As a child I developed a profound stutter. It got progressively worse in my middle school years. It was really debilitating. It was hard to get a sentence out without stuttering. I began to avoid S’s, F’s, T’s, R’s, and W’s when speaking. Therefore you see the problem. There wasn’t much I was confident in speaking to anyone so I tried my best not to. I had years of speech therapy and in the end it had a lot to do with how I breathe; or more accurately how I don’t remember to breathe. I would sometimes forget to breathe when speaking. But even when I got a better handle on my breathing the problem did not completely disappear.
My stutter is something I will always have. I will always struggle with those same letters when speaking. But in the midst of my speech issue I have enjoyed incredible success and incredible support from every team I have ever led or been a part of.
Here are some ways in which my stutter has made me a better communicator and leader:
- My stutter has made me more acutely aware of where other people struggle and given me a platform to coach them through their tough spots. I have learned we all have something that we struggle with, something that impedes us from accomplishing everything we want to, or experiencing the joy we were meant to have in doing the work we were made to do.
- My stutter has made me compassionate, sensitive, and stronger. I am a better leader because I have learned not to take success for granted. I am continuing to learn that I am responsible to encourage those in my direct path and those on the fringes. I have learned that no matter how organized, engaged, adept, passionate, and well-meaning I am, I will struggle. And so will you. No matter how much you think you have it together. You have something that you will always struggle with and can use that experience to help others.
- I prepare better as a result of my stutter. I research more. I communicate more emotionally. I can cut to the chase pretty quickly. Words are important to me and I choose them wisely. I also read body language very well and my intuition gives me an edge.
- I learned how to create opportunities for others as a result of the incredible opportunities I have been given.
I wish I could say I am comfortable with all of this. I am not. I wish I could say I didn’t still stutter occasionally, but I do. I wish it was easier to get up and speak to a big group of people after years of practicing hard but It isn’t. However there’s nothing I enjoy more than communicating with a group and facilitating learning and change.
But those struggles make me a better leader and a better communicator. So embrace whatever it is that you wish you could change about yourself. Channel it to make yourself better. Use what you struggle with to help someone else. Don’t believe the lie that you’ll never be good enough, smart enough, or popular enough. Don’t believe the lie that you can’t be successful. Because you can. And are.
Lastly don’t write off the kid picked last for the kickball game. You never know what he might grow up and accomplish.