5 Things People Who Stutter Are Tired of Hearing (This One's For the Fluent Speakers)
So, we know being a stutterer is hard, blah blah, I won’t beat a dead horse this time. I’ve spoken with many stutterers, shared war stories, tears, laughs, etc. But, at the end of the day, if you don’t stutter, you just don’t understand what we mean when we describe our collective plight.
And how could you? As a fluent person, you wouldn’t know what it’s like to block in front of a room full of people, get the “are you okay?” face from a stranger or have potential employers ask whether you’re “capable” of doing the job (*cough* Ms. Angove from my first job in college *cough* jerk *cough*).
So, you don’t have these experiences and obviously can’t empathize. But, if you’re an even slightly good person, you're pondering ways you could make society a friendlier place for people with speech impediments. And that’s where I come in! One way to strive to not be part of the problem is by being mindful of the things you say while speaking with a stutterer.
So, here are five things people who stutter are tired of hearing :)
1. Did You Forget Your Name?
Stop it. Stop it now. Run as far as you can from that pretentious phrase and don’t look back.
This five-word question is both harmful and unnecessary. It is extremely rare for a person to forget their own name. And most of the time people who ask this question aren’t even serious about it — most laugh after asking it. Further illustrating that it’s unnecessary. I get it, this question may be an innocent attempt to thwart the awkwardness of the situation but it’s demeaning. It’s unnecessary because it doesn’t help the stutterer or move the conversation forward in any way, shape or form. If anything, it slows the conversation down because it forces the stutterer to address the ridiculous question instead of saying what we actually need to say.
Phew, glad I got that off my chest. Let’s move on, shall we?
2. Think About What You Want To Say Before You Say It
Okay, this actually can be a good bit of advice. Personally, it is helpful for me to think about what I’m trying to say before I say it. But we must do away with this phrase for a few reasons. Firstly, in most cases, stutterers have thought about what we want to say before we say it. And more importantly, saying this implies that we aren't doing all we can to communicate effectively, which, I’m sure is not the case.
Secondly, do you think about what you want to say before you it? It’s second nature for anyone to begin speaking without analyzing, pondering and perfecting what they want to say in their mind before actually speaking. So, why give such advice when it’s unnatural and you most likely don’t even do it?
And lastly, most of the people I’ve heard this phrase from aren’t speech pathologists. If you are not thoroughly trained in treating those with speech impediments, and if you don’t even know the slightest information about stuttering then don’t give unsolicited advice. If you’re not an expert, don’t act like one.
3. Why Can’t You Just Say It?
Because we stutter, that’s why we can't just say it. Got it? Good. Moving on…
Just kidding :) Listen, when people ask this question, what they usually mean to ask is something along the lines of “what is up with your speech?” They’re just curious. And that’s okay, be curious, but there are other ways to get the information you're seeking. This question is, in my opinion, one of the rudest things to ask a stutterer.
This statement is comparative. It’s pretty much like you’re saying “My speech is great. Everyone else’s speech is great. What’s wrong with yours?
There’s nothing “wrong” with our speech. It’s not worse than yours, or better, just different.
So, again. To answer this rude question: Because we stutter, that’s why we can't just say it. Got it? Good.
4. Can I Pray For You — About Your Stutter?
(Please imagine me shaking my head right now)
I love a good prayer, I'm a devout Christian and if you think a prayer would help me in some way then do that … but on your own. You may not mean it this way, Deacon Myra, but asking to pray over my stutter implies that it’s something that needs to be prayed over — something that needs to be corrected. And it doesn’t. Managed? Yes. Corrected? No. Also, religion and faith are very touchy subjects in today’s society. You shouldn’t just go around asking to pray over someone’s disability all willy-nilly, if you must do so, do it on your own.
5. Can You Get That Fixed?
*Insert facepalm here*
It’s simple. This question is harmful because it implies that stutterers are broken (because, you know, when things are broken you fix them, right)?
It’s pretentious because it promotes a sense of superiority. It’s almost as if you’re asking, “when will you be able to speak ‘normally’ you know, like me?” Rather than asking this question, try just accepting a person’s speech for what it is.
BONUS: Just Breathe, Calm Down
If I never hear this again in my lifetime, it'll be too soon. We don't stutter because we're "worked up," "not calm," or because we're not breathing (side note: we've all been breathing for a pretty long time, I doubt we ever forget to "just breathe" -- get your life). No, we stutter because we stutter, that's the only reason.