Tom Scharstein is a stutterer from Florida, USA. He has been involved in the stuttering support community for almost 23 years. Recently serving on the NSA Board of Directors, he had direct oversight of the Adult NSA Chapters. Tom is co-founder of the World Stuttering Network (WSN), with the vision of bringing together all the stuttering support group leaders of the world to share information and help each other reach next level in impact & effectiveness.
I wish I had an amazing story about my life. A story that would inspire everyone. But . . . the more people I meet in our stuttering community, the more I realize my story isn’t unique.
During my youth, I resided in the shadows of life. Running away from any potential speaking situation became a way of life for me. Silence was safe.
Then, something happened. My spirit awakened and unleashed my potential. Life choices began to involve speaking. Slowly but surely, I found my voice. Many others relate similar experiences.
Our theme is “Bouncing Back.” Making a full recovery. And in some cases, better than before.
I’m reminded of Jeff’s story. Jeff’s new boss told him that his stuttering was a hindrance in dealing with customers. It wasn’t “good for the company.” Jeff was devastated; his skill set exceeded what the job required. Did Jeff bounce back? He sure did. Picked up by his company’s competitor, Jeff has expanded his new company’s market share exponentially as department head.
Todd had a new sales manager that didn’t appreciate his talents and rapport with customers. After a conference call on a day when Todd’s speech wasn’t as smooth as usual, this new manager assessed stuttering as a lack of confidence in their product with a negative impact on sales. Although Todd wasn’t directly terminated for stuttering, it was obvious to him that this manager wanted him gone. Similar to Jeff, he was picked up by another company familiar with his value. This time, it was the manufacturing company represented by his former sales firm. With a smile, Todd told me of a high level meeting he led. He told his former sales manager to please get off his phone so they could start the meeting.
Through my career, the people that make fun of me eventually worked for me. And this is not an uncommon experience for stutterers.
To me, “bouncing back” means “staying in..” Stuttering may cause extra challenges in your career, but make sure you’re on point with everything else. Stuttering doesn’t affect whether you’re on time or not. Stuttering doesn’t make you take extra days off work. Always have a top-notch appearance when representing your company. Smile. Develop a solution-based attitude. Don’t get drawn into the gossip rabbit hole. Learn as much as you can. “Is there anything I can do to help?” is the attitude. These qualities will make you stand out as valuable.
Of course, I’m not saying to stay in a toxic work environment. To figure out if you’re in a toxic work environment, ask yourself, “ Am I treated differently (worse) than everyone else? Or the same? Is more expected out of me? Why?”
Also, instead of being a “job seeker,” be the valuable employee that every company wants. “Stay in” every day. Do more, especially when a unique opportunity or challenge appears. Your value will grow and be recognized.
In personal life, I’ve found making myself do it works. Even if 99% of me wants to run and hide in the shadows, I ask myself, “Would I do this if I didn’t stutter?” If the answer is “yes,” then I absolutely push myself through it. This ties into a life mantra of mine, “If you fear it, do it.” As fear subsides, my confidence grows, and this is reflected in my speech.
“Bouncing Back” means “Staying In” the game. However difficult. I’ve found that tomorrow will be less difficult than today. And the next day less difficult. It gets better.
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