Stuttering and the telephone


For people who stutter, picking up a telephone to make a call can be like picking up a live cobra – only the phone is worse. Stutterers often share the agony of having to speak on the phone.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about why this is so. And here’s what I’ve come up with. Someone once told me about that about 70 per cent of the meaning we get from dialogue comes from non-verbal communication. The rest comes from verbal communication.


That means most of the meaning that we get comes from what we don’t say. When we’re talking to someone face-to-face, we have things like facial gestures and hand gestures to rely on. As people who stutter, that’s music to our ears.

However, this isn’t the case when you’re on the phone. In actuality, the 70 per cent becomes 100 per cent. When you’re on the phone with someone, you only have the person’s voice to rely on. And for people who stutter, I think this is the part we find agonizing.

Ironically, as a person who stutters, I chose to enter the worlds of journalism and public relations as career paths, fields where I constantly have to make calls, talk to people and interview them on the phone.

One might ask why I would intentionally subject myself to this kind of agony being a person who stutters?

Well, for starters, I love to write. And despite having a stutter, I do love meeting other people as well, and sharing thoughts and experiences with them. Having a stutter doesn’t necessarily mean we aren’t good communicators.

Despite the occasional struggle, picking up the phone and calling up a complete stranger is something I’m getting increasingly more used to and, as someone who stutters, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way.

And one thing I’ve learned as both a person who stutters and a journalist is that the more phone calls you make, the more relaxed you’ll be the next time.