Saying “hi” to someone in the school corridors, picking up the phone to order a pizza or answering the doorbell to receive a package from UPS shouldn’t be a difficult task. So, why do we shy away from the simplest and common form of communication – talking?
I have always been described as a quiet and introverted person in school. My teachers even commented on my report cards how well behaved and quiet I remained in class during lessons. Little did they know that there was a talkative child inside, wanting to pass notes, whisper little jokes, and make my classmates laugh.
The only thing that kept me from being myself was my stutter.
Now, I kind of identify as a quiet and introverted person. I have come to terms with the fact that I have very few friends who know and accept my “weird” way of speaking. I do like loud parties and pubs, because my stutter nearly vanishes in the chaos.
My acceptance of who I am, complete with the stuttering and all, has come after years of speech therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
Not being able to speak my mind for decades had wreaked havoc on my self-confidence, self-worth and happiness.
One day, my therapist asked me about the positive lessons I have learnt from my stuttering.
My first thought was, “Are you kidding? I’m here because of my stutter.”
Then she told me to think a little longer; to look beyond my anxiety, fears, broken dreams, and frustrations. Finally, it dawned upon me that stuttering has indeed taught me some very important life lessons.
So, here’s a list of the life lessons stuttering has taught me –
1. Nothing Is More Important Than Empathy and Compassion
Empathy did not come as a “free gift” with my stutter. In fact, it took years of work to overcome my envy, fear, and tinges of unconscious hatred towards the fluent speakers to actually feel empathetic towards other people.
Getting the support and therapy I needed helped tremendously in this case. Right now, I am not just more empathetic towards others who stutter; I am genuinely sympathetic for people in general.
I find myself standing up for others with speech disfluencies and other disorders. I can connect with most people I come across every day, whether they stutter or not. My own struggles have made me more aware of what other people go through.
2. Everyone’s Time Is Valuable
People are always in a hurry. Stuttering slows everyone down! While it doesn’t sound like a virtue, it is. Stuttering slows the speaker as well as the listener.
It takes the listener’s mind off the multiple tasks circling in their head and their eyes off their phone.
When I begin talking, and stutter, people almost always pay more attention to what I am saying. They try harder to understand me. It makes them focus. Both the speaker and the listener give up other tasks to simply sit down and communicate for a while.
I have noticed this only recently after I finished an exercise that involved ‘advertising my stutter and stuttering voluntarily.’ Truth be told, it has worked superbly in restoring my faith in humanity.
3. What Others Say Is Important Too
When someone has been stuttering for a long time, it can be difficult for them to see things from a new perspective. For example, it was almost impossible for me to accept that what others had to say was equally as important as what I had to say. It wasn’t being fair when I assumed that they had an advantage, simply because they were fluent.
Accepting my stutter has made me a better listener.
Now, it’s not because I cannot say what I want to say instantly. I choose to be a good listener because being the “quiet kid” has taught me to recognize the shy or introverted ones who need a pair of listening ears.
4. Patience Is a Virtue
Sometimes, saying “Good morning” to my boyfriend can take two extra seconds. He doesn’t mind and I have come to not care about it either.
Everything good in life comes after a period of waiting. At least that’s how I see it now.
My own stutter and stuttering treatment has made me a more patient person. I have learned that it is possible to become fluent even in adulthood, after years of stuttering, but it takes immense work, daily exercise, often with Stamurai app, and loads of patience.
5. Bravery Doesn’t Hide Behind an Armor
Earlier, I would go to Burger King and point at something on their menu. Or, order off the Starbucks app instead of walking up to the counter.
Now, I take my chances. I smile, tell the person behind the counter that I stutter and although I’m trying, it might take a while. Then, I get on with the order.
I volunteer to give presentations, and speak at our support group. I cannot change how I speak, but I can definitely change how I perceive my stutter. If I can normalize stuttering to even ten people, I’d like to think I’m making a positive change in the world.
6. Taking Chances Are Easier Than You Think!
Not caring about what others think of my stuttering has made me a braver and jollier person. I no longer feel the pressure to be perfect while ordering my cuppa joe or making reservations at a new restaurant for weekend dinner.
I have almost never faced a negative reaction from the person taking the order or from the people waiting in queue. If anything, they have been superbly supportive.
Many baristas even remember me and greet me by my name before asking me if I want my usual. A little meaningful human contact makes a lot of difference in repairing the dents my own self-doubt has created on my confidence and self-worth!
7. Honesty Is Refreshing
Joining stuttering support groups and attending virtual stuttering support group meets has put me in touch with several people who are open about their daily struggles.
I have also made some genuine friends who have helped me see how stuttering has shaped my life, my career choices and guided me where I am today.
In the last few years, I have made it a point to state that I struggle with my speech when I meet someone new. Hiding my stutter only makes it worse and my friends have given me the courage to be myself no matter where I am or who I am talking to.
Stuttering is a part of who I am and there is no way I can avoid it. It is indeed refreshing to be honest about myself.
8. Stuttering Has Helped Me Grow
Growing up is easy, but growing as a person can be a challenge for many.
Stuttering has helped me become less judgmental, more empathetic and sympathetic towards others, and more tolerant towards others’ opinions.
Yes, in one way I couldn’t do a lot of activities I wanted as a kid. However, as an adult, after rounds of speech therapy and CBT, I have come to realize that stuttering didn’t keep me from participating in quiz club, debate club or music club. It was me all along! I was too worried about whether other kids would laugh at my disfluencies.
Well, guess, we’ll never find out if I’d at all fail, because I never tried any of it.
This has made me see things in a different light. Stuttering has shaped my life and I am where I am because I sound different from the others.
Everyone has their personal struggles, even if they don’t stutter.
So, I have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to regret or resent right now.
Last but not the least
I am here, sharing my thoughts, with a hint of confidence thanks to everyone who loves me and supports me. Without my speech therapist and counselor it wouldn’t have been possible to complete this personal journey and find the state of quasi-peace I am in.
In fact, who knew this list could be so long! However, I do secretly wish that with everyone’s help it keeps growing each year as I grow as a person.