This is a short self-reflection post.
I've shared with several people recently my belief that people who stutter have greater potential to become excellent overall communicators than most of the general population. Yes, stuttering is often accompanied by many unproductive "side effects" that make communication feel difficult. However, these difficulties can also be the impetus for tremendous self-awareness and conscious choice-making during communication moments.
The depth, richness, and peace one experiences when communicating in this conscious, purposeful way is nothing short of profound.
I had an online video call with several people this afternoon, all of whom stutter (except for me). All of us are acquaintances, but none of us knew the others well. We were meeting to brainstorm, discuss projects, and develop a plan.
These types of meetings, especially when completed via web-conferencing fraught with Internet delay and choppy videos, are often frustrating. People ramble on, often getting sidetracked by their own ideas and self-perceived brilliance. When ideas are flying, interruptions are frequent. The main reason others are listening may be so they can jump in with their own idea as soon as the speaker is finished. A suggestion can be quickly met with a rebuttal of why it won't work. Talk talk talk.
The above paragraph could not be more opposite than what I experienced tonight. When a question was asked, it was greeted by a pause, even when everyone had ideas. Look at everyone else, read their expression, before you speak. Does someone else have something to say? Let them go first. There was no urgency, no rush, either to speak first or to take the next turn.
There was a profound sense of the value of everyone's words. "Patience" actually seems like a crass term to describe what was present: the expectation that what was about to come out of your mouth is important, valued, and desired by the listeners. We want to hear you. There was lots of variation in voice and fluency, and we all knew this going in. Your words are welcome.
Writing this now sounds silly, as the above is all par for the course within the stuttering community. Duh. But what so impacted me tonight was how this philosophy and belief about people's speech translates to philosophy and belief about what you're saying.
Never, ever in a group setting have I felt such a calm, empowering, welcoming presence. Never have I felt no pressure to say anything, yet a palpable sense that my words, and by extension, my ideas and self were unconditionally welcome. Never have I felt this sense of welcome and value so evidently shared amongst an entire group. As much as I felt that people were truly, deeply listening to what I was saying while I was talking, it made me conscious of ending of my turn in a timely way, so that I could hear someone else's equally valuable, important words.
It made me think about the worth of what I was saying. Knowing that my spoken words were being treated with such respect, it made me want to speak in a way that was worthy of that respect. My words had depth and meaning, not because of my own merit or intelligence, but because it was gifted by my listeners.
As a "fluenter" (aka a non-stutterer), I am always struck by the beautiful, honoring, loving way that the stuttering community communicates. It is something I have never experienced in the "outside world", where most people take the action of verbal word pronouncement for granted.
When speech is easy, words are cheap. Expressing your thoughts can be a thoughtless act. But, when speech is hard, or takes time, words have value. Thought expression requires intention and purpose.
What a different place the world would be, if talk wasn't so cheap.