For a person who stutters, talking on the phone can be a particularly challenging situation. There’s a classic scenario of being hung up on because the listener doesn’t realize there is someone on the other end. If this continues to happen, a person who stutters loses confidence and will have others make their phone calls.
As a speech and language pathologist, I have heard countless stories from my clients about the frustration of talking on the phone. I recognize these feelings of frustration not just as a professional empathizing with my clients, but as someone who also stutters and knows first-hand the challenges of communicating on the phone.
When addressing the phone with clients, we first do practice calls where we call each other. Then we move to “real” calls where they may call a store or a restaurant. As challenging as making calls can be, answering a ringing phone may be even more challenging because it requires speaking on demand, and we can’t control or prepare for when the phone will ring.
Answering the phone has been a personal challenge of mine. I always wanted to answer my business phone with the greeting, “MLF Speech Therapy, can I help you?” But I would often struggle when saying this greeting, and I feared that potential clients would hear my stutter and not take my practice seriously. Feeling apprehensive, I submitted to my insecurities and instead answered my business phone with the greeting, “Marilee Fini.”
Throughout the years, there were brief periods where I attempted to answer with “MLF Speech Therapy,” but quickly gave up when I had a moment of stuttering or someone hung up on me. A breakthrough occurred a few months ago when I was putting a panel presentation together for the National Stuttering Association Convention called “Making Feared Situations Possible.” I realized that in order to help others overcome feared speaking situations, I also had to do it myself! I made it my goal that when the phone rang I had to proudly say, “MLF Speech Therapy” rather than avoiding it.
It didn’t matter how it came out, it just mattered that I said the words. I was working on being an “authentic communicator,” and saying what I wanted to say when I wanted to say it.
Answering the phone with a business greeting was something that I had deemed as impossible. However, when I chose to see it as “possible” and was willing to take the steps necessary to work on it, I was able to succeed. As I tell my clients, we can talk about a feared speaking situation, but true change only occurs when action is taken.
Do you have a client who struggles to answer the phone?
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This post has been brought to life by PESI speaker Marilee Fini, MA, CCC-SLP.