Stuttering in the workplace can be a particularly challenging experience, especially when effective communication is a core component of your job description. In our latest Speaker Series, Róisín McManus, a critical care nurse practitioner, and Christopher Schuyler, an attorney in New York City, shared and facilitated a discussion about navigating stuttering on their professional paths when the pressure to communicate is particularly challenging.
Here are four main takeaways from the interactive discussion:
Point #1: Every journey must begin with a first step
Going to the job interview. Making phone calls at work. Presenting to the boss. Speaking up in a group meeting.
Many of the speaking situations that we fear when considering stuttering at work can feel overwhelming when they are all considered together. While it is important to have realistic expectations and long-term career goals, both of our speakers and many participants shared their view that the only way to build momentum is to start small. Whether it be listening to a StutterTalk podcast to hear about and connect to others’ experiences, scheduling a consultation with a speech therapist who specializes in stuttering, or opening up to a trusted support system, the first step of “normalizing” stuttering will put you on the path to a solid direction for continued growth, change, and empowerment.
Point #2: Give yourself permission to be a (job title) who stutters
Both Róisín and Christopher noted that they feel they are able to do their jobs most successfully when they allow themselves to openly stutter. When they have made the decision to hide stuttering from their co-workers and clients/patients in the past, it caused decreased confidence, increased stress, and ultimately, reduced effectiveness in their respective positions. While certainly this can be easier said than done, it is worthwhile to explore the benefits of putting stuttering in its place to expend more mental energy on completing your job effectively rather than avoiding and hiding.
Point #3: Develop a plan to ensure self-advocacy
Sometimes, misinformation about stuttering can invade the workplace and cause incorrect assumptions on the part of clients, co-workers, or management. Róisín and Christopher both commented on the power they have found in educating others through self-advertising, and when necessary, standing up against both overt and subtle forms of discrimination. In the high-intensity worlds of the medical and legal fields, being clear about their capabilities and rights in the face of stuttering has made all the difference.
Point #4: Seek out opportunities for support, encouragement, and empowerment
Stuttering can be challenging, and going it alone can make it feel even more difficult. While our speakers commented that they are in better places with their own stuttering and feel confident in their capabilities, they still have difficult moments. Seeking out a support system, meeting others who stutter, and finding role models have all instilled in them a deep drive to live fully and follow their dreams, even in the face of the challenges that stuttering can present at times.
To sum it up, Christopher ended the night with this powerful quote: “Don’t let the fears of today make decisions for your future self”.
The American Institute for Stuttering is a leading non-profit organization whose primary mission is to provide universally affordable, state-of-the-art speech therapy to people of all ages who stutter, guidance to their families, and much-needed clinical training to speech professionals wishing to gain expertise in stuttering. Offices are located in New York, NY and Atlanta, GA, and services are also available Online. Our mission extends to advancing public and scholarly understanding of this often misunderstood disorder