Monday, 14 October 2013

Stammering during Interviews

Wow! It has been a year since my last post. When did a year pass me by? A lot has happened to me during this last year, for which I am grateful. First to God, then to my husband and my family, and then to my friends. I know not everyone believes in God, but I do, and I know that all I have achieved this past year, have come through his Grace.

So what have I achieved you say?. Oh well, nothing much, but the ability to be myself during interviews, and that includes phone interviews as well. As someone who stammers, I find it extremely difficult to speak on the phone when I don't know who I am talking to. If it is someone I know, I can go on and on and on. People who know me know I love talking. I love a good argument, and I don't let my stammer get in the way of making a good point.

So, when I wrote my last post, I was at home on maternity leave, and I was getting ready to go back to work. I have since moved jobs...thrice. So, I left my old job in January this year, and moved to another company for 5 months, then moved to another for 2 months, and finally to my present company. I have been in this new role now for 2 months. It is a permanent role, so I expect to be here for a while.

I went to so many interviews, and turned down quite a few when I realised the first stages all involved phone interviews. My fear of phone interviews comes from one phone interview I did in 2006. The interview was so painful I cried afterwards, and felt really horrible about myself. It was not the interviewers fault though. I had prepared really well for the interview, but I suffered one block, and I just went blank. I could not say anything, except "shit". So I kept saying that over and over. I really felt bad for the interviewer afterwards for having put him through my melt down.

Later, much later, I was able to relieve the whole thing, trying to find out what went wrong, and I came to the conclusion that at that point in my life, I was not fully appreciative of who I was, what I had achieved, what I had to offer, and the fact that I was not supposed to be ashamed of who I was. As the years went by, I became much better at interviews. Not phone interviews mind you. Those, I never did, I simply refused to do them.

When I started job hunting late last year, I made up my mind to lay the cards on the table from the start. So with each interview I did, I mentioned at the start that I stammered. Most often I found that I stammered less because I did not have the added pressure of trying to hide my stammer. I think letting the interviewer know in advance that you stammer, prepares them as well. Speaking to someone who stammers can be quite shocking to some people. So I think it helps them too to be prepared in advance. It certainly helped me, as I got many second stage interviews too, and job offers.
Funny enough, my current job started with a phone interview. Can you believe that? After having turned down about 5 phone interview requests, I decided to give one a try. I read as much as I could about the company,  then about 30 minutes before the interview, I started reading a novel, just to get my mind off the interview, and to help me relax. After the introductions, I told the person interviewing me I stammered, and he said immediately " No problem about that. I a very patient man". I then went on to have one of the best interviews I have ever had. Can you believe that? My all time phone interview being on the phone?

So I guess all I am trying to say is if you stammer, and you have an interview coming up, or a presentation, or anything that involves you talking to a group of people, it might help to inform them at the start that you stammer. This takes away about 50% of the pressure. You then only have to worry about putting across your answers, or arguments, or whatever it is you are trying to get across.

What about you, what strategies do you use to cope with interviews?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Misconceptions: Stammering is caused by lack of confidence

Thank you so much for your kind words in my last post. I was not really sure anyone would be interested in reading a blog dedicated to stammering, but hey, this just goes to show that you can never underestimate the human ability to empathise.

I am starting a new series called MISCONCEPTIONS. I'll talk about various misconceptions people have about people who stammer, and share my experiences with said misconception. Today I will be focusing on lack of confidence.

I was reading this article by Allan Tyrer entitled Time To Talk, Stammering in The Work Place, and he spoke about this issue of people believing that stammering was caused by nervousness or lack of confidence.   He argues( based on published research), that structural and functional brain differences have been found in people who stammer, and that some cases involve genetic predisposition.

Genetic Predisposition. Saying that aloud feels me with such happiness. Let me put this into context. I come from a very large family. My dad had 5 siblings, 2 girls and 3 boys. My dad and 2 of his brothers stammered. I have 4 siblings, 3 of us stammer. I have so many cousins, and almost everyone of them stammers. Are children born into my family genetically predisposed to stammer? Or do we stammer because we are raised in households where there are people who stammer? Did we, as little children, look to our older family members who stammered as cool people, and tried to emulate their speech patterns? Will my son stammer? Even if he does, should I worry?

I am considered ( by friends and family), to be a very outgoing person. When I was in school, I always got into trouble for noise making. I just would not shut up. As a child, I did not think I was different or there was anything wrong with me. I had more important things to occupy my young mind, like reading Jane Eyre or Silas Manner, when I was 9. I also loved climbing trees. I remember falling from a guava tree one day, and thinking I was going to die, started begging God to forgive me. I was struggling to make my peace with God, and tried saying "I repent" over and over. Realising that my stammer was preventing me from saying it numerous times (I thought saying it many times would make God realise how serious I was about repentance), I stopped trying to formulate words and started talking to God in my mind. If only I could do that with humans.

All through my secondary and university years, I did not let my stammer stop me from raising my arm to answer questions, or ask for clarifications if I did not understand something. I also love an argument. There is no way I am going to let my stammer stop me from making a valid point if I have one. So, you see, I have plenty of confidence in me. I just am not able to say things normally sometimes. Oh don't get me wrong. I have my moments of doubt, as does everyone else. Unfortunately for me, and for many other people who stammer, stressful situations make our condition worse. I once had an interview for an editor job in Manchester. I did really well when I was interviewed face to face. The phone interview was another matter. Needless to say I did not get the job.

These days I do not apply to companies who mention phone interviews as part of their recruitment process. Chicken? Yes. That is going to change however, as I have come to the conclusion that a company that values my disability from the start, will be a good place for me to work. If they can look past my difficulties with speech fluency, then they are deserving of my skills.

I am also toying with the idea of joining Toastmasters. Hmm. I wonder how that will pan out. I know I can do public speaking.I just have to look at my dad to know I can. My dad was, and still is, a major inspiration to me. Six feet under or not. My dad was a member of parliament back home in Cameroon, and he did his fair share of speech making during his campaigning period. Sadly he died shortly after winning his second term.  So yes, watch this space, next thing you know, I will be giving interviews on the BBC about stammering. I'm sure that will shock even my closest friends.

What about you? Do you know of any misconceptions people have about people who stammer? Or about anything really.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

In My Dreams

I dream alot.

Not the dreams of sleepy eyes and foggy brains
nor dreams of lottery wins and champagne days

I do not dream about being the first female president
nor do I dream about being a Downing street resident

I don't dream about having gifted children
who can build complex structures at ten

I do not dream about Louboutins and Jimmy Choos
though I would love to collect red soled shoes

I dream about simple things

I dream about being able to talk

talk without stoppages and disruptions

talk without fear of my emotions

talk regardless of my audience

talk without searching for alternative words

talk without you ending my sentences

talk without receiving pitiful looks

talk without being considered dumb

I dream about simple things

I dream about being able to talk

Hello, my name is Dibs, and I stammer.