By Del Duduit
Over the next few weeks and blogs, I will switch gears and discuss overcoming obstacles.
We all have experienced them, some bigger than others.
They can range from a lost job, to a relationship gone south to health issues.
Challenges can be personal, or at least taken that way.
For example, I shared one with viewers on PJNET.tv a few weeks ago that I had to overcome.
I don’t remember how the conversation started, but I revealed that when I was a youngster, I suffered from chronic stuttering. It was obvious.
Some people refer to it as stammering, but it has an official phrase – Childhood-onset fluency disorder. Back then I would not have even been able to say that mouthful of words either.
I didn’t know it then, but it is a speech disorder that involves frequent and significant problems with normal fluency of speech and words. I knew what I wanted to say, but I had trouble getting the words out.
That added to my other imperfections. I was chunky, had acne and stuttered. A real winner.
That is why I excelled in sports. On the field of play, I did not have to talk much. I took out my frustrations on the football field, baseball diamond or in the weight room. I let my actions do the talking for me. No words were needed and if they were, they were short and sweet.
As a result, I did not date much because I was not able to flirt or ask a girl out. Although I had friends, I was a bit of a loner.
I recall vividly calling a girl I liked on the phone. Her name was Holley.
Her mom answered.
“Hello,” she said.
“Is um, um, is um, um,” I stammered.
“What? Who Is this?”
“I wa-wa-wa-wa-want to speak with um, um,”
“Hello, I can’t understand you.”
I hung up because I could not say “Holley.”
Because I was a good athlete, I was popular in school and most of my “friends” understood my obstacle. But that did not deter some ridicule. I was used to it. It was a way of life. It’s who I was and I did not like being me.
As I got older my stuttering improved over time and with confidence, but it was still obvious with certain sounds and words. It was an ignition of frustration.
It wasn’t until I was a young adult and married that it got better.
My father was dying of cancer and I was not able to get to the hospital as much as I would have liked. I was working at a newspaper about 45 minutes away.
Then a friend of mine who was the general manager of a radio station asked me if I wanted the job as news director. I would get off from work at noon and be able to pop over to the hospital about five minutes away.
I had to speak live on the air.
I was ashamed and told my friend it was impossible because I could not speak well enough.
She refused and told me she would help me overcome my obstacle.
Jan worked with me and gave me exercises to do and made me read lines with a mouthful of marbles, or bite down on pencils to help me focus on the words.
Slowly it worked. That was more than 25 years ago.
My stuttering is about 97 percent conquered. But I know what sounds and letters give me fits and I avoid them or find alternative words. I have learned to adapt and identify my weaknesses.
Today, I am a frequent guest on podcasts, radio and television programs. I teach at writing conferences and am even an adjunct instructor at a local university and a public speaker. And everyone I talk to tells me, “Del, you should be in radio or TV because you speak so well.”
If they would have only known me then.
My friend taught me to focus on breathing, speak with a rhythm and slow down.
- Anxiety is an emotional response that can hinder the ability to speak without stuttering. Taking a deep breath before a word in which you tend to stutter can be helpful.
- Whoever feels nervous when speaking should practice speaking with a rhythm. Visualizing your words before pronouncing them can help you feel more prepared and confident when communicating.
- Focusing on maintaining a slow rate of speech can help reduce stuttering. Continue to take deep breaths while talking and it will help reduce anxiety.
Jan is gone now, but she is one person who did not make fun or judge me because I stuttered. She saw an opportunity to do something good for me, my dad, and her business. It was a win-win-win.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
(Romans 8: 37 KJV)
What obstacles have you faced?
How can you overcome them?
Do you judge others because they are different?
Del Duduit is an award-winning writer and author who lives in Lucasville, Ohio with his wife, Angie. They attend Rubyville Community Church. Follow his blog at delduduit.com/blog and his Twitter @delduduit. He is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency.