September Recap: Our First Meeting

This is the recap of our first monthly meeting of the NSA Midtown Manhattan Group. We wanted to be a tad bit thorough for our initial summary, so this recap is a little bit on the long side, but we hope you’ll still read it.

The meeting was at the NSA office, just west of Bryant Park, on 40th St. (between Broadway and 6th Ave). We wanted to have our Chapter meetings somewhere in the Midtown vicinity to be as accessible to as many people as possible, and we are very fortunate to have found this specific location. Thank you Tammy for making this seamless for us. We really really appreciate you setting this up. And just to clarify, we obviously welcome everyone, regardless of what borough or city you live in.

So, all 4 of our chapter leaders were in attendance – Carl Herder, Marc Winski, Michael Taub, and myself, and at least one of us will be in attendance for any given meeting going forward. And we had a turnout of nine attendees – all males who stutter. So statistically speaking, according to some scientifically sound research on stuttering, there should have been 2 females in attendance. Unfortunately they didn’t show up for our first meeting, but it was still a dynamic group.

Marc and Michael kicked things off, and this being our first meeting, we thought it would be appropriate to spend a little bit more time for intros. Michael brought a roll of toilet paper into the room, passed it around and told everyone to grab some, as much or as little as they wanted. After everyone took some, he instructed us to state a fact about ourselves to the group for every square we had ripped off. It turns out, at least from our sampling pool, there may be a strong correlation with people who stutter and 60’s music as a favorite genre.

For the second half of the meeting we had our discussion. For future meetings, probably 90% of the time allotted will be discussion based. And in case you may be wondering, you don’t have to speak at all, but you’ll probably feel really really good about yourself if you open up and say a little something about yourself and where you’re at with your stuttering journey.

Gary A. asked Michael T. about phone interviews, since Michael had shared with the group that he was applying for jobs during our toilet paper fiesta. Michael talked about challenges that come with phone interviews. There is more focus on our ‘voices’ during phone interviews, which can obviously add pressure to the situation, particularly if you’re a person who stutters. And for many of us, whether we like it or not, we’re most likely going to stutter during these situations. Michael explained that he advertised (that he stutters) to all of his interviewers. This helps to get some of the pressure off, just by being more open about the whole thing. And it also helps set the tone in his interviews by having more control of the situation, kind of implying something like, “listen, I stutter, this is how I happen to speak, I’m okay with, just wanted to put it on the table, listen to what I have to say because I’m qualified for this job, and you should hire me because I’m awesome, and I will double your company’s profits in a matter of month!” Maybe not the last part, but you never know.

Larry C. shared some very helpful insight about how an interviewee is judged on pretty much everything during in-person interviews – the way we speak, our body language, our non-verbal language, etc. Some things we have control over, some things we do not. How we react to our stuttering and how we may react to other people’s reactions to our stuttering might actually be an important factor in the hiring decision. This goes back to the idea of authenticity; being (or appearing) confident in our imperfections may be one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal.

One of our attendees mentioned the fact that it helps to know someone in the company you are applying for. This is a fair statement to make, but unfortunately, unless our father is Sir Richard Branson, this is many times out of our control. We can’t do anything about this. But, here’s the good news. There are some important things we do have control over. Whether we are on a phone interview, an in-person interview, or any speaking situation for that matter, and we feel like we need to address our stuttering to our listener, why not do it with a little bit of confidence. This may not come over night, but come back to our monthly meetings. We’ll help each other figure out how to do it!

Overall, the meeting was a very positive one.

Towards the end, Marc W. asked the group if there was anyone who had any type of goal until we met again next month. Dan G. said he would like to practice a skill known as fluency shaping, also known as vocal fold management, for 5 minutes a day, not more, not less. He explained how this helps him throughout the day to have a little more control over his speech when he needs it. There is no one tool, or one skill that works for everyone, but for Dan this works, and that’s cool. Different people like using tools, some people don’t. People have different goals when it comes to their stuttering, and we come to these groups to learn from one another and see what’s best for each of us.

Towards the end of the meeting, we slowly lingered out of the building while we got better acquainted with one another, as some of us exchanged contact information. About half of us went to an Irish pub, Gabby O’Hara’s, a block away where we had a drink. We encourage our members to hangout after our meetings, or at anytime for that matter. Support doesn’t have to have boundaries within the walls of the meetings.

We were really happy for everyone that came out on our first night. Personally speaking, the NSA has really helped out soo much over these last couple years, providing a safe place where I could come talk about my stutter and receive strength from others. I never honestly never knew it would change me the way it has. And I’m so thankful for that. We want to continue sharing these experiences with each and everyone of us, and we’ll make sure this NSA Midtown Manhattan Chapter will be the beginning of something special.