People take your cues. If you don’t talk about your stuttering to your friends, they probably won’t talk about your stutter with you. Maybe that feels like a relief, but around long-term friends, it may be nice to know how they feel.
I’m all about the day I watched thisisstuttering, which I mentioned in my second blog. That day I went to a premier at Morgan’s university with two of my friends. Afterwards, I spoke with Morgan’s girlfriend (now wife!) for a long time about the film and about my own experiences. More than anything else I remember about talking with her about, I remember her complete support and love of her boyfriend. She spoke with anger at the way he was treated because of his stutter by some people, and she spoke with admiration of him. I left wondering if anyone would ever feel this way about me, and then I started to wonder if people already did.
The only times that I had spoken with close friends about my speech impediment were times that I had brought it up myself. Very rarely had someone brought it up him or herself, and it would usually started with them asking if it was OK to talk about it. I always encouraged it at that point, and I would end up getting a floodgate of questions. I wasn’t in denial about my stutter itself, but I was in denial about the importance of it to me and to my life. I also didn’t understand how much other people didn’t know.
Once I went to that premier and finally connected with another stutterer, I started talking to my friends. I wanted them to watch the short film. I wanted them to understand. I started talking about how I felt when I stuttered. That was when the validation began. I was so used to people saying they never noticed my stutter. That isn’t validating. I notice it. I don’t ever not. Telling me they don’t ever “hear” it when I do it all the time doesn’t make me feel better.
What made me feel better was the comment of one of my close, long-time friends who I had never talked about my stutter with. He said, “Yeah, I mean, when you talk with me, I don’t notice. But when you meet someone new and stutter, I notice it. I feel anxious for you because I know how much it means to you.” That was incredibly validating. Despite the fact that we had never talked about my stutter, he knew how I felt when it happened. I assume that he read my body language when things happened and could see me tense up and occasionally shut down. He knew. He got it.
It answered the thought I had after meeting Morgan’s girlfriend: people paid attention to me and they cared. They understand. Even if they think my stutter is not a big deal, some of them know it is to me. Sometimes that’s the best you can ask for.
If you’re not ready to do that yet, that’s OK too. I think you can apply this to most insecurities: stutter or anything else.
Are you ready to talk to your friends or family yet about your speech impediment and how it impacts you every single day? You don’t have to do it in an unnatural way, but allow the conversation when the thought enters your mind. If you have talked to people, would you recommend it to other stutterers?