Within my first few weeks at People Mag I received an instant message (yes, I just said instant message. That’s still a thing) from my boss. He asked me if I’d be able to talk on the phone, because he’d need me to start conducting some phone interviews — he began with a “please forgive me for asking this,” of course.
I told him I could “definitely” do it and went on abrief, unintentionally inspiring, spiel-like rant about how I’ve conducted interviews in the past with a stutter and am confident that I can do them now.
Child, was I lying. I was not even slightly confident in my ability to effectively conduct interviews over the phone, even though I had done a lot in the past. When I read my boss’s IM, I was embarrassed and the situation was sooooo awkward. But anyway, I lied. I lied to my boss so he wouldn’t worry.
Since beginning this blog, I’ve gotten emails and messages from a lot of journalists who stutter (we’re more common than I thought). And whether they’re young or old, interviewing is always something that has come up in these conversations.
I have so much trouble interviewing on the phone, what should I do? People hang up on me before I can get a word out. I have so much anxiety about doing phone interviews, what helps you?
These are just a few of the things I’ve been asked and told by my fellow journalists. (I’m flattered that people seek my advice, although I am no authority on how to “overcome” a stutter whatsoever.)
From non-stutterers who learn that I stutter, I typically get, “how does that work? What’s that like for you?”
Interviewing is something that both stutterers and non-stutters are interested in. This is cool because interviewing is the hardest part of my job, in my opinion. Yes, it has gotten easier, and I do not get as nervous about it as I used to.
But looking back on that day my boss sent me the IM and thinking about where I am now, one phrase comes to mind when I think about how I’ve overcome my fear, anxiety, disfluency and dread in regard to interviewing: “fake it till you make it.”
Child, listen, I’ve faked it so much. So so so much. From day one I’ve pretended and let on that I was confident about interviewing and comfortable with doing it, but that didn’t become true until recently.
If I’m being transparent here, I tried so hard, for so long, to convince others that I’m competent and capable despite my stutter that I actually began to believe these things myself. Now, I’m not concerned with trying to convince anyone of anything.
I don’t know if that was the healthiest thing to do or the wisest, but it worked for me (so, Kanye shrugs).
Of course, I do not give this exact advice when my fellow stuttering journalists ask about my stuttering techniques. But I do say that, if nothing else, confidence is key. Yes, anyone can fake it till they make it, but being confident in and of yourself, for yourself is most important.
A lot of amazing things flow out of believing in yourself. I would argue that it is one very important ingredient in the recipe of success (that was cheesy, I know).
I think we all have to start anything with confidence and belief in ourselves. Amazing things will follow.