Navigating Christmas

Kia ora, I’m Felix, a social worker at START and a person who stutters.

Christmas is a festive but often busy time of year. We’re looking forward to a well-deserved summer holiday and spending quality time with family and friends but before then, there’s often a lot of “social” events which can be a bit stressful and worrying for some people who stutter. 

I explained in my previous blog that social gatherings can be intimidating and tricky to navigate for people who stutter for various reasons. So, if you’re a person who stutters and you’re feeling a bit worried about the social demands of Christmas some of the suggestions below might be helpful for you.

  1. Before you arrive at an event or gathering, remind yourself that our reactions to our own stuttering moments and how we continue conversations makes a real difference to us and our confidence, and has an influence on the listener and their reaction too. So, how do you react to and deal with your stuttering moments when they happen? What are you happy with? Is there anything you would like to do differently? 
  2. If bigger groups worry you (e.g. work Christmas parties), try to have one conversation at a time. Talk with a person you trust and feel comfortable with first. This can help you settle in, and give you time to relax as your build up your confidence to socialise with others.
  3. Try to stick to your own pace, pitch and tone of voice, which aligns with my previous point. Don’t let yourself get rushed. Adapting to other people’s speech patterns can be distracting and throw you off balance. 
  4. Take regular breaks, e.g. take a breath of fresh air and remind yourself of all the aforementioned tips and tricks. This can be helpful if you notice you’re becoming a bit tense and stressed and your stuttering is increasing. 
  5. Be kind to yourself and remember you’re not at the work Christmas party or family get together to speak as fluently as possible or hide your stutter as much as you can. You’re there to celebrate a successful work year, connect with your colleagues or spend quality time with your loved ones. Be mindful to not let your stutter distract you and become the focus of your interactions. 
  6. I know we sometimes worry about not being social “enough” due to our stutter. Let me assure you, you are social “enough”! Dont pressure yourself to be a social butterfly if that’s just not you. But at the same time it’s also fine if you enjoy being social and engaging with others. We all have different personality types with different “social” comfort zones and that’s totally okay. What matters is that you feel comfortable to communicate and say what you want to say regardless of where you are, who you are with and if you happen to have a few speech bumps along the way.  

At the end of the day, Christmas is not about how much we stutter or how much we say. It’s about “togetherness”, connecting with others, thinking about what’s important to us and appreciating what we have in life. Now, go on and have fun socialising with your workmates, family and friends and treat yourself to an extra slice of pavlova –  you deserve it!