Speak Your Mind – Rob Woolley

About the Author:
Iโ€™m Rob Woolley from Christchurch, New Zealand. Iโ€™ve studied many approaches to overcoming stuttering, met some amazing people, and enjoy experimenting and understanding why we speak the way we do. I feel we are better being fascinated by our speech than fearful of it and I firmly believe our attitude determines our altitude. I currently use my speech to present on aspects of leadership, management, and public speaking. I enjoy meeting new people, learning new things and trying to solve the potentially unsolvable.

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Speak Your Mind – Rob Woolley — 27 Comments

  1. Great to hear your views on open communication Bobbie. Also great to see a great McGuire Program legend in action!

    • Grant, I use you as my role model my friend. You’re an excellent example of speaking your mind ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. โ€œMy stutter was my excuseโ€

    Interesting statement and probably reflective of my feelings at a point in my life.

    Good job on the video!

    • Thanks Vikesh. I sometimes wonder if its still my excuse. Many of us seem to have something holding us back ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Great video! Any advice for helping others to become more comfortable speaking their mind?

    • Speaking your mind is a two-edged sword. You feel the power of self-expression, your truth and authenticity and, sometimes, incur the wrath of those who may be threatened by what you say.

      I learned that to develop good speech is often the same as expressing your truth – know who you are and clarify what you think. I have often spoken without either, more than most. My advice is to take a moment to give yourself that certainty and then allow yourself to be free to express who you are.

  4. Rob, I really enjoyed watching your video! I love your phrases, “when you hold your tongue you end up without a voice,” and “everybody is entitled to my opinion.” As an SLP graduate student, your video helped me see stuttering in a different light. I want to help my students build confidence, knowing that their voice is important, too! Together, everyone makes the world a better place. Based on your experience, what advice do you have for me when advocating for my students, or when sparking within them a sense of confidence and self-worth? Thanks!

    • Thank you and wow, what a question.

      I feel stuttering may come from a sense of being unworthy, in a particular situation, to either speak, or speak what you want.
      Confidence is situational. The more situations your students are exposed to and the more they feel they had a successful outcome the more they desensitise and feel that worth in themselves.
      There are no short-cuts, I wish there were. I would love to say I have ALWAYS challenged myself to find new situations and to desensitise but it is not easy and I am human – sometimes I fall short. I feel your students and others may need two things – a mantra, and support. A simple mantra like “I will not avoid” or “I will challenge myself everyday” gives you clarity as you either did or did not follow it each day. And, because we all fail sometimes, we need to arm ourselves with back up, a support person. This person will keep us to our mantra and help pick us up when we are down. A great friend of mine said “What is your second thought?” He meant that our first thought when we fail is to give up and fail again because we cannot do it. But if you have a second thought of “look how far I have come, how much further can I go this time” then failures become opportunities for reflection, refocus, and renewed effort. Hope that helps.

  5. Rob,
    I thought your statement about how your stutter was an excuse was extremely powerful. It is difficult to hear about how someone feels that they cannot speak their mind out of fear of what people will think or believe. You have an inspiring message about how everybody is entitled to your and their opinion. You have a wonderful understanding that people want to hear what you have to say. Finding your voice I think will help others do the same. I loved learning how you were able to overcome your fear of speaking your mind and realizing that people deserve to hear it. Is there one specific instance or day that helped you find your voice? Or was it the realization you mentioned that nobody told you not to speak your mind besides you?

    • We are definitely our own worse critics.
      I had what I called a couple of things that have helped me.
      One was Melbourne Cup day several years. Makybe Diva won her third successive Melbourne Cup and I happened to want a personalised number plate for my car. I went online and bought the plate. The next day the manager of the company called to say unfortunately I had missed out, someone else had bought it. I was a bit rattled, a bit disappointed, but then I thought, hang on, how could a computer allow me to buy it online if it was already sold. I calmly said, no, I would like my plate. he repeated it wasn’t available. I insisted, sorry, but I bought it, I have a confirming email, I would it. The conversation lasted a few more minutes – I stayed calm – I got my plate. I call that my Makybe moment when I stuck to my guns, I was in the right, I persisted, I stayed calm, I got the result.
      The second moment, I did the McGuire Program, but I did it at the right time too. I was annoyed with my life. I had missed out on a contract due to my stutter – I had had enough. Sometimes we need to hit the bottom before we can raise ourselves up to our potential. I still feel sometimes that I need good speech to succeed – I don’t – I need courage and focus.
      We will never be fluent so we will always have that excuse until we recognise, we don’t need an excuse to feel safe. We can do what we want, we can speak our mind, express ourselves fluently or dysfluenty, it matters not. It matters that we do what we want or need to do.

  6. Hi Rob,

    Thank you for sharing your story. I loved your message about the importance of speaking your mind. I am a graduate student in the field of speech language pathology. I was wondering if you would share any strategies that you have used to be help you become more comfortable when speaking your mind. Are there strategies that worked well for you or any that did not?

    Mary Catherine

    • Thank you for your question. I guess a story from Toastmasters might help here. A lady gave a wonderful speech in a contest about a distant relation who was a conscientious objector in WWI. The first half of the speech she told what happened and was powerful and moving, incredibly engaging. The second half was conveying what the speech meant for us, the audience. The lady went from strong, calm, clear and focused to dithering, unsure, and stuttering (and she was a fluent speaker).

      I spoke with her some time after when the disappoint meant of losing had subsided. She told me she had worked on that speech for three months. She knew it off by heart, she had no idea why she didn’t win, she may not have realised how she changed within that speech. I told her, in my usual off the cuff manner with a smile “you need to get over yourself.” What! What do you mean, she said. I told her in the first half she was sure of her facts, they were from “outside her”. But when she had to express what it meant and give her opinion from “inside her” the lack of confidence manifested itself in her speech, her demeanour, and her assuredness vanished. I asked if she believed what she said – she said she had struggled to find the right words.

      We often don’t find the right words and we doubt ourselves and it shows. Over the years I have learned to take control of my voice, my body, and my thoughts through exaggerating and practicing what I wanted to say or do. Find opportunities, have confidence in what you say, say it often enough and you gain control of your voice, your body and your mind but often you need to exaggerate each part so that you become the driver rather than the passenger of how you feel.

  7. Rob,
    Thank you for sharing! I appreciate the many things that you said and the points that you made. Your video goes along with what is said in your bio โ€“ โ€œour attitude determines our altitude.โ€ With the right approach and attitude, we can accomplish many things. I too believe that we have to be the ones to push ourselves to speak up and show that we have a voice. At what age did you first realize that you wanted to take action to be heard and share what you had to say? What strategy worked best for you when working to gain the confidence and comfortability of speaking your mind? Thanks!

    • I was about 40, yes, a late starter, but then others have told me that I used to state my opinion rather strongly in school, but only around my friends ๐Ÿ™‚
      I think Toastmasters is a great platform to breach your comfort zone and get stage time. It allows you to find different audiences and deliver different types of presentations, each carry different “edges” to them.

      I do feel that some form of intensive speech therapy is a great kickstart. If everyone could find the courage with the snap of a finger we wouldn’t be creating videos like this or celebrating days like these. Meeting others who have the same issues, having faith in what you are doing, and persevering to do what needs to be done provide results regardless of what the actual therapy is (in my opinion).

      Its’ a cliche I know but what a friend once said when I was studying is so true. “Rob, it doesn’t matter what subjects you do for your degree, what matters is who you become by working to achieve it.” It’s the hardwork that builds the inner confidence allowing you to speak your mind. The more you speak your mind the more you learn how to speak your mind.

  8. Hi Rob! I enjoyed your motivation and encouragement for people who have stutters. I would like to know your thoughts/opinions on people who have social anxiety or other forms of anxiety along with a stutter. Thank You!

    • What if stuttering is a social anxiety?
      There’s a TED talk about drug addicts in Portugal. They feel disconnected from the people around them and the drugs are an escape or something to help them manage the feeling.
      My observation, very unscientific, is that I stutter more when talking with people who think different to me, that I do not have a connection with in some way. I realised that I would often make a joke to see if the person smiled. If they did, I would probably speak better. If their reaction was not what I expected or hoped for, stutter, here we come.
      Perhaps if we put ourselves in situations to meet more people, different types of people, accept they’re “ok” and we’re “ok” and we can all be friends even with all our differences. When the norm is the abnormal the abnormal becomes the norm ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Thank you for your video, Rob. I recently wrote a paper on the King’s Speech and found the most inspirational line spoken by the SLP in the movie to be, “”. I Appreciate your thoughts on people who stutter speaking their mind and taking advantage of the democracies that we live in. What was it that helped you break through your previous social withdrawal and allowed you to speak your mind?

    • Sorry, I forgot to put in my quote! It’s “My job was to give them faith in their own voice.”

      • Many of the questions ask similar things and I don’t know that there is one answer.
        The quote is implying that Lionel Logue could, externally, give someone else faith.
        I think they can, but only if people are ready to accept words from someone.

        There is a great power in the payoff of having the ultimate excuse to avoid all things of fear.
        Someone showed me a cartoon about a psychiatrist moonlighting as a lifesaver with a person drowning in the surf, he said “I can save you but first you must admit you need help.” Are we ready to admit we need help. I think the King admitted he needed help and he put his faith in Logue. Faith allows us to embrace a therapy, a mental approach, but the end result is to find faith in ourselves.

  10. Hello Rob,

    Yes, we are all worthy to speak our mind! I am glad that you have made the decision to share your experience with the rest of us and inspire all of us to continue to speak our mind. Fluent and non-fluent speakers who feel as though they are not worthy to share their thoughts should still push themselves to speak up. It is important to continue reminding ourselves that what we have to say is important and it’s worth sharing.

    • Snap! Particularly love your last line “important to continue to remind….” I default, the human default, is doubt. Doubt needs constant work to overcome. Thanks Maria.

  11. Hello! Thank you for sharing this video. What advice would you give others who deal with anxiety and decide they can’t speak their mind because it is too hard to?

    • If speaking your mind was easy, everyone would be doing it ๐Ÿ™‚
      Maybe there are two approaches to speaking your mind –
      1/ speaking your mind because you thought to and want to follow through on it or
      2/ speaking your mind when necessary

      I speak my mind most of the time in regards to number 1, only because I try really hard to not con myself that I have a valid reason not to. I say this as it’s part of my “do not avoid” mantra. Every time I avoid I am telling myself I can’t do it. The more I don’t the more I think I can’t. The more I do the more I think I can. Our default is always the former – if you’re not going forward you’re going backward.

      If you are suffering from anxiety and not stuttering, then maybe life is easier when you pick and choose your moments. Instead of “do not avoid” maybe your simple mantra may be “I will speak my mind when necessary” and you can decide what is and is not necessary. The sad fact is, when confronted by some people, speaking your mind turns into a war, no matter how we say it. That way is an emotional and psychological roller coaster and smarter people than me know what times to speak up and what times to shut up. I might learnt hat when I get older ๐Ÿ™‚

      I think my last word on this might be – when everyone knows what everyone thinks then everyone is better off. Better decisions are made in business and personal life, perspectives are learnt to which we may have been unaware, and we need to accept that whatever we think may be true for us yet not for anyone else and vice versa. If you are in a leadership position, one of the best things you can do for people is to encourage them to speak their mind so everyone feels listened to.

  12. Hi Rob!

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing! This is such a great lesson for all people, those who stutter and those who don’t. I also really appreciated your thought that speaking your mind improves mental health. I absolutely believe that and have experienced that myself. When I don’t speaking my mind, those thoughts fill my whole mind, sometimes to the point of effecting my schooling, work, and social life because it is all I can think about. Thank you for being such a great reminder and advocate for everyone to speak their mind and sharing the importance of doing so.

    Natalie N

    • Thank you Natalie – definitely nice to get things off your chest and out of your head eh ๐Ÿ™‚ All the best!

  13. Hi Rob,

    I am an undergraduate speech student and I enjoyed hearing what you had to say and was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. What are a few other pieces of advice and techniques do you have for those who need to get over the feeling that they shouldn’t speak up? how did you build the confidence to speak your mind? why do you think those with a stutter hold themselves back so much when as you said no one is telling them not to say express their view? When did you realize that you could speak your mind?
    Thank you for sharing!


  14. Hello Rob,
    It was interesting to hear how you used your stuttering as an excuse. Iโ€™m so glad you were able to overcome your social anxieties, but I can only imagine how difficult this for you. Youโ€™re right that we all are worthy to speak our mind. This is so important to remember in everyday life regardless if we stutter or not. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to overcome their anxiety in social situations?