Speak Your Mind | Reversing the Stigma of Stuttering – John Moore

About the Author: JOHN MOORE is a marketing strategist, professional speaker, business book author and lifelong person who stutters. He played an instrumental role in the marketing that transformed Starbucks into a global icon and served as director of national marketing for Whole Foods Market. His consultancy, the Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice, works with organizations that are driven by purpose, not just profits. John has been involved with the National Stuttering Association since 2011 and currently lives in Greenville, SC.

The public stigma is real and damaging to we who stutter. John Moore challenges the stuttering community to “pave it forward” in order to break the stigma of stuttering.

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Speak Your Mind | Reversing the Stigma of Stuttering – John Moore — 39 Comments

  1. Great vid John.

    I am a big fan of Boyle’s (among others) work on self-stigma in people who stammer and you present it very well. The ‘Why try effect’ is well known but Corrigan also talked about a paradox of self-stigma and that the opposite effect is possible. That people can be ‘energised by prejudice and express righteous anger’ in the face of self-stigma, perhaps like this video…

    Paper on paradox of self-stigma: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1093/clipsy.9.1.35

    • Patrick… I probably fall into the group of people who get “energized” when facing public stigma challenges. I love stories of redemption and find motivation to overcome what others think I’m not capable of doing. Boyle’s work is awesome. I tried to summarize some of the more salient points in his research. Thanks for adding your voice here.

  2. Thanks for the video and I really like your Pave It Forward statement. I’ve only recently begun to try to be an advocate for people who stutter in hopes that the public can educated about stuttering and hopefully another person who stutters can get that job without the stereotypes associated with our stutter.

    • Vikesh… at some point, self-advocacy can become selfless-advocacy. For those of us who have found our rhythm in life living with stuttering, it’s our responsible to be selfless to help others like us. You get it. I admire what you have done, are doing and will continue doing to break the stigma of stuttering.

      • I love that — selfless-advocacy. Thanks for a great video and an new mission 🙂

        • Daniele… you’ve been “Paving it Forward” for years with selfless-advocacy. Thank you for being a person who stutters strong, all day long and sets an example that’s more than ample to inspire that lights a fire for PWS to find success.

    • Adam… yeah, the “Stutter Monster” is always there trying to beat us down. Trying to stop us from doing what makes us comfortable. Love your video documentary. Keep fighting for we who stutter. And keep thwarting the pesky “Stutter Monster.”

  3. Hi John, I appreciate the fact that you speak to the concept of “one person at a time.” As a clinical professor, speech-language pathologist, and family member of persons who stutter, it sometimes feels overwhelming when we seek to fight stigma or engage in any advocacy effort. It’s easy to think, can my small efforts really make a difference? Thank you for the reminder that when we “pave the road” for one person, that person’s experience shapes another life and another and another…

    My (our) intentional actions can actually change the life of one…and the lives of many who come into contact with that one. Selfless advocacy – LOVE that thought!

    • Paula… I read a research paper on anti-stigma campaigns where the author cited another study that outlined three approaches for campaigns to take. The “interpersonal contact” approach was shown to have the greatest impact. People connecting directly and getting to know someone is an effective way to reverse stigmas. That approach is exactly what I mean by saying PWS need to reach “one person at a time” to show them PWS are more than capable.

      Thanks for your positive comments. I also like the “selfless advocacy” angle.

  4. Hi, I am a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth and am taking a course focused on advanced fluency disorders. I am not a person who stutters but this was a great video that helped me take the perspective of a person who stutters. It is unfortunate that society has created a stigma of people who stutter and have treated them unfairly. It is important that as SLPs we are able to advocate for these individuals and also help them advocate for themselves. Do you have any advice for SLPs helping people who stutter self-advocate for themselves in situations where they feel the stigma of society?

  5. Bridget, I lead a supportive group for people who stutter. It’s a local chapter of the National Stuttering Association. We’ve talked about self-advocacy many times and some PWS are not yet comfortable advocating for themselves. Before self-advocacy can happen, self-acceptance must have occurred.

    In our group, I define SELF-ACCEPTANCE as… an invitation to stop trying to change yourself into the person you wish to be. Instead, it’s about being comfortable with the person you have become. Some PWS have reached the point of self-acceptance and some haven’t.

    If a PWS is comfortable with themselves then they’ve reached a turning point in their life and they can begin practicing self-advocacy.

    Back to the group setting, I define SELF-ADVOCACY as… when you speak or act on your behalf to improve your quality of life, affect personal change, and or correct inequalities you’ve encountered.

    We then do a group activity that focuses on self-advocacy. This role-playing scenario activity might be helpful for SLPs to use with PWS to get them in the frame of mind to advocate for themselves when they feel mistreated.

    Have the PWS read aloud a scenario (listed below) and get that person to talk about how they would respond. This activity might encourage PWS to stand up for themselves in inconsequential and consequential situations.

    You are ordering a cup of coffee and the barista asks for your name. You begin to block. The barista says, “Did you forget your name?” What do you do next?

    You are on a job interview. The job involves talking with people in-person and on the phone. You advertise your stutter and your prospective employer says, “Do you think you can handle the job having a stutter?” How do you respond?

    You get pulled over by a police officer. He begins to ask you questions and you block. He looks at you funny and asks if you okay. What’s your response?

    You call your credit card company and the customer service representative asks you to read the numbers on your card. You stutter on the first number. You tell the person that you stutter and they say, “That’s okay. I stutter too.” Knowing this person doesn’t stutter, how do you respond?

    You are out with your friends and one of them keeps finishing your sentences. How do you explain to them this is something that they shouldn’t do?

    It’s International Stuttering Awareness Day, how do you help your friends on social media understand stuttering?

    • Thank you for answering my questions! You provide great activities that SLPs can use to help PWS advocate for themselves. I like how you added the part about self-acceptance and how it has to occur before PWS can self-advocate. So helpful!

  6. So true! I didn’t know I was the only one who stuttered until I was 27. I than got a broschure in my hand, about the Swedish stuttering association. What??? Why didn’t I know? I spent so many years feeling lonely, misunderstood, helpless, unworthy to speak. After meeting my stamily, I promised myself to become the face and the voice for pws. It’s been tough, as I had to deal with my demons be break free. But I did, thanks to people cheering me, picking me up, giving me that extra push when I wanted to give up.

    I’ve spoken to pre-school children, to EU politicians, at congresses and in front of the grocery shop. I have been an organizer to camps for children and young pws for almost 30 years. I’m getting older and have health issues, but When I hear their stories, I realize they are where I was, searching for answers, understanding, for that push to skip the safe and unhappy road, and to make a brand new path, full of hope and joy. I’m angry that there still are so many young people who don’t get help in school, who are bullied, who think they are alone. Children, young people, adults, parents, etc.

    We have to pay it forward, as there are so many who need our voice. Together, but also one by one, as we all can make a difference. If we all talk to one other person and explain what stuttering is, if we tell one more person that the 22nd is the ISAD (“the what???”), we create the butterfly effect.

    Thanks so much for your presentation. Happy ISAD and keep talking.

    • You get it Anita. Thanks for selflessly advocating for all of us who stutter. Keep “paving it forward.” Because of you, the road for other people who stutter has been made smoother. Your stamily thanks you.

  7. Thank you for the video, John. I appreciate your explanation of the stigmas of stuttering and how those turn into self-stigmas. You’re right in that it’s one person and one step at a time to break these stigmas of stuttering. At what age did you first start to notice these stigmas? Which one has affected you the most over the course of your life?

    • First grade. Age 6. It was then when I was given a “dot” by my name. That “dot” told the teacher I was to be taken out of class to go to speech therapy once or twice a week. My teacher labeled me not as smart as the other students and I was placed in remedial groups starting in first grade. That “dot” continued until I graduated high school. Teachers never accurately measured my abilities because they thought since I had a severe stutter, I wasn’t as smart as the other students.

      The stigma that has affected me most is the self-stigma I have imposed upon myself. Believing in the false understanding that I wasn’t as smart or as capable as others influenced far too many decisions I have made in life. I chose not to do way too many things that required talking. The self-stigma of stuttering greatly influenced EVERY ASPECT of my life until my mid-30s. Then, I was comfortable being me and had achieved a lot in my life. My achievements gave me confidence in myself so that I stopped falling victim to the self-stigma of stuttering.

  8. I enjoyed this video as you provided a great explanation on the stereotypes and stigmas that are created around those who stutter. As a first year SLP student it really helps me to see how those who stutter are impacted by the society around them. Thank you for sharing this and providing me with a deeper look into these stigmas.

    • Thanks for watching. I tried to distill a lot of academic research and personal experience into something meaningful and digestible. I packed a lot into 5 minutes. As a future SLP, I’m glad you saw this early into your education.

  9. Hello John,

    Thank you for making this video. It is unfair that people who stutter often don’t get the jobs they deserve because of the stigma related to stuttering. I found your video very inspirational and positive. I hope that people who stutter continue trying to break the stigma related to stuttering and have equal opportunities of obtaining the jobs they deserve.


    Maria Figueroa.

    • I appreciate your comment Maria. I also hope PWS continue to break both the public stigma and self-stigma of stuttering.

  10. John, I loved this video! Your attitude for life is amazing! Were you always this positive or was there a specific turning point in your life? As a SLP undergraduate student, I think there needs to be more people in the world like you!

    • Ashley… I’ve always been able to express “passion” for things I am passionate about. Since 2005, much of my salary comes from speaking at conferences. I’m not always fluent on stage but I am always passionate and that passion helps me to connect with audiences.

      My stuttering used to be much more severe and it definitely held me back from expressing my passion for things outside of my personal space. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I became comfortable as a PWS and that’s when I had my turning point.

  11. Hi, thank you for speaking on this topic and sharing your story. As an undergrad speech-language pathology student, I found your video fascinating and extremely positive. Thank you again for sharing!

    • I find the public stigma stats shared in the video disheartening. They trouble me because I know too many PWS develop a debilitating self-stigma. There’s not much “positive” in my message except the positive energy that we who stutter much tap into if we want to reverse the stigmas of stuttering. Thanks for watching and commenting.

  12. Hi John,
    I really enjoyed this video, I feel that everyone who stutters should give this video a watch because they can relate to you since you do stutter, and because it might open their eyes up. This video is really inspirational to all, and I agree with everything you had to say! I also liked the “Pave It Forward” statement. I would like to ask, when did your stutter become so mild, and how did you fix it over the years?

    • Logan… to some extent I have been able to tame the stutter monster. When I have to be “on” I can usually speak fairly fluent. I did therapy from age 4 to 18 and while I didn’t put much effort into therapy, obviously it helped. These days I find that I can minimize my stutter my enunciating words very clearly. I also talk louder. I’ll vary my pitch some. I keep a confident presence. Doing those things helps me to speak more fluently. However, I’ve had four decades of practice and that’s really what has helped me.

      PWS need to “pave it forward.” It is indeed our responsibility to pave the road for those people who stutter that will follow. We who stutter need to help make their path a little easier than what we have faced and are facing. Thanks for watching and commenting.

  13. Hey John! I really enjoyed this video. I love the attitude that you can do things that you set your mind to regardless of the stuttering! What has been your biggest struggle with stuttering?

    • Thanks for the compliment. My biggest struggle has been overcoming self-stigma. All that negative self-talk in my head can stop me from pursuing living a rich, full life. I don’t challenge myself enough because negative self-talk will stop me from doing something that’s uncomfortable.

  14. Hi John!

    Thank you so much for this video! This needs to be shown to everyone! I wish that everyone understood that stuttering is like a characteristic of a person, it shouldn’t be seen as a disability or anything else that brings upon those negative thoughts from society or anything that would effect how someone could perform in a job. To me, that’s like saying someone with glasses isn’t as intelligible, it is just ridiculous. Eye sight and intelligibility or even fluency and intelligibility have nothing to do with each other. I hope that more people, those who stutter and those who don’t stutter, see this video and can learn more about stuttering!

    Thanks again for sharing,
    Natalie W

    • Natalie… stigmas are strong. Unfortunately, it’s going to take more time to reduce the stigmas of stuttering. The best way to break the stigma of stuttering is through someone having direct contact with a person who stutters. Knowing and talking with someone who stutters can show people that we are smart, capable and desirable. This will take time but we who stutter must help “pave it forward” for PWS who will follow us in this world.

  15. Hi John,

    I am an undergraduate speech student and I am taking an intro to communication disorders. This video is so positive and I love how you turn things around to make it positive. Along with how you brought up paving the world for those behind them. When did you notice the stigmas that people put on those who stutter? What was the point in your life where you chose to fight against the stigmas? Are there any small steps you feel may be easier for the younger generations to start breaking the stigma?
    Thank you for sharing!


    • Sam… I appreciate you watching the video. While I didn’t know what a stigma was, I first noticed being treated differently by my teacher in the first grade. She treated me as less smart than the other kids.

      As far as fighting back… that didn’t happen until my mid-twenties. By fighting back that was me doing self-advocacy stuff. For example, when checking into a hotel room and having the employee at the desk either chuckle or give me a weird look… I would sternly let that employee know that I stutter and would appreciate their patience. I still do that today. Anytime someone reacts weirdly to my stutter, I sternly let then know what’s going on.

      Small steps for the younger generations would be to gain self-acceptance early on. Once you accept your stutter as being something that makes you, you… you can then start being comfortable self-advocating and letting the world know that people who stutter are just as capable as everyone else.

  16. Hello John,
    I agree with you that there is a lot of public stigma and it is so sad to see that there are so many misconceptions about people who stutter. I also agree with you that the thoughts that people who stutter nurture about themselves will affect their quality of life. Although we can not necessarily change all the public stigma out there, we can make a difference for the people that follow us by trying to daily impact the world. I admire how positive you are about this topic and I was wondering if it was easy for you to change your self stigma as a person who stutters? I am currently leading out a National Stuttering Association support group in my local area and I find your video very encouraging for me as a graduate student majoring in speech-language pathology and who works with adults who stutter.

    • Cassandra… it’s fantastic you lead and NSA Chapter. Thanks for making a difference in the lives of people who stutter.

      Was it easy for me to overcome the self-stigma? NO. Not at all. It took me time… time to understand that stuttering didn’t define me but rather shaped me. I am me because of my stutter. I am a hard working perfectionist of a person because of my stutter. I have become very confident in my abilities. My self-confidence has thwarted all that negative self-talk. These days I walk tall because… I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

  17. Hi John,

    I am an undergraduate student studying to be a Speech Pathologist. I really found this video informative of how to understand how stigmas affect so many individuals within their everyday lives. Learning how especially those who are apart of the workforce are often over-educated, yet underemployed. At the end of the video how you really make it a point to change the stigma one person at a time, based on how other people see those who stutter and how those who stutter see themselves. Was there a point in time where you realized you realized you needed to break the stigma in society, but also for yourself?

    Thank you so much for sharing!

    • Mariah… I’m fed up seeing too many PWS that are over-educated and under-employed. It’s not fair. It needs to be changed. That’s why I have the drive to improve the lives of PWS. I decided to break the stigma with myself because I was tired of living a compromised life.

  18. Hey John

    I guess I thought I had commented but must have forgot to hit the “post” button.

    This is so important and timely because indeed stuttering remains such a stigma. It is still so widely misunderstood and so many damn assumptions are made about our intelligence, our emotional stability and our ability to communicate and contribute to work, community and society.

    It’s real world messages like this that reminds us of how far we have to go. For years, I let my own suffocating self stigma limit me and then workplace stigma crowded in to bring me to my knees. After getting fired from a job because of what I felt was my fault for not just acknowledging that I stutter, i could have let that hugely rock bottom, life altering moment further paralyze me. But thankfully I used the free time I had of being suddenly unemployed to find support which led me to the NSA.

    I was fired on May 4, 2006 and I attended my first NSA conference less than 2 months later, in Long Beach, CA. A long, scary emotional cross country flight from NY. Thank goodness I did that.

    My self stigma has gradually lessened enough for me to be in a good enough place to use all that I learned from that dark, scary fragile time how to help others.

    It takes a village and thank goodness you’re part of the village, John.

    Life changing video here!


    • Pam… yep. “[Stuttering is] so widely misunderstood and so many damn assumptions are made about our intelligence, our emotional stability and our ability to communicate and contribute to work, community and society.”

      You’ve done a lot and will continue to do a lot to “pave it forward” for others who stutter to hopefully not experience as much stigma as you and I have.