Most persons who stutter are capable of good – and often excellent – oral communication, regardless of their dysfluency. Good oral communication involves many things that are more important than fluency. These include good listening skills, the ability to empathize with people, being thoughtful and diplomatic in one’s speech, and having something valuable to say. A person who stutters may have these qualities, including invaluable people skills gained through past work and life experiences.
Many stutterers perform very effectively in jobs that require them to deal with the public on a daily basis, and a person who stutters should not be automatically rejected simply because a job description requires “excellent oral communication skills.” The employer should consider what kind of “oral communication” the job actually involves. Often this requirement simply indicates that the employee must occasionally answer the telephone or speak to people. Many people who stutter have successfully performed these tasks and much more, and disqualifying potential employees because of their stutter will deprive employers of the valuable skills and talents that these individuals could have contributed to the workplace.
The greatest obstacle to communication comes when an individual feels compelled to hide his or her stuttering out of fear of reprisal. For employers to demand fluency as the price of one’s job only creates a vicious spiral of stress and anxiety that tends to make stuttering worse.
Like anyone else, people who stutter are eager to excel at their work and to develop their skills and potential. They appreciate employers who give them opportunities to do so, rather than judging them on the basis of fluency. Some of the benefits brought to the workplace by people who stutter may include:
- Patience and perseverance, gained from dealing with their stuttering
- Greater sensitivity to the needs of other people
- Excellent listening skills
- Appreciation of the value of preparation for presentations and meetings
- Better understanding of communication issues in the workplace
- Enhancement of your organization’s image as one that accepts people on merit without regard to their disabilities
By refraining from making assumptions about an individual’s qualifications based on stuttering, both the employer and employee can achieve a productive and mutually beneficial relationship.