Sunday, October 16, 2005

The dreaded telephone

Yesterday I received a letter from the phone company. Inside, on one of their marketing brochures, there was a picture of a woman smiling gently while she spoke on the telephone. The woman seemed relaxed, enjoying her telephone conversation in a leisurely way. Granted, this was an ad with a model and she wasn’t really speaking to anybody. But, in my limited understanding of how non-sutterers speak on the phone, I don’t feel it was that far fetched.

I bet a non-stutterer has about as much anticipation, stress, exhaustion, and anguish with regards to the telephone, as I have putting on my socks.

For me, as every stutterer I’ve ever met, using the telephone has a very large amount of anticipation, stress, exhaustion, and anguish. For me, at certain times, the intensity of those emotions would be comparable to telling me a month in advance, that I would be stripped naked and tied to a float in the Christmas parade in one of the largest cities in North America. Then leaving me to dwell on it for the next month, knowing I have no escape.

They say communication is only 10% is verbal, with the other 90% being nonverbal. When it comes to the phone, I assume the non-verbal aspect is tonality and pitch, which I have almost no control over. And therein lies my problem, since I don’t believe most people can interpret my rendition of normal tonality and pitch. “Are you OK?” in the midst of a pretty mundane, factual, type of conversation occurs often enough to not be out of the ordinary. It may not be obvious here, but I believe I may have the emotionally charged and traumatic voice one might expect in a 911 call.

In order to avoid this, often I will go to great lengths to avoid the phone. Sometimes I’m better than others, but as mentioned in a previous entry, I have driven for 2.5 hours (return) in order to avoid a 15 minute phone conversation. Also, that 15 minute phone conversation could have easily been done in person with, another company, within a 10 minute drive from my office, if I was willing to spend another 5 minutes on the phone calling around. So really, I lost an entire day of work to avoid 5 minutes of embarrassment! However, while this example is extreme, I don’t think anything else on this page will be out of the ordinary for many stutterers.

On a related note; a couple months ago I changed my voice mail message, and it took over an hour! I’d block somewhere every time and have to rerecord. So I started practicing without the phone, then when I got it, I’d try to get it in the phone. But every time, I blocked. So then I just started repeating my message nonstop, so I’d have flow, but as soon as the “leave your message BEEP” would sound; I’d freeze. I could do it for 10 times in a row, but that BEEP stopped me cold every time.

This got me thinking, is this some kind of panic attack? Because it really looks like one to me. I mentioned the incident to my doctor one time thinking he would make the connection, but he just told me to record it next time, then replay my recording. And after a previous incident of an exploratory searching ended badly, I didn’t want to press it.

One funny thing that happened to me on the phone one time though; I was speaking to somebody who dropped something and told me to hold on. So I waited, and they didn’t say anything else, so I waited a bit more. I started to think that while they were picking up what ever it was, they got called away on something else, so I waited patiently. Finally the person said “John, are you still there?” Turns out they thought I was blocking! We were probably in deadlock for a good 10 minutes and I wasn’t even stuttering!

You know, different people are happy and content with different things. For most these things are usually pretty large, but for me, it’s simple. I would be pretty happy and content if I could speak on the phone without anticipation, stress, exhaustion, and anguish.

Not meant as advice, please find a qualified therapist if you are interested in similar therapy.


At Saturday, May 19, 2007 4:59:00 PM, Blogger cka1234 said...

Amen...I know just how you feel...I suffer the embarrassment of having to talk on the phone on a daily basis...Part of my job requires me to make phone calls to parents about thier children...This is stressful enough, but add in the fact that I stutter and get blocked is even worse..Speaking to angry parents is not fun especially when you cannot get the words out to defend yourself...If there is any kind of relief for this Please let me know...


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