Tuesday Transformations

My process of transformation began when I met other people who stutter, which opened up my life in so many ways. My relationship with family members and friends shifted. I began to consider new options in my career. I began work on a personal documentary film whose title became Spit It Out.

One moment of transformation that stands out happened on the telephone. Of course, to use the phone had always been terrifying and difficult. One day I was on a call with a store representative, and was stuttering severely. The person hung up on me.  Up until then, when this happened I would feel shame and embarrassment about all the time I was taking up. This day, however, something shifted in me.  Rather than shame I felt anger; that it was not my fault that I took up more time when speaking. It was rude for someone to hang up while I stuttered.  I had come to realize that I had the right to get my words out.

I called the person back, and explained that I am a person who stutters. The person apologized, and we finished our business.  I felt much better. And thankful that that the time I had spent in fellowship with other stutters helped this change take place in me.

Jeff Shames

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Tuesday Transformations — 9 Comments

  1. Phones, phones, and phones. I used to have huge embarrassment with them. Your story reminds me of the process to own our space. The length of time it takes and passages we travel through.

    In fellowship

    Elizabeth Kapstein
    New York, NY

    • Hi Elizabeth-

      Well said – phones, phones, phones! Being able to get past our challenges in using phones is a part of our transformation in dealing with stuttering.

      Thank you for posting your comments,


  2. Hi James,

    I really enjoyed your brief insight into a moment of transformation. Your post originally caught my eye because I watched part of your documentary earlier this week (I am a graduate student in Speech-Language Pathology at Illinois State University and am currently enrolled in a stuttering course, in which we began watching the film). I am glad to hear that your stuttering ended up for the best due to your relationship and career shifts. I do have a question: if you don’t mind sharing, how did your relationships with family and friends shift as a result of meeting other people who stutter?

    Your moment of transformation is quite brave and admirable. I can only imagine how nerve-wracking it must have been to call back a person who had just hung up on you. However, your belief that you had a right to get your words out was wise and accurate. It’s great that the person apologized and you were able to proceed with the phone call. Your story was heartwarming and empowering.

    Thank you!
    Jeanette Grosman

    • Hi Jeanette-

      Thank you for your post, and for your thoughtful words about viewing “Spit It Out” in your course at Illinois State.

      That is a good question, which is complicated by some of the family issues that you saw in the film. I can say that meeting other people who stutter helped me be able to open up to my family and my friends who do not stutter. I felt more confident about speaking, and also in broaching the topic of stuttering.

      Also, I should mention that it was not until I interviewed my mother for “Spit It Out” that she was able to open up about her experiences with stuttering.

      Actually, in calling the person back I felt nervous, but more angry and frustrated, which helped!

      I wish you well in your career as a speech pathologist!


      • Confidence in speaking and openness to others (especially loved ones) seems so important for a person who stutters. I hope that in my experiences as an SLP, I can successfully encourage clients to achieve the same (and I think confidence and openness can apply to communication disorders other than stuttering as well). While I have not yet seen all of your documentary, I do remember your mother admitting that she had stuttered as a child but had not shared this with you previously. That was surprising to hear.

        Thank you for your well wishes!

  3. Jeff,

    Awesome experience you shared. I recall the days of turning he ringer off on my work phone. And staying in the office during my lunch hour to listen to any voice mails and try to return calls. I worked in an open office and I could not fathom my co-workers over hearing my stutters speech.

    A lot of transformation has happened. The beginning started with meeting other people who stutter and years later learning how to accept myself.

    Thanks, Jeff.

    • Thanks, Nora. Early in “Spit It Out” I am shown in my job with a nonprofit organization, in which I sat in an open area with my coworkers. I stutter openly during a phone call; my coming to accepted that my stuttering would be heard was a transformation for me as well.


  4. Hi Jeff,

    I think your post is an inspiring one. I know for me, sometimes I am more concerned with people around me than with myself. Just as an example, I will be in the waiting room of my doctor’s office for a long time, and when I finally get in to see my doctor, I will skip questions that I had because I won’t want to take up more of their time or those who are waiting behind me. But this is so passive, I think that we have to take a stand for who we are and what it is that we want to say.

    To me it seems like this particular situation with the rude person on the telephone was sort of like a “lightbulb” moment for you. Have you noticed any permanent changes since you were able to call this person back and be assertive. And you talked about the positive impact that other people who stutter have had on you, have you noticed that you are most likely a similar positive force in other peoples’ lives too?


    • Hi Marcella-

      Thank you for writing, you bring up many good points.

      With your example of the doctor’s office, it is natural to feel ruhed after you have been waiting. You might remind yourself that you deserve the time to you need. And it might help to write down questions you have beforehand. It is natural to not remember all that you want to ask, even for someone who does not stutter.

      Yes, the “lightbulb” moment has been permanent. I have also learned that being assertive about being a person who stutters may not lead to the response that I want from the listener. This can be frustrating, but the real point is for me to openly speak about myself.

      Yes, I do feel that sharing my experiences with stuttering with others is a way to share what others have given with me. I grew up feeling alone and ashamed and want to help other people who stutter not have to experience these feelings.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, I wish you well in dealing with your stutter in new ways.