For as long as I have stuttered I have had strange, odd, and rude things told to me by well-intentioned and not-so-well intentioned fluent types (that’s what I call people who don’t stutter). I have assembled a few of my top comments to help raise awareness of what not to say to a person who stutters. There are the less fun things you should know, like not to interrupt us, complete our sentences and not to look strange at us when we are talking. Those aren’t as amusing as the ones I would like to talk about here. So as you read, please take note and don’t be THAT person when talking to a person who stutters.
“You are such an inspiration. If I talked like you, I wouldn’t talk at all!”
Someone actually said this to me after I did a presentation on a topic not related to stutter at a community library. Perhaps I should superglue my mouth, lady? Way to make me feel self-conscious about my speech while also reducing the courage that it takes to sometimes speak in front of others to a Lifetime movie of the week. There were probably 100+ insightful things I said during the presentation and for her to focus on my speech reduced my thoughts to my speech. Granted, when I see someone stutter, I am mesmerized because it feels like home and I feel myself reflected in their voice. I am inspired but it is from a very different place. Calling someone an inspiration is hack! It’s been done! Let’s focus on what the person is saying instead of how they are saying it.
“You should try singing for your stuttering, because singing is good for the soul.”
A massage therapist told me this in a hippy spa in Calistoga, California. I just wanted her to massage my over developed stutterer’s jaw (it is really quite impressive), but had to hear her cure for my speech. First of all, I have a horrible signing voice. Second, that is ridiculous. Third, and hopefully this is a given, there is nothing wrong with the soul that is being manifested through my stuttering. Religious types who want to pray for my speech, make sure you get this one! I figure that if God didn’t cure Moses stutter (instead God recommended an accommodation of having Aaron speak for Moses), then he is probably not going to worry about mine.
“Why can’t you stop stuttering like the guy in the King’s Speech?” (Previously, “I was watching Oprah and I saw thing that makes you not stutter”)
For years, when a stranger said the words “I was watching the Oprah show and…” I always knew what was coming next! Some cure about how to reduce my speech. It didn’t matter that they were changing the oil in my car or giving me a colonoscopy (both metaphorically similar I suppose)—they still felt the need to educate me about my own stuttering. As if their one hour of watching Oprah, or the King’s Speech, suddenly makes them a PhD in stuttering. I usually try to educate people that my focus is not on fluency (not talking with a stutter) and instead communicating effectively—which I am pretty good at and singing everything to achieve fluency isn’t really how I want to communicate! Plus, King George (that dude in the King’s Speech) was going up against Hitler and World War II, I am just trying to order a pastrami sandwich. Plus, and I must say this on behalf of people who stutter around the world, King George wasn’t cured. He said one speech KIND OF fluently.
“Have you considered a brain invasive surgery to stop stuttering?”
When you say this to someone (more specifically me), what I hear is “your speech is so outside the norm of what I am use to that you should consider brain surgery.” A frontal lobe lobotomy for my stuttering isn’t something I am really interested in! Similar to the Oprah example, keep your recommendations to yourself, unless we are paying you to hear them. People who stutter seek out the information when they want it, your advice on the street when you over hear us stuttering while breaking up with our girlfriend/boyfriend, probably isn’t the time and place. Also, anything that invasive is just creepy—especially since nothing like this exists in good stuttering circles.
“You stutter because you haven’t had the right kind of orgasm.”
This might be interchangeable with “I could bang the stutter out of you.” Last I checked the research on stuttering, believe it or not, stuttering can’t be cured by your genitals. If you want to flirt with a stutter, try something a little more subtle.