By Caitlan Kerr, Buying Assistant

I’ve had a stammer my whole life. From living with it, I know it’s affected by socialisation, self-confidence and the ability to push myself. Over the last year I’ve been in lockdown at home with my partner Matthew, and as I’m comfortable talking with him, I barely stammer at all.

Before the pandemic, I had lots of interactions with others. Commuting daily meant I’d have to speak to train conductors, while working in the office, sometimes with people I’d not met before, gave me the chance to push myself and improve my confidence.

But once lockdown began and I couldn’t go out, it caused a build-up of anxiety about speaking to people I don’t know. Things like speaking to people on the phone or asking someone where something was in the supermarket, especially whilst wearing a face mask, all felt much more challenging.

Whilst I’ve been working from home, Co-op have been great. My manager knew the lack of face-to-face communication was contributing to my heightened stammer. Because of this, we found ways to help me feel more comfortable communicating.

In meetings I typed my contributions as notes, and I used Zoom to keep an element of face to face. I found that things improved further when I began working on a laptop. Using the built-in camera to attend meetings on Microsoft Teams was a huge help. As I could see people’s faces as they were speaking, it removed a barrier for me as eye contact is important for fluency.

As lockdown is now easing and many restrictions are being lifted, it’s brought me a new level of anxiety. I’m starting go back into the world again and find the confidence to speak to others which took me my whole life to build. Luckily, I’ve got a great network of supportive friends and family around me. They allow me to push myself, but I know they’re there when I need a bit of extra support. I’ve also learned if I’m having a bad day with my voice I can rely on technology, making the transition back to normal life a bit easier. I’m confident that in a few months I’ll be back to where I was pre-pandemic.

Thanks to all the support from the business, and the measures they put in place for me, I’m now happier than ever at work. In fact, I’ve even secured myself a new role within Co-op. Despite the fact I’ve not yet met my new team in person, I already feel well connected and have fitted in perfectly.

I’d encourage everyone to have honest conversations with their managers. If they know about any barriers which make work more challenging for you than it should be, they can help. There’s also lots of information and support available on Lifeworks for all colleagues. I’m proof that with the right tools, technology and support in place, you can progress your career and achieve all that you want to.

Join the conversation! 9 Comments

  1. lifelong stammerer here. I think it’s about finding and understanding your own triggers as you say, for me it’s tiredness, caffeine and nerves… all of which have increased in the pandemic! All of us who suffer from speech impediments are masters of vocabulary and pauses, extra words and phrases.. it;s got easier as I’ve got older but many people will never know the frustration of not always being able to say, what you want, when you want to. I’m glad you are getting the support you need Good luck and thanks for sharing.

  2. You should have no worries about your stammer as you are able to communicate so eloquently with your written words I’m sure your confidence will continue to improve and you will get the opportunity to shine. Good Luck

  3. Good to hear that you’re managing well Caitlan!!!

  4. You are amazing Caitlin! I’ve stumbled across your blog by accident this evening and I’m so glad I did. You’ve also helped me check myself in as I know a number of people in my circle have a stammer too so I will now think about how I can make our meetings, particularly as we move back into our new normal, that bit easier.

    Keep being awesome like you already are and thank you again x

  5. This is amazing Caitlan, well done for all that you have achieved, I’m very proud of you❤️

    You have come so far with living with your stammer it’s truly amazing.

    Keep it up and don’t let your stammer rule you.

  6. What a great article Caitlan.. It’s so refreshing to hear about employers who are supportive and encouraging of their employees with a stammer. I think we should make more noise about the great support you received from your manager at the Co-op. How can we/they encourage other companies to do the same?

  7. Caitlan

    thanks for sharing this.

    As a lifelong stammerer too, it was uplifting to read how your stammer hasn’t held you back because of those around you but, most importantly, because you didn’t let it.

    Paul x

  8. Its great that you found some assistance from the business. I only suffer from a stammer when anxious or stressed as a symptom of my anxiety. It manifested on my first day in the office on monday 12th july as we were asked to go back early. I had real difficulties getting through the train station with these new passes and the turnstile wasn’t playing ball and the attendant couldn’t really understand me trying to explain the situation, which then made it worse.
    My lack of social interactions during covid, as you mention has probably made me more anxious along with the lack of guidance in the building pre-19th July. I was told before arriving mask are to be worn when leaving your desk, but when I arrived found that not to be the case which made me anxious and its just a vicious circle from there.
    Luckily since monday I have spoken with my manager and also managed to get a grasp on how the office works now through trial and error. So I am hoping for a much better experience on my next day in the office.

  9. Fantastic article Caitlan! It’s so important to be able to share things like this and it’s great you’ve found a benefit to the technology available. Proud to have you as part of our Team 🙂

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