Have ever met someone who you really wanted to talk to?
It’s not because you did not have the questions etched in your mind in bullet-form.
But your heavy tongue could not get you passed smiling and nodding sheepishly.
I remember when that happened to me. I attended a networking event and a friend of mine introduced me to this quite dashing Spanish VIP and the only thing that I could say in Espanol apart from “Hola!” was “Hasta la vista!”. ( Ok. Maybe I should not blame this one on my stutter.)
Recently, I watched an episode of TLC’s The Undateables where a young British guy, let’s call him Gary had trouble finding his soul mate since he suffered from Tourette syndrome. Gary’s problem was exacerbated when he was nervous. In turn, he would just say what was on his mind without filtering and even curse out loud. Hence, he had very few friends who accommodated his tics
Stutterers would like to enjoy the pleasures of an ordinary life, like having a hearty chat with your close friends and family. I can’t even begin to explain what it feels like to be able to express your feelings and describe situations so that others to paint the story in their minds. In the world of business, it’s no different,. You have been told over and over again about the importance of networking but making conversation is such a daunting task.
Here are a couple of tips that I gathered from Gary’s successful blind date in that episode of The Undateables that can hopefully a take a bolder step in dealing with stammering.
- Research the event (or person) so that you can go prepared. Knowing who is likely to attend will enable you to know what kind of issues to raise in conversations. In Gary’s case, the date was organised by a dating agency for people with disabilities.So he was quite lucky to be paired with someone ho had similar interests. As the date went along, he became more comfortable with himself and his date, till his tics eventually stopped.
- Never underestimate the power of practising your speech or running the conversation in your mind. Have a friend who can role play different scenarios. This will not only broaden your conversational horizons but also build your confidence. As I had shared in a previous post, I was lucky that from an early age that I got used to standing before audiences thanks to my primary school music teacher.
- Avoid the use of conversation fillers…you know…like..um…whatever. They kill your credibility and makes your audience want to pull their hair out. I knew this first hand when someone imitated me once #NotFunny. Instead, try taking a pause. This gives you a chance to take in a deep breath, gather your confidence as re-arrange your thoughts. Fast Company quotes journalist Jim Lehrer on the power of a pause:
“If you resist the temptation to respond too quickly to the answer, you’ll discover something almost magical. The other person will either expand on what he’s already said or he’ll go in a different direction. Either way, he’s expanding his response, and you get a clear view into his head and heart.”
You can read the whole great article here.
- Take advantage of your stutter and become a great listener. However, following Nicole Lapin’s early-in-life strategy of nodding and smiling in every situation will make you a doormat.
- On that note, if you know someone who does, please do not complete their sentences for them. Some stammerers maybe ok with it but most tend to feel like the wasting your time or that you are impatient.
- Have a back-up plan: this is a great chance to make good use of the synonyms that you have learnt . Ok. Within reason. I like the way actress Emily Blunt puts it in a speech that she gave at the 2009 American Stuttering Institute Benefit Gala. It’s weird having to say “Affirmative” instead of “Yes” when someone asks you something like “Would you like to come to the party?” . Just make it seem natural.
- Please do not take yourself too seriously. Enjoy the light moments and if you are brave enough make a slight joke out of it. Help others also be comfortable around you.
- Be yourself and let other people know that awesome you.
Katherine Preston on Finding Pieces of Me After Making Peace With Myself and her book, Out with It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice