Last Monday we had a nice turnout – 18 people in total, 16 PWS and 4 first-timers to our group. Welcome Mike, Melissa, Dan and Micheala. Before splitting into two groups, as we have been lately for our discussion, we watched an 8-minute video that has recently gone viral to use as a talking point. The clip was of a commencement speech given by a student, Parker Mantell, who was graduating from Indiana University. He was also a PWS and gave an inspirational speech about how he challenged himself, interning at a major TV network and serving some of the highest lawmakers in our country. The latter included answering calls for the majority leader of the US House and making thousands of calls for a high profile US governor.
We examined points of his speech and how it related to our own experiences. A couple of our members expressed how phone calls have been a challenge for them in the workplace. One (PWS) may wonder, did Parker advertise on his phone calls, or did he just stutter openly, and/or did he use some sort of fluency modification technique? We focused on what we did know, and if you’re goal is 100% fluency, and you are a person who stutters, and you put pressure on yourself to be fluent, in most case, perhaps not all, but in most cases, chances are you’re going to have a pretty shitty experience. So what are we left to do?
[I should note here, total fluency is a goal of some of our members. What may work for one PWS may not work for someone else. But many of our members want to focus on what they can actually control, our mindset, and the tone of our discussions lately has been that of self-acceptance, and the power that comes with that.]
The discussion lead to the idea of what it means to be an effective communicator? As it turns out, fluency doesn’t automatically result in effective communication. There are many variables that make someone an effective communicator – one’s tone, being genuine, being present, eye-contact, being a good listener, being succinct, just to name a few. One could even argue that Parker himself may even be a better communicator than some of the high profile lawmakers he was interning for.
One of our members, a longtime teacher and coach, and PWS, expressed how he believes he has been a very effective communicator over the years. For him, accepting his stuttering usually meant stuttering with confidence and stuttering in an easy way, usually, but not always, with little tension. Thinking back during our school days, how many times did we fall asleep trying to listen to a boring, but fluent lecture? Are you an effective communicator when even the non sleep-deprived students are also wandering off? Probably not.
The reality is, whether stuttering is depicted in the media or not, there are many people, just like our friend Parker who are leading very happy and successful lives as PWS. But we face challenges, and this is why we continue to come to these groups, to learn from one another and empower one another.
If you’d like to meet some amazing people who stutter, join us for this year’s NSA Annual Conference. It’s just a few weeks away, and some of us will be driving down for the short trip. Click here if you’d like to find out more information about the conference.