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by Ricky Vachhani, Senior Consultant, EY
My first memory of stammering is back in primary school. We had a group reading lesson where my teacher would sit us in a circle and ask us to read from a book. The two people before me were stumbling over the words because they didn’t know them too well but they got them out nonetheless. It was my turn. I knew the words. I’d practised them with my mum for the past few days. I just couldn’t get them out. I could feel the whole group staring at me and my cheeks beginning to go red.
Twenty years on a lot has changed. I am more confident now and whilst I still struggle with my speech on a daily basis, I've embraced it. I'm confident to talk to my clients but more importantly, I'm confident enough to tell them (via email) that I have a speech impediment and all they need to do is give me some more time. Being open about having a stammer has brought about nothing but positivity and people are always happy to give me a little extra time.
Tell them that all they need to do is wait a few more seconds for me to finish completely and it removes the veil of tension. It adds a personal, more human, touch as well to the whole corporate industry I operate in, which can only be a good thing.
So how did this change?
Well I met a senior partner at my first real job at EY. He said 'hey, let's make an EY Stammering Network because I stammer too'. So we did. To say the EY Stammering Network has been a revelation may seem an exaggeration to some, but to me it's true. It is the feeling that my stammer is allowing me to go to places and do things I hadn’t imagined. Being on the front of 6ft posters in our reception, telling the world I have a stammer, helping teenagers who stammer practise their interview skills, or giving a speech in the House of Commons to a room of 120 people. These are all things I’ve done as part of the EY Stammering Network.
Whether that’s the people of the EY Stammering Network or the colleagues I work with on a daily basis. This is no longer a taboo subject and I don’t feel conscious of stammering because my colleagues respect what I have to say. That’s the real key to driving change – respecting the differences of each other.
Whatever people say about ‘being normal’ I can assure you of two things:
1) being normal is boring
2) and being different brings so much more to a group conversation.
Only through different viewpoints can you really find the best solution to daily challenges. I’ve learnt that if I believe in the quality of what I’m saying then, actually, it doesn’t matter if I take 20 seconds longer to say it, or my speech breaks up in between.
It’s definitely what I say and not how I say it.
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