|About the presenter: Sarah Bryant writes: I am 26 year old person-who-stutters from Richmond, Virginia. I am involved in the local National Stuttering Association's Chapter. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Longwood University in December of 2009. I am currently going to Longwood University for my Masters in Community and College Counseling.|
Just two years ago, it would have never entered my mind to speak up for myself. I would have thought I deserved to be treated like less of a person because I stuttered. What I had to say didn't matter because I struggled so much to get anything to come out and communicate. These were thoughts I firmly believed in for many years. Because of these beliefs, I did everything to make myself invisible.
One day I decided to call a florist to see what time they closed that day. I figured I would ask my question, and the person would give me an answer, and that would be that. Well, here is what happened. I stuttered while talking and the other person seemed very impatient. She put me on hold twice to answer another phone call. While I was talking, she asked, "Do you want to place an order?" and quickly she followed with "Just say yes or no." I ignored her trying to rush me along. Once I finished asking my question, she said, in a very patronizing manner, "Honey, get someone else to call back for you." Then I heard the dial tone. She had hung up on me. Wow, did she just refuse to talk to me because I was stuttering? That is a reaction I had not encountered. I could not believe how ignorant this lady was. I was laughing about what happened on my drive to work. That one phone call could have easily messed up my entire day or week, but it didn't.
I talked to the people in my speech therapy group about what happened, and I decided to write the florist a letter (see copy of my letter). I wanted to let them know how I was treated and how that is unacceptable. Just the act of sitting down and writing the letter gave me a very empowering feeling. For the first time in my life, I was standing up for myself and others who stutter as well. I never thought I'd be the type of person to put myself out there, especially as identifying myself as someone who stutters.
A few days passed and I didn't hear anything. Then I received an e-mail from the owner of the florist shop. He apologized for the way I was treated by that individual. He also said he would do his best to track down the specific person I talked to on the phone. The next day I came home to a message on my machine from a lady in their Human Resources department. The lady said that both she and the owner were appalled that this occurred. She said, "I am going to use this incident and your letter during training sessions we have with our managers and employees." She also added interview questions to address this type of customer service issue. I was amazed at how much they wanted to fix this and make sure it did not happen in the future.
That call I made to the florist, little did I know, was going to end up being so much more than that. This experience gave me a little spark of something I thought was unattainable because of stuttering. It's called confidence.