How to react when you meet a person who stutters
Date: 6/13/2012 6:09:00 AM
I was watching Satyamev Jayate this weekend when a blind person narrated how people don't address him directly, but ask the people with him what HE wants. If you are thinking it has something to do with eye contact, it isn't. Because this happens to me too.
For example, we've gone for a test at a lab.
Receptionist: (Immediately turns to S) Age?
S: (Looks back pointedly and blankly at receptionist.)
Receptionist: (Back to me) Age? (Avoids eye contact)
Of course, it is not pleasant to listen when somebody stutters, so people might find it comfortable to talk to someone who doesn't stutter. But they don't realize that it can be really insulting. I have had people pushing a pen and a paper at me, thinking that I'd rather write my question to them than say it aloud. You are not being helpful, people! You are being insulting!
I know people are in a hurry, I know not everybody knows what to do when faced with someone who is not able to get words out easily.
If you're wondering whether you'll fare well if you come face to face with a person who stutters, it's simple.
1) Remember that the person in front of you is a functioning, intelligent individual, in complete possession of all his senses.
2) Don't be helpful and try and complete sentences, or suggest words.
e.g. "I bought this in K-k-k-"
You: Koramangala? Commercial street? Kanpur? Kerala?
3) Let them finish at their own pace.
4) If you did not catch something that they were saying, don't just nod and go ahead. Ask them to repeat it. They will also have realized that the word did not come out quite clearly, and they will repeat it for you. If you pretend to understand, you will be caught out later, and it will be embarrassing for you :)
5) Sometimes, the facial contortions that accompany stuttering can either alarm or amuse people, as I have seen. More of amusement. Don't hide your smile behind your palm, or pretend that you are laughing at something else. That's really silly! As if we can't make out!
6) When you are faced with a person who stutters on the phone, it can be difficult to realize that the silences on the other end are not because of problems in the network. And because of the lack of eye-contact, several people who stutter find it more difficult to speak to strangers on the phone. Once again, as soon as you realize that these are not technical interruptions, follow the same guidelines as above.
7) What to tell your children - if your children ask, "why does she talk like that?" Say whatever you want - that some people find it difficult to speak easily - but don't make it a taboo thing like "Don't ask her, don't mention it to her, shhhh.." A stutter is nothing to be ashamed of, and the child should not get that idea.
These are not too difficult, are they? Just common sense, I would think. Be natural. And don't worry, because honestly, most of the people I know, and who have turned from strangers to friends - have all reacted perfectly naturally to my stutter. I can usually pinpoint the exact moment of enlightenment in their eyes when they discover that I stutter, and that is perfectly okay! It is what happens after that - that separates the wheat from the chaff!
One more thing, don't hesitate to bring my stutter up in our face to face conversation. I am not embarrassed or touchy about it (I used to be, but not anymore.)
Any questions, bring them on. And now that this series has kicked off, I'll probably say more about it soon.