group in the area.
Meeting other people in a group was one of the most enlightening things I have ever done. While the National Stuttering Association isn’t group therapy (it’s not led by a registered counselor or therapist), just being around other people is so encouraging. I was fortunate to find that my stutter was relatively mild compared to others. This helped my self-confidence because I realized that even if I don’t have it well, others have it so much worse. I’ve also been able to help others come to accept their own stutters.
Political correctness is important
Despite a growing trend against political correctness in many areas, I think it only hurts people with disabilities. A person who stutters is the correct way to refer to a person who stutters, not a stutterer. Using the term people who stutter places the people with the disability in better positions to define their disorder and themselves.
People with a stutter are more than just their stutter. They are people with hobbies, likes, and dislikes. I am a person who likes to play soccer and video games. I love to write and I’m a professional content marketer. I’m also a person who stutters. Simply referring to me as a stutterer takes away my ability to define myself for what I am rather than just my disability.
Personally, I’m confident enough with my stutter that it doesn’t bother me too much if you call me a stutterer. But some people who stutter don’t realize the difference between the two. Some people who stutter don’t realize how empowering it can be to shed the label of a stutterer and finally realize they are independent of their disability. It’s just a feature among all the positives and negatives that exist in my personality as a whole.
I still have so much to overcome
Every time I look back at the personal struggles I’ve overcome, I realize how much more there is to overcome. I’ve overcome a lack of confidence for years. I had a hard time accepting myself for who I was. I’ve noticed myself not doing things simply because I didn’t want to talk. I’ve learned that I’m prone to complacency and not following through with promises to myself. Now that I’ve taken lessons from my stutter, I need to expand my newfound knowledge to even more aspects of my life.
“Photo by Gavin Whitner“