Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stuttering should not stop you trying

I often get emails from readers asking for advice, and asking whether they are able to do X Y. The rule is very simple: Just try it out. Here is another one (I have made it anonymous, but decided to publish so others are inspired), and please let my reader know what your thoughts are. And I am pretty confident that at least here you agree with my comments!!
> Hi, I've got an admission as a PhD student, but because of my stuttering problem, I don't know whether I can be successful or not.
First congratulations. Second, complete non-sense! I know many who did PhDs and are still stuttering. Actually, it is easier doing a PhD because you do research and write your thesis which does not require you talking. So what is the alternative to not doing a PhD? WHATEVER you do in life you have to face stuttering? So you might as well do the stuff you want to do!!
> I've really been hoping to become a competent scientist for whole my life.
Great. that is the single most important factor to become a good research student.
> I'm sure that you can give me very essential advice to me because you've overcome your stuttering problem and got a PhD. When I found your blog, I think you are a role model to me.
No, I have not overcome it. But I had to make a similar decision, and went to England to study and later get a PhD. I always told myself: Tom you will do it what ever happens. Stuttering will NOT HOLD ME BACK FROM TRYING! And very importantly: I WILL ALWAYS TRY AND GIVE ME BEST: IF I SUCCEED; GREAT: IF I FAIL, AT LEAST I TRIED! Do you want to spend the rest of your life regretting not having tried it?
> I think that fluency was essentially required for you to get your PhD degree.
Actually, I know few stuff where you do not need to speak a lot. In fact, speaking while doing a PhD is a tiny part of your work.
> Maybe you had to give a presentation fluently, or you might take an oral test to pass the qualified exam.
No, I have stuttered during presentation, but EVERYONE was very helpful. Instead it was easier in a sense, because they were understanding because of our handicap.
> And I think fluent speaking ability is really needed for you to do a job as a consultant well. How have you been dealing with all those situations in which you need to speak well and fluently?
As a consultant, fluency is more important. But you just need to keep moving and say: OK, maybe I am not fluent, but do you want to have a fluent clueless semi-expert or a stuttering expert? Stop thinking about it. Think about how to cross that bridge when you get there not now! You haven't even started your PhD...
> Moreover, whenever I try to speak in English, I can feel that my mouth is more frequently blocked. I guess that you've got through a similar problem. Would you mind if I ask you about how to deal with the problem too?
I just did it. I just took the challenge.
>>> Or I think anything you say to me can be helpful for me. If you have anything to say to me, just let me know about them.
As I said, just do it and don't care about what will happen. Whatever you do, you have to go through it. Re treatments, you could join a local self-help group and attend a national stuttering conference to meet others. It is a great source of inspiration. And I would recommend that you send an email to your news supervisor or admission tutor, and explain him that you stutter and ask whether this will be a problem (and also tell me that you really really want to do this...). I am sure s/he will write back that they will do everything to help you. So be open about it, it will help you decrease the pressure because it is talked about and you will see that everyone (99%) will try to help you as much as possible. Good Luck! Tom


Anonymous said...

I am a PhD student now for 1,5 year and have a really horrible stuttering. Every week I have a discussion with my scient. supervisor and because of my stuttering I make every time a complete written summary of all my experimentall work done, my future plans etc. And about once per month I am giving presentations and need to make them exceptionally logical and clear so that everybody could understand them without any word said by me (still I have to say some stuff during presentation of course). Well, not a big deal. Anyway it's much easier than chatting up girls, that is almost impossible for me, so I am concentrating mainly on science.

Anonymous said...

Tom, what is your advice on talking to girls (or meeting new people)?

What is your experience?

Anonymous said...

I am in a Ph.D. program for counseling psychology. Before that I got a Master's in counseling psych and have worked in the field for 4 years. I've done numerous oral presentations, talk openly in class, and of course, have to talk to my clients. Do I stutter when I do all of those things? Yes. Every time. Some times to a lesser degree and some times to a greater degree. At times I choose to share with my audience that I stutter, sometimes I don't (and I am sure that they figure it out within minutes of my presentation). Do I struggle with my stuttering? Yes, I do. Of course, I wish that I was more fluent. Does it keep me from doing what I love or affect the quality of my work? I don't believe so and feedback from my supervisors and mentors confirms this. So ... stuttering does suck. And yet, it's part of us. So don't let it hold you back!

ac said...

Stuttering will not stop you from being the most brilliant scientist you can be. If you've got what it takes to master the field people will respect you for that whether or not you have trouble speaking sometimes. There is more to communication skills than fluent speech - focus on your writing and you'll do just fine.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Check out

It helped with my stuttering problem and increased my confidence....

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom, and Anonymous,

I agree with Tom except for one small point: I would not send an email asking whether the stuttering will be a problem. That is not really for them to decide, and often what people THINK will be a problem ends up not being so in an actual situation. I would definitely be upfront talking about your stuttering in the beginning... I stutter, and it takes me longer to say what I have to say, but saying something faster does not mean it is better!!
Best of Luck, Joe Klein, Ph.D., PWS

Mike said...

To anonymous,

I'm currently doing a bachelors at university and have several presentations each semester. Some go well, with few stammers.. others go horrible, with lots of stammers.

But, I plough through it. It is only an issue if you make it an issue.

I've got a presentation this week, and I know I will stutter in it, the question is how much of an issue I will make it.