So, stuttering makes it tough to speak. But there are ways that I make it easier for myself. I have spent most of my life learning new and different ways to make certain words and sounds easier to produce. I tend to try and keep these “tricks” a secret because once I make them known it becomes pretty obvious that I am doing them but I figure this has been a pretty honest platform thus far, so why not continue? I won’t get into all of the ways in which I try and best my stutter, but I will go over a couple in this post.
I am pretty confident that there are not a ton of people that LOVE talking on the phone, especially now that we have the wonderful technology of text messages, Facebook, and emails. That being said, as much as most of us don’t thoroughly enjoy phone calls, as a stutterer I enjoy them even less. I am willing to bet that my aversion to talking on the phone is a constant across most stutterers. The biggest issue that I have with talking on the phone is the inability to read the face of the listener. I have a tendency to rely so much on the physical reaction to people as I am speaking to them and as I am stuttering. Essentially, by talking to someone face-to-face I can usually pinpoint the moment in which they become aware of my stutter, but phone conversations eliminate my ability to do so. Many times I have been on the phone with someone who is unaware of my stutter and if I get stuck on a word there is an awkward silence where they ask if I am still there. Sometimes I am forced to blame “issues with my phone” or pretend that I can’t hear them. There have been times where I have tried to call someone, had them answer the phone, I tried to say hello, have been unable to do so, and immediately hung up.
For the longest time I tried to make talking on the phone easier by simply avoiding talking on the phone, but as I got older it became more and more evident that avoidance simply wasn’t an option. My job requires me to talk on the phone quite often and calling companies/organization to set up different services (home internet, car insurance, school, etc) has become a necessity in this thing called adulthood. So here are a couple things I do to make it easier for me:
– Choose a greeting that work for me: For many years I had issues with the word “Hello”. As it is kind of a necessary greeting when answering the phone I had to get creative and figure out a greeting that worked for me. I remembered always calling my dad after we got home from school and having him answer the phone with a “good afternoon”, so I gave that a shot. It actually worked out pretty well, so that became a sort of go-to for me. “Good morning”, “Good afternoon”, or “good evening” quickly became my phone greeting until I started to get stuck on the “g” of it all. So the next evolution was a simple “Afternoon” or maybe a “G’afternoon” if I could swing it. The funny thing about phone calls though, when it is someone I know on the other line (thank you caller ID) I can basically pull off almost any greeting I want. This has a lot to do with my comfort level (which if you have read some of my earlier posts, plays a massive role in my fluency). Most of the time, if I am able to get off to a fluent start at the beginning of a phone conversation I am usually able to carry on with the remainder of the conversation rather smoothly.
– Establishing a comfortable relationship with the other end: Whenever I get a phone call or want to make a phone call I am hoping to have the person on the other end of the line be a relaxed and confident speaker. This is hard to explain but I will give a quick example that should clear it up. I was on the phone last week with someone from Google to try and solve some issues I was having with my computer. The customer service representative on the other end of the line was a super cool guy, he used words like “man” and “bro” and made it feel like I was talking with someone I could probably be friends with if I knew him in person. The Google rep’s demeanor on the phone established a relaxed rapport between him and I and that immediately reduced my stress level and therefore led to smoother, more fluent speech on my end.
This little trick I use is going to be hard to give up because some days I rely on it so heavily. It is simple really: I pretend I don’t know what something is called or what someone’s name is in order to hear someone else say it first. Funny thing about my stutter, I can usually say a word that I am stuck on right after I hear someone else say it. Sticking with the unknown nature of stuttering this is another phenomenon that I can’t really explain, but let me assure you, it is true. One of the most common times I use this technique/trick is when “remembering” names. I am pretty good with names (especially of actors and athletes) and I like to talk about movies, TV shows, and sports, but sometimes I just know that I am going to get stuck when trying to say a certain actor/actress or athlete’s name, so I just pretend that I forget it. This charade of mine usually involves rhyming off every fact about this person other than their name, i.e all the movies/shows they have been in or all the teams they played for and the memorable moments they have had. Essentially I am leading the listener on a very well lit path towards saying the name of him/her and thus enabling me to do the same once I hear it said aloud.
Tricks like these are a staple in my everyday life and I probably wouldn’t be able to get through a day without using them. I think we all have little things we do to get through any difficulties in our day, and if you don’t, may I suggest working on finding one.