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Talk about honesty

| 01.10.2001

I have an 'interiorised stammer'. As part of my therapy I have been asked to prepare and give a brief talk on any aspect of stammering, I chose honesty as my subject, below is my talk.

Honesty is important both to yourself and to others. I have chosen 'interiorised stammering' to illustrate this point. I draw only from my own personal experience and am not making reference to or representing other people who stammer.

Interiorising my stammer means I do not say what I want to say. I don't use the words I want to use, I avoid situations, I avoid speaking in other situations and I go to extraordinary lengths to hide the fact I stammer. I am therefore telling myself and others I do not stammer; this is a lie.

There are considerable costs to this dishonesty, firstly, the cost to myself. I waste energy and mental resources, I concentrate on 'how I say' instead of 'what I say', my focus is on not stammering at any cost, and this impacts on the quality of my communication.

The second cost is emotional. While I struggle and fight to hide my stammer and it feels like the world is collapsing around me I keep the smile going and suppress the negative feelings. My emotional communication is compromised - what effect does this habitual suppression have on my emotional health?

The third cost is that my stammer inevitably comes out, when it is most important that it doesn't. I will have lead the listener/listeners to believe I do not stammer by communicating with inappropriate words, pauses and avoidances.

Then I stammer when I am finally trapped down a stammerer's cul-de-sac. My audience will be surprised not by my stammer but the fact that I stammer after I clearly gave the impression that I did not stammer, they will see a deception. This deception also communicates to my audience that there is something wrong if I stammer. I have therefore communicated that I deceive and I have a deep dark secret that I keep hidden.

The dishonesty - not the stammer - has caused the problems

Lastly, the greatest cost. Pretending you don't stammer stands in the way of personal development; you cannot get help for something you don't outwardly admit to. I am 37 and have only now decided that I need to stop this charade and get help for my stammer. By not being honest and getting help earlier, what opportunities have been lost by interiorising?

It is the fear of stammering that leads to the dishonest hiding of my stammer. The dishonesty - not the stammer - has caused the problems.

As a final aside I asked my therapist whether there was a difference between stammering and stuttering, the answer was none, some countries use stammering some use stuttering. I preferred stammering because it was a 'kinder word'. I now prefer the honest sound of the word stuttering.

From the Autumn 2001 edition of Speaking Out