The Power of Leaving Our Comfort Zones – James Hayden

About the Author: James Hayden is a 26 year old New Orleans resident, New Orleans Saints fan, Survivor super fan, writer, and a person who stutters. James is the author of Dear World, I Stutter: A Series of Open Letters from a Person Who Stutters. James’ work has also been published by The Stuttering Foundation, The Mighty, MSN, and Yahoo.

Growth through speaking is the best way to describe my journey with stuttering over the past two and a half years. It took me getting out of my comfort zone and openly talking about stuttering to many people, mostly of who were complete strangers, to get me more comfortable with stuttering. It sounds like a lyric that Alanis Morissette could include in an updated version of her song “Ironic,” doesn’t it?

Let’s backtrack to how we got to this point. If you would’ve told me two and a half years ago that I would be more than happy and actively looking for opportunities to stand on a stage or appear on podcasts to discuss my journey stuttering I would’ve laughed in your face and said, “Not in a million years.”  Funny how things can change over two and a half years. Now, talking to different groups about stuttering and my journey with it is one of my biggest passions.

It started in spring of 2017 when the chapter leader of my stuttering support group asked me if I wanted to speak to his SLP class about my journey with stuttering.  I said, “Sure.”  I had only been going to these meetings for a little more than a year and I was ok with and had generally accepted my stutter.  I was ok with talking about stuttering in my support group or one on one conversations with people I knew, but this was a whole new ball game.  I had done a similar thing during my time in speech therapy, but it was done more so to get me comfortable with public speaking than willingly sharing my story.  At the time, I thought it would be nothing more than a cool experience and a day off of work. Little did I know how much that invite would impact my life.

The day arrived and I loved it. I realized that talking about my journey with stuttering, up to that point, was cathartic for me.  Also, I enjoyed educating the next batch of speech language pathologists. Around the same time, I participated in a panel discussion about stuttering that was open to the community.  These two events got me more comfortable with talking about stuttering and as a result helped me discover my voice as well as my passion for stuttering advocacy.

Once I spoke to his class and was a member of the panel, I knew I wanted to continue speaking about stuttering. So I took my speaking to a different medium, the written word.  I began writing about my experiences through stuttering.  My writings eventually turned into a book and opened doors for me I could not imagine possible.  I write because it is cathartic for me, shows others they are not alone in this journey we call stuttering, and most importantly it allows me the opportunity to be the person I needed when I was younger: someone who says stuttering is ok and nothing to be embarrassed by.

This pinnacle of this journey, so far, of growing through speaking was on June 12, 2019 when I was one of the eleven speakers at the inaugural TEDxOchsner.  I spent nearly five minutes talking to a room of 300 colleagues and livestreamed for 25,000 more and stuttered hard during my entire talk.  Yet, I walked off the stage as proud as can be.  Yes, I stuttered big time, but more importantly I accomplished a goal and wasn’t mad at myself for stuttering nor embarrassed by it.  Those are two things the 21-year-old James didn’t think were possible.  It was growing in confidence, through speaking, that allowed this to happen.

Since that first invitation in the spring of 2017, I have guest lectured at nine different universities, presented at the NSA conference, appeared on a stuttering related podcast, and as previously mentioned given a TED talk. More importantly, I’ve grown in confidence in myself and in my stutter through speaking about my experiences with stuttering.  As I have been told numerous times and have told others, “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone.” At times this wasn’t comfortable, but I’ve grown so much by getting out of my comfort zone and speaking about the one topic younger me never wanted to discuss.

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Comments

The Power of Leaving Our Comfort Zones – James Hayden — 75 Comments

  1. Hi James!

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am currently a graduate student in speech-language pathology and I am very interested in this area of the field. Recently, I have been going through the realization that progress/growth cannot happen until the present becomes just uncomfortable enough to push us into the next phase. I love the quote you included: “there’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone.” It is nice to be reminded that this is a normal feeling that we must push through and learn to take advantage of.

    You mentioned that you have spoken to classes of speech-language pathologist students. Can you give me one (or two) pieces of advice as a beginning SLP?

    Best,
    Marissa

    • Hey Marissa,

      I’m glad that you enjoyed my article. A couple of advice for you:

      1. Allow your client to set their goals.
      2. Conform your plan to your client. Don’t conform your client to your plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
      3. The word therapist is in the job title of “speech therapist.” There will be days where your client may just need to vent about whatever non-speech related thing they are going through. Be that pair of ears for them.

      Hope that helps.

      James

      • Hi James and Marissa,

        I am also a graduate student studying speech-language pathology. I appreciate your advice on what makes an effective/”good” SLP during fluency treatment. I like your point: “Don’t conform your client to your plan.” Therapy is not a “one-size fits all” model. A clinician needs to be flexible to his or her individual client’s needs. I am finding that truly skilled clinicians accepts feedback (such as your own) as constructive, not critical. Your advice is helping me understand how I can better serve my future clients. Moreover, I can use your story as an example of empowerment and growth. Thank you for your post.

        • Hi Kai,

          Thanks for your kind words about my article. I’m glad you found it useful.

          James

  2. Hi! I am currently an undergraduate student in speech-language pathology and loving it. Reading your story really inspired me. It shows that people should not be ashamed of who they are, instead they should embrace it. You took something about yourself that you were uncomfortable with and turned it into something beautiful. As a future SLP, I want to help people to not feel ashamed of themselves because it’s not something to be ashamed of. I read that you went to speech therapy, what’s one thing that you would have changed about your experience with therapy or what was not helpful?

    • Hey Sidney,

      I’m glad that you enjoyed my article. I’ve been through speech therapy twice. The first time was from ages 5-11 and the second time was from the ages of 20-22. I’ll answer your question based on my second go round. The two things I would’ve changed are: I would’ve gone sooner in my college career and I would’ve been more open about the fact that I was in speech therapy. My pride prohibited me from looking into speech therapy as soon as I started college. Once I was in speech therapy, I did everything possible to hide the fact I was in speech therapy. I think had I done those two things, I’d would’ve accepted my stutter at an earlier age.

      In terms of what was not helpful, some of the techniques I learned did not help me. Fortunately, once I told my speech therapist that I did not like a certain technique we no longer used it.

      James

  3. Hello James!

    I currently am an undergraduate student in speech-language pathology.Your story spoke to me because I struggle with getting out of my comfort zone as well. I am very afraid of public speaking but, I do wish to get better. Your story inspired me because you were able to public speak confidently and be proud of yourself while doing so.

    I was wondering how did you overcome your fear/shyness when it came to public speaking?

    Thank you,
    Angelena

    • Hey Angelena,

      I’m glad you got something out of my article. I was never afraid of public speaking, I just didn’t like how I sounded in public speaking situations. Two things helped me become more comfortable with public speaking. The first was learning to not be mad at myself for openly stuttering/stuttering severely in my public speaking opportunities. The second thing was simply doing it. The more I spoke in public, the more comfortable I became with myself and my speech. It took years, but I am no longer mad at myself for openly stuttering/stuttering severely in public speaking situations.

  4. Hi James,

    Thanks a lot for writing about your journey, and educating us on the value of getting out of our comfort zones and speaking openly about stuttering as a ways, some would say THE way, to get comfortable with stuttering. The point you make is very important, and I am sure that many people will learn from it.

    Hanan

  5. Hi James,

    I’m currently an undergrad speech language pathology major. I found your story to be inspiring and ironically perfect for me at this point in my life. I’m wondering if you have any advice on how to tell whether something is too far outside of your comfort zone or attainable zone? Also, I was wondering what the biggest thing is that you would change about your speech therapy?

    Thank you!
    Kristen

    • Hey Kristen,

      I’m glad you enjoyed my article. My only piece of advice on how to tell whether something is too far outside of your comfort zone is to trust your gut. If your gut says this step is too big, then start taking baby steps towards that same goal.

      I went to speech therapy twice in my life. The first time was when I was 5-11 and then from 20-22. Based on my second time, I would’ve gone back sooner. My second time in speech therapy consisted of a series of baby steps that helped me accept and ultimately embrace my stutter.

      James

  6. Hi James –

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a second year graduate student in speech-language pathology and will be entering the field as a speech-language-pathologist next year. I appreciate you sharing your experiences.

    Your comment about how “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone” spoke to me. If we only do what is easy and safe we will never push ourselves to see what we can be capable of. That’s a scary thought, and one that holds a lot of truth. It reminds me of a concept I explored at a fluency intensive in August. You can take actions that place you in the safe, challenged, or overwhelmed zones. The trick is to find that balance point, where you are challenged and able to make progress, but aren’t completely in the overwhelmed zone.

    I am working with my local NSA chapter and we are hoping to reach more individuals in the community who stutter. How did you find your chapter and start attending meetings?

    Thank you,
    Megan Izzo

    • Hey Megan,

      Thank you for your kind words about my article. I’m glad that it spoke to you.

      My story with finding the NSA is interesting. I found about the NSA in 2013 when my speech therapist told me about it. I looked into it and saw that there was a chapter in New Orleans, but I didn’t go because I went to college out of state plus a variety of other weak excuses. The main reason I didn’t go was because I wasn’t ready to walk into a room and admit to myself and others that I am a person who stutters.

      In the fall of 2015, I moved to a new city for my first job out of college. I looked back into the NSA and saw there was a chapter in my new city. Out of curiosity and for further self-acceptance, I decided to check it out. That was four years ago and I’ve been heavily active in the NSA since that meeting. When I moved back to New Orleans in 2017, I became chapter leader of the New Orleans chapter, the same chapter I ignored four years prior.

      James

  7. Hi James,
    I enjoyed reading your story about how one event changed your life, it was truly inspiring. Currently I am studying to be a speech pathologist and I love every bit of learning as well as hearing different individuals experiences with how having a speech impediment impacted their lives. One question I have for you is what made you say yes to speaking in front of a crowd about having a speech impediment? I know that you stated that you were comfortable with your stutter at this point, but throughout that process did you ever think to back out of speaking about your stutter?

    • Hey Lohgan,

      Thanks for reading my article. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      That’s a great question you ask. A variety of factors played into my initial “yes.” One reason was it was a day off of work, which sounded great to me. More importantly, speaking to a group of people about stuttering gave me the opportunity to get more comfortable with and further accept my stutter. Willingly talking to a group of a strangers about stuttering gave me a huge confidence boost not only in my speech, but in myself. Talking to SLP students and giving them a non-textbook view of stuttering was also a factor in my yes. The biggest reason was it allowed me an opportunity to be the person I needed to be when I was younger. Growing up, I wish I knew of a person who stutters who said that stuttering is ok and nothing to be ashamed of. Every public speaking opportunity I have allows me to be that person.

      I did not consider backing out of this opportunity for two reasons. The first is once I make a commitment, I stick with it. The second reason is that if I stepped down, then stuttering would have won because it held me back from doing something. Everyday I do my best to make sure that my stutter doesn’t hold me back from accomplishing my goals, both big and small.

      James

  8. Good Afternoon James,

    I appreciated reading about your experience and how one-event really impacted your life for the better. I also appreciated many of the comments to your post and your responses to them. Like many of the people leaving comments, I am a graduate student studying speech-language pathology. I have read many articles on the importance of a strong therapeutic alliance between the clinician and their client, as well as the importance of the clinician demonstrating a working knowledge of stuttering. In your experience with therapy, how critical was your relationship with your clinician? Do you have any advise for a clinician on how to gain a better appreciation or understanding of the stuttering experience besides studying the etiologies, signs and symptoms, assessment, and treatment options?
    Thank you in advance for your insight. Good luck with your next public speaking endeavor!

    Cami Finehout

    • Hey Cami,

      Thanks for reading my article. I’m glad that you enjoyed it.

      For me, the client/clinician relationship is key for successful speech therapy. As a client, I need to have positive relationship with my clinician so that I will want to go to speech therapy. I also need to trust that my clinician is doing what he/she is best for me and that I can safely confide in and vent to him/her. The clinician needs to trust that I, the client, am doing my homework and practicing my techniques outside of the therapy room. The clinician also needs to trust the client when he/she says a certain technique is not working for them. If there is no trust in the relationship, then I believe we are both wasting our time.

      To better understand the stuttering experience, I would suggest reading articles or books written by people who stutter. Every person who stutters views their stutter differently and reading different articles would you give you a wide range of views. Another way is to intentionally stutter the next time you’re ordering food at a restaurant. It won’t give you the full experience of what it is like to be a person who stutters, but you will have a slightly better understanding of it.

      James

  9. Hi James,
    Reading your paper was informative to me, a graduate student in speech-language pathology, particularly the component of sharing your story and experiences. I am currently learning about how an essential part of speech is to emphasize that the goal of treatment is not to become a fluent speaker; instead, it should focus on the acceptance of their stutter. A question I have for you is when you were going to speech therapy, what was helpful, or what would you have found beneficial when talking about the acceptance component of your stutter and exploring the underlying factors related to stuttering (i.e., emotions, stigmas)?

    Thanks,
    Viviana

    • Hey Viviana,

      Thanks for reading my article. I’m glad that you got something out of it.

      Great question. I agree that speech therapy should focus more on acceptance instead of fluency. I went to speech therapy during childhood and the main focus was fluency. I don’t remember ever discussing my thoughts and feelings on stuttering. During my junior and senior years of college, I went back to speech therapy. It was during this stint in speech therapy that I explored and talked about my feeling with stuttering. The biggest key in that was the relationship I had with my speech therapists. I knew my speech therapy room was a safe place for me to freely explore and talk about the underlying issues related to stuttering. I knew that what I told my speech therapist stayed with her and did not leave that room. If I did not have that trust in those relationships, I do not think I would’ve only explored those emotions.

      James

  10. Hello James

    Thank you for sharing, I wanted to ask you two questions as a speech language pathologist student and someone who is completely scared of public speaking.
    1. Do you feel that sharing your story has improved other aspects of your life? such as speaking with other individuals about topics that are not related to stuttering?
    2. Do you have any advice for individuals who are scared of stepping out of their comfort zone? do you have any tips for SLPs who are working with these individuals?

    • Hey V,

      Thanks for reading my article.

      1. Absolutely. Since I’ve started embraced my stutter and began openly sharing my story, I’m far more confident in my voice and in my self. I’m also not afraid to open up and have those conversations with people.

      2. Take baby steps. Any step forward is a good step. For SLPs, start with small steps. The first step could be having them give a presentation to just you, in the confines of the speech therapy room. Once they get comfortable with that, add a one or two other people to the group. The more comfortable they get with public speaking, the larger the crowd and venue could become. From personal experience, this entire process took about six to eight months.

      James

  11. Hi James,

    Your story is really inspiring about getting out of your comfort zones, it is such a difficult thing to do for so many people and I am happy you share your story to help others get out of theirs. What motivated you to get out of your comfort zone and were you always confident with public speaking or did you go through hardships to get to where you are now?

    • Hey Erin,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. Up until a couple of years ago, my take on public speaking was, “I don’t mind public speaking, but I do mind how I speak in public.” I became more confident in my public speaking by doing it more often and learning to not be mad at myself nor embarrassed about how severe my stutter can be during public speaking opportunities.

      The desire to become more comfortable with public speaking abilities is what motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and grow.

      James

  12. Hello James,
    After reading your story I would like to commend you for your bravery to step out of your comfort zone to share with others about your journey as a stutter. Your new journey has open opportunities for you to communicate your journey through writing. What is the name of your book? Will you be writing another book or are you on YouTube?

    • Hey,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. My book titled Dear World, I Stutter. Book two, if it happens, is in the super early development stages. I am not on YouTube,

      James

  13. Hi James,
    Thank you for sharing your experience you have had with stuttering. I absolutely love the quote you shared: “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone”. That is absolutely true and very applicable to the challenges of stuttering. Like many others that have commented, I too am an SLP graduate student. Recently we have discussed the importance of the therapist being able to pseudostutter during the therapy process. For many of us, this can be uncomfortable for various reasons. Do you have any advice for ways the clinician can step out of their comfort zones to strengthen the therapeutic relationship?

    • Hey,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article.

      Pseudostuttering gives you a tiny sense of what it’s like to be a person who stutters, but doesn’t come close to the full experience.

      My advice would be to step out of your own comfort zone as well. You shouldn’t ask your client to do something you wouldn’t do. By both doing something outside of your comfort zones, a bond is created and the relationship is strengthened.

      James

  14. Hi James,

    Congratulations on your successes, and thank you for sharing your story. I flagged “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone” as a quotation that will need to go up on my bulletin board. Lately, I’ve become immersed in Aisling Curtain’s book, “The Power of Small,” and I like the language she uses to describe making “towards moves” in the direction of our valued outcomes and our “life worth fighting for.” Your paper happily reminds me of the great value in exploring that territory beyond the comfort zone. Best,

    Rob Dellinger

    • Hey Rob,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. At some point during my college career, someone told me “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone” and it’s stuck with me since. I got to check out that book.

      James

  15. James,
    Thank you for your openness. I think your contribution to the field of education is invaluable because every time you get to share your story, it is a chance for students to understand the importance of the journey of self-efficacy and not the common belief that the goal of therapy is to become fluent. I love that after your TEDx talk you describe your evaluation of your stutter, but that it didn’t matter because you accomplished something so much bigger. My hope for people who stutter is that they would see that what they say is more important than how they say it. I imagine that whether you are talking live to an audience about stuttering or writing it down, it is extremely therapeutic. I want to keep this in mind should I have future clients who stutter. Did you have a clinician that encouraged you to write, or was that on your own accord?

    Thanks,
    Amanda T

    • Hey Amanda,

      Thanks for reading my article. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      “Every time you get to share your story, it is a chance for students to understand the importance of the journey of self-efficacy and not the common belief that the goal of therapy is to become fluent.”

      “My hope for people who stutter is that they would see that what they say is more important than how they say it.”

      The above quotes show you have a great mindset for speech therapy and will be a great speech therapist.

      My speech therapists never encouraged me to write. It is something I started doing about two years after I stopped speech therapy.

      James

  16. Up until just now, I had never heard the saying “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone”. I’ve heard things similar but not this specific one. This saying resonates with me the most out of all of the others I’ve heard because it doesn’t sugarcoat the uncomfortableness you have to feel so you can grow. It is important to make yourself uncomfortable not only to grow but to prove to yourself that you are capable of hard things because even if you “fail” you are building up your self-efficacy in situations and will hopefully have more success the next time you attempt whatever it may be.

    Like many other people who have commented I too am a graduate student studying speech and language pathology and am always looking for (from a PWS perspective) what is helpful for an SLP to do. You answered a similar question and I appreciate your view regarding the word therapist in our job title. I think you are spot on when you say that sometimes our clients may just need to vent and the SLP needs to have an open ear because making progress is so much easier when there aren’t other things holding you back or taking up space. If you are able to get off what needs to be gotten off your chest I feel that the rest of the therapy session will go much more smoothly.

    Rachael 🙂

    • Hey Rachael,

      Thanks for reading my article and your kind words about it. I heard that quote early in my college career and I use it a lot because of how real and uncomfortable it is.

      From personal experience, I had many speech therapy sessions where I just vented for an hour about the stresses of senior year of college. Although we didn’t cover stuttering on those days, those sessions were just as good, if not better, then the sessions that we did focus on stuttering.

      James

  17. Hi James,
    I really appreciate your fearlessness and confidence. I find your story very inspiring, and your mention of “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone” really spoke to me. I am a second year graduate student studying Speech-Language Pathology and this is a very important aspect of the psychosocial/emotional aspect of stuttering that I keep coming across in the literature. I really admire how you were able to confront your fear of public speaking head-on and leave the experience feeling proud and accomplished. Thank you for your contribution and insight.

  18. Hi James, my name is Lexi, and I am studying to become an SLP. I loved your story you told about yourself. I find nothing more motivational than hearing a story about someone who takes the thing they’re self conscious about, then they run at it head on and conquer it, so that it can no longer affect them like it could before. I think it is absolutely amazing that once you spoke to that first group of people that you knew “hey, this was scary, BUT I think I liked it, and I think I need to do more of it”. It’s also amazing that you’re sharing your insight with so many people. I am sure that your talks as well as your books have definitely changed lives. It’s great when you share your unique knowledge/experiences with future SLP’s because hopefully that will help them to be better therapists, and be able to help their patients better. It’s kind of like the butterfly effect because one piece of advice can go a long way. Additionally, your power statement at the end slapped me in the face in a good way! The phrase “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone”, like WOW! That’s something I wish I always knew! If you don’t mind me asking, were there any specific tips you found helpful throughout your journey to help you feel more confident with speaking?

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! It was very inspiring!
    Lexi

    • Hey Lexi,

      Thanks for reading my article and your kind words about it. At the I first heard that statement I didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of that statement. As I’ve gotten older, it’s one I’ve come to appreciate.

      Honestly, there were no tips that helped me on my journey to public speaking. I got to this point by putting myself out there and willingly participiate in public speaking situations. The second thing was learning to not be mad nor embarrassed for stuttering during these type of situations. It took a few years, but I was finally able to learn that valuable skill.

      James

  19. Hi James!

    I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your paper. Not only is the sharing of your experience beneficial to other individuals who stutter, but for aspiring and current speech language pathologists as well. It helps give perspective and lends itself to a better understanding and in turn, a better client-clinician relationship and that important therapeutic alliance. I also appreciate you sharing the quote, “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone,” as it is a good reminder. It is so easy to become complacent and your story is one of inspiration, so thank you for sharing.

    Alison

    • Hey Alison,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      James

  20. Hi James,
    Thank you for sharing your story. I am in my first semester of graduate school to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. I appreciate you sharing your experiences. I love that you mentioned “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and no comfort in your growth zone”. That can sound scary to others, but coming out of comfort zones can lead you to many new opportunities in life, as such it did for you! I tend to struggle coming out of comfort zones, but the times that I did made me feel great. It is important to take action but to not overwhelm yourself while coming out of those comfort zones. I found your story quite inspiring, I love that one life decision changed your entire life. I love hearing about different individual’s experiences and how speech has made such an impact in their lives. You said in the article that you accept your stuttering(which is amazing) and was okay with public speaking. Is there anything specific that made you stutter, like being nervous? How did you make yourself so that you were comfortable in front of a crowd? Do you have any advice for me as a future SLP, as far as understanding stuttering experiences?

    Thank you and congratulation on your success!

    • Hey Paula,
      Thanks for reading my article and your kind words about it. I’m glad you enjoyed it. To your answer your questions:

      1. Things such as: nerves, excitement, stress, lack of sleep, anger, etc. don’t cause me to stutter; however, they at times tend to cause me to stutter more and more severely.

      2. Simply doing it more and more made me more comfortable with speaking in front of crowds. Also, learning to not beat myself up for stuttering severely or being embarrassed by my stutter allowed me to become more comfortable with public speaking.

      3. Honestly, unless you are a person who stutters (PWS) you will never fully understand what it’s like to be a PWS. However, there are things that can give you a small sense of what it’s like to be a PWS. These are: reading different first person accounts of stuttering from PWS and/or listening to podcasts about stutteing hosted by PWS. Every person who stutters views their stutter differently and this will introduce you to different view points. Another thing you can do is to intentionally stutter the next time you order food at a restaurant or have to make a phone call.

      James

      • James,
        Thanks for responding!

        In my stuttering class we actually just had to do an assignment that required us to stutter in different scenarios. It was quite an experience! It gave me an idea of what stuttering can be like and the ways others react to it. I’ve never done anything like that in my life, but I do get nervous in social situations to begin with! As you said, if I’m not someone who stutters, I will never truly understand what it is like.

        Thank you for your feedback,

        Paula

  21. Dear James,
    I’m a first year student studying to become a speech pathologist and enjoyed reading about your story and journey of stepping out of your comfort zone. Do you have any advice or tips for how I can help a future patient step out of their comfort zone?

    • Hey,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. In order to help your client step out of their comfort zone, you first have to build a foundation of trust with them. Once that trust is established have them take baby steps towards the ultimate goal that is out of their comfort zone. I would also challenge you to do something out of your comfort zone during the same time. This will further strengthen the trust in the relationship.

      James

  22. Your story is truly inspiring, thank you so much for sharing it. You accomplished so much by accepting your stutter and not being embarrassed by it. That is a hard thing to do, and I hope it shows other people that one day maybe they can do it too. You made a very good point about how stuttering is okay and that there is nothing to be ashamed of. You are who you are, and nobody should make you feel embarrassed to be yourself.

    • Hey BNP,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      James

  23. Hi James,
    Thank you so much for sharing your positivity and acceptance about your stutter! I am currently a graduate speech language pathology student on Long Island and came across your paper. It’s very refreshing to find someone like you; someone who completely accepts themselves.
    I love how you used your comfortability to educate others about stuttering and how important it is to be comfortable in your own skin.
    Your quote “There’s no growth in your comfort zone and not comfort in your growth zone” really resonated with me. There needs to be some degree of struggle and discomfort when your trying to grow , in any aspect of life. This struggle shows that your aspiring to change and become the best version of yourself!
    If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
    Thank you again for sharing your wonderful story!

    • Hey Marianna,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I glad you enjoyed my article.

      I have a few pieces of advice for my younger self:
      1. You are not alone. You are part of an incredible and supportive community.
      2. It does get better.
      3. You always were, always are, and always will be so much more than your stutter.

      James

  24. Hello James,

    I really enjoyed reading your article about how you stepped out of your comfort zone and the positive effects of that decision. I am a student studying to become a Speech-Language pathologist. It’s inspiring that by saying “yes” to talking to a classroom of aspiring SLP’s it sparked an interest in you and helped to open new opportunities for you. Do you have any advice that I could use to help future clients get out of their comfort zone and take a risk in doing something that they might enjoy but are too scared to do because of the outcome?

    Thanks in advance.

    Isabelle

    • Hey Isabelle,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
      My advice would be to encourage them to start with baby steps. As they get comfortable, encourage them to take another and another step until they are ultimately at their goal. This works on the two of you having a solid relationship built on trust. If there’s no trust, then it won’t work. While they are doing taking steps to get out of their comfort zone, I would challenge you to do the same. That way they can see that you’re willing to walk the walk with them.

      James

  25. Hi James,

    I especially enjoyed your article and admire your bravery and passion that you have for helping others in their stuttering journey. I liked how you displayed your growth through never thinking you would talk about your stutter to talking about it and stuttering for large groups. As a future SLP, I especially appreciate you talking to students and helping them gain a better understanding of people who stutter. In your opinion what are some of the more important things you feel a future SLP needs to know and understand about future clients who stutter? Thanks again for your article.

    • Hey,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article.

      A few pieces of advice:

      1. Conform your plan to your client, not your client to your plan.
      2. Allow your client to set his or her goals.
      3. Every client is different. What works for one client may not work for another and that’s ok.
      4. If the client is young, parental involvement and trust between you and the parent(s) are key for improvement. If the client is an adult, then trust between you and the client is key for achieving your client’s goals.
      5. Part of the job title of speech therapist contains the word “therapist”. Regardless of age, there will be days where your client just needs to vent about whatever is on their mind. Be that pair of ears for them. From personal experience, those sessions were just as important as the sessions were we focused on stuttering.

      James

  26. Hi Hayden
    Its really amazing how much you have achieve in a very short period of time. You have challenged me to work on my stuttering as best as i can. I have all along been avoiding speaking situations. My fear always increases as the size of the crowds increases. it is barely manageable on a one on one. From today i will try to expand my comfort zone and speak more and always desire to. Thank you very much for sharing this wonderful piece.
    Nerry

    • Hey Nerry,

      I’m so glad you found this article. Take baby steps and you’ll get there.
      You got this!

      James

  27. Hi James,

    I loved reading your thoughts about leaving our comfort zones and how it can make us stronger individuals. It’s interesting to see how your mindset shifted from not wanting to speak about your experience with stuttering to now wanting to educate everyone on what its like for you and people who do stutter. I, much like a lot of individuals here want to be a Speech Therapist. Do you have any advice on how to simply be there for a client who is struggling. Any tips that a therapist has said to you that helped your journey?

    Thanks,

    Amber

    • Hey Amber,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. The key to simply be there is to first establish a relationship built on trust with your client. Without that trust, they most likely won’t open up. Another tip is to make sure your client knows that the therapy room is a safe space where they can say whatever is on their mind: the good, the bad,and the ugly. Those two things, not any tips from my therapists, helped me on my journey.

      James

  28. Hello James,
    I must say that I felt a great deal of pleasure while reading your article. I admire your bravery. I am an SLP graduate student and stuttering holds a special place in my hart. I enjoy working with clients who demonstrate difficulty with fluency and the main issue I usually come across seems to be the embarrassment that comes along with stuttering at times. I’ve noticed that a lot of PWS feel that emotion while stuttering events occur. Having confidence and not feeling shame due to your stuttering is a beautiful thing. Please continue to share your story with the word. I’m sure many people can benefit from it.

  29. Hi James
    Thank you for sharing. Your article has given me much encouragement. Let’s continue pushing out this comfort zone.

    • Hi Sunjoh,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I’m all for leaving our comfort zones in order to continue growing.

      James

  30. Hi James!
    I really enjoyed reading your article. It is so intriguing to read about someones past experience, and what their life was like growing up with a stuttering problem, and how difficult it must have been. I have such respect for you, and turning something that scared you into your future career. Not a lot of people can do this, and I admire you completely for it. To face your fears head on, and be so proud of that is such a huge accomplishment. This was such a great read, and I’m very proud of all your journey to get where you are today.
    Megan Nugent

    • Hey Megan,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. I’m glad you enjoyed my article.

      James

  31. Hi James!
    Thank you so much for sharing, I really enjoyed your article! I am a first year at the University of Akron, studying Speech Language Pathology and am always eager to hear everyone’s story of growth. I really loved the fact that you made a decision to do speak to an SLP class, not thinking much about it and how that spiraled into so many different opportunities for you! I would like to ask, what advice would you give to someone who wants to step out of their comfort zone so bad, but is scared to take that initial step?
    Thanks in advance!
    Alayna Dunphy

    • Hey Alayna,

      Thanks for reading my article and your kind words about it.

      The only advice I have is to do it, even if it’s just a tiny baby step. Baby steps are good steps. Even if it doesn’t go as planned, they still did it and can use that experience for further growth.

      James

  32. Hey James,
    Thanks for sharing your perspective of walking in shoes as a PWS. Your story is truly inspiring and I cannot wait to read your book! Currently I am a 2nd year grad student in the amazing field of speech-language pathology. I’m curious to know what was most beneficial for you during speech therapy? Were you in support groups prior to the age 21, and how beneficial were they? Thanks so much!

    Lana

    • Hey Lana,

      Thanks for your kind words about my article. Also, thanks for buying a copy of my book. I hope you enjoy it.

      I went to speech therapy from the ages of 5-11 and 20-22, but I’ll answer your first question from the perspective of my second time. Two things were beneficial to me: setting my own goals and being in an environment where I could freely explore all of the stuff associated with stuttering.

      I didn’t know about any support groups until I was 20, but I didn’t go to my first meeting until I was 22. I have a bunch of excuses as to why I didn’t go, but the main reason is that I wasn’t ready to walk into that meeting and admit to myself and others I’m a person who stutters. In the four years I’ve been involved in support groups, the benefits are far too many to list here.

      James

  33. Hey James, really liked what you wrote and I’m happy to hear how much you have grown and used your knowledge on stuttering to spread awareness to people who don’t quite understand it. I’m a studying SLP at the University of Akron and learning more about stuttering at the moment. What about that day made you realize you felt more comfortable talking in front of crowds? How would I be able to help a future client step out of their comfort zone like you did? Thanks again for the great words.

    • Hey Dawson,

      Thanks for reading my article and your kind words about it. These are great questions. What made me comfortable about that day was: I could be candid about stuttering, I was being asked great questions from the students, and I left with a gut feeling that this was something I wanted to do as many times as I could.

      Create that base of trust with them. If there’s no trust in the relationship, then it’ll be hard for you to help them get out of their comfort zone. Once the trust is there, begin with a series of baby steps and build from it.

      James

  34. I loved seeing how you made something into such a positive experience. This is very powerful to me. I would like to ask, what were some other thoughts and feelings that you experienced when speaking to people about stuttering?

    • Hey,

      When I first started my main feelings were nerves and apprehension. This was true during my first panel discussion because my parents were in the audience. We had talked about stuttering many times, but we never TALKED about stuttering. A lot of what I said was the first time they had heard it.

      Now, I feel excited whenever I get the opportunity to talk to people about stuttering.

      James

  35. Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing your story. I find it so encouraging to be reminded that we’re always only one step out of our comfort zone away from building our life worth fighting for. Best,

    Rob Dellinger

    • Hey Rob,

      “…we’re always only one step out of our comfort zone away from building our life worth fighting for.” That hit me hard. Thanks for sharing that with me.

      James

  36. Hi James,
    First off, thank you for sharing your story. I think the more professionals attempting to treat any disorder hear from individuals with the disorder, the better the outcome. I am a graduate student studying to be an SLP and I am currently working with a school aged client who verbalizes that he is comfortable with his current speech and stuttering frequency, but also says speech therapy really helps him.
    I am curious, as someone who has found comfortability in discomfort, how did you/do you think speech therapy can assist a young man who feels good emotionally/socially about his stutter?

    • Hey Callie,

      Wow. Fantastic question.

      It starts with trust. The client-therapist relationship must be built on trust. If there’s no trust, then it can’t happen. The client must trust that he can safely confide in his therapist and that it won’t leave the room.

      He must also be willing to be vulnerable with himself and his therapist. If he can’t or won’t allow himself to be vulnerable, then it’s going to be tougher to reach this goal.

      From personal experience, it was the trust I had with my speech therapist that allowed me to be vulnerable with myself and her and fully explore all the thoughts and feelings I had about stuttering.

      James