I. Stuttering in the professional world

What is stuttering?

– Stuttering is a speech disorder that affects oral communication . It is characterized by repetitions of words, syllables and sounds, by prolongations of sounds, stops and blocks that give the impression of effort. Research has shown the existence of a hereditary factor which results in a higher incidence of stuttering in some families. The origin of the disorder is multifactorial with a genetic and neurological component together with factors which affect the individual (temperament…) and his environment.

Stuttering affects quality of life in a very variable way depending on the individual. It can be at the origin of a negative feeling which sometimes takes an inordinate place in the life choices of the person who stutters. Indeed, it can have an influence on all aspects of life, in particular studies and professional projects.

– Note that no two stutters are alike . In some cases, even if the stuttering seems mild or even nonexistent, it can have significant psychological repercussions. Conversely, a more severe form may be better experienced by the person who stutters.

Stuttering does not affect intellectual skills in any way . It is disabling only in a context of oral communication, which varies depending on the situation. It is a handicap which evolves, the person who stutters can gradually come out of his disorder.

– Stuttering seen by people who stutter:

Stuttering and skills

– The personal and professional entourage often overestimate the negative impact of stuttering on the professional capacities of the person who is affected. Experience shows that the positions of managers, company directors, sales representatives, negotiators, trainers, etc. are compatible with not very fluent speech.

– Stuttering constantly leads people who stutter to surpass themselves , it pushes them to develop particular skills. Recruiting a person who stutters represents an issue for an employer that goes beyond legal and social obligations. The aim is to make the recruitment of people with disabilities an area of strategic differentiation. Recruiting someone who stutters will be an asset by bringing in other skills . These skills will depend on each one as well as on the way in which stuttering is experienced, so they can vary from one person who stutters to another: Determination, empathy, listening, communication, capacity for work, creativity and many more.

– People who stutter talk about the qualities that stuttering has given them:

Practical advice when meeting someone who stutters

Make you comfortable the person who stutters , who may be particularly stressed during an interview

Remain natural in the interaction even if the stuttering can sometimes be disturbing for the interlocutor

Maintain eye contact with the stutterer as much as possible

Stay tuned by focusing more on the content than on the form of the words ;

Accept non-oral communication if you are in a hurry .

Avoid advice such as “breathe”, “calm down” which is of no help. Stuttering is amplified by stress but is not due to stress.

Ask yourself what you feel (nervousness, impatience) in front of someone who stutters , this will allow you to be vigilant to the non-verbal signals that you send (frown, sighs…). Feeling nervousness or impatience is normal in some cases, being aware of it helps limit the impact.

Explain with the person who stutters the situations that are difficult for him in order to help him find adaptations in the company while allowing him to move forward.

Recognition of the status of disabled worker (RQTH)

Stuttering is recognized by the Departmental House of Handicapped Persons (MDPH) and may give the right to an RQTH (Recognition of the quality of disabled worker)

Possible arrangement to help people who stutter

– For a telephone interview , offer a face-to-face interview if the person feels more comfortable than on the phone

– When there is a customer contact , the interlocutor (s) can be warned upstream if the person who stutters so wishes.

– When there is an oral presentation, the person who stutters can be warned in advance . This gives time for oral preparation and rehearsal , which is decisive.

Offer to call outside of platforms where everyone hears .

Suggest, incite but do not force .

– Accept the use of a Delayed Auditory feedback type device if it helps the person.

II. Stuttering and maintenance

Giving a job interview to someone who stutters is always a complicated exercise as the exchange relies almost entirely on oral communication.

Identify the key skills for the job

In an interview with someone who stutters, it’s always hard to get past their difference:

Before taking into account the candidate’s stuttering , does he have the necessary skills for the position ?

– Can we adapt the position to his difference ?

– Are the skills hampered by stuttering outweighed by those that stuttering develops ?

– Will the stuttering hinder the person in performing the tasks ?

Tips from people who stutter for a job interview

Adapt the interview to the particularities of stuttering

The phone can increase stuttering for some . They can feel more pressure, blockages can create « blanks » during the conversation.

Take an interest in what his disability has allowed him to do . The adventures lived are a gold mine to get to know the person and discover all his skills. Be careful, some people will be less open on this subject, in this case, their restraint will be respected.

Remember to be transparent with your interlocutor. If he tells you about his stuttering, be honest about your position on it. If you have any doubts, ask the candidate for examples of situations similar to those they will encounter on the job.

If you think the person is stuttering but dare not say it, try to start the topic, you can put the person at ease and show that disability is not a taboo.

Do not base your impression on the stuttering, but on the whole exchange with the person who stutters.

People who stutter talk about the qualities that stuttering has given them:

Adapt the interview to the particularities of stuttering

Oral communication
is only part of the job and effective alternatives can be
found. (see fittings):

– When there is a customer contact, the interlocutor (s) can be notified upstream .

– When there is an oral presentation, the person who stutters can be warned in advance and have more time to prepare

III. Job

New challenges

Having a person who stutters in a team may require adaptation so that the person is an integral part of the team and that they can bring all their added value . Stuttering is certainly a handicap for oral communication. He can also prove to be an asset that will benefit his team and his company in many situations .

The whole challenge of integrating a person who stutters into a team is to allow him to go beyond the stuttering, so that he puts forward his strengths.

The issues can be diverse:

– Integration of the person who stutters

– Adaptation of the position

People who stutter talk about the qualities that stuttering has given them:

Integration of the person who stutters

Stuttering can surprise the uninformed . It can also have an impact on social life that should not be forgotten . If the person who stutters interacts in a different way, it could be related to the stuttering as well. It may be important to take this into account in teamwork.

Team awareness:

– Allow the person who stutters to talk about their stuttering and what it means for them, if they wish . Not everyone is comfortable in this situation.

– Distribute the first informative part of this guide to all team members.

Communication with the person who stutters:

– The effort must come from both parties. Do not hesitate to communicate with the person who stutters if there are points to improve in his professional attitude, in his way of working and other points which seem essential to you.

A person who stutters should not be given special treatment , he should be judged like any other collaborator.

Adapt working conditions to the needs of people with disabilities

– If possible, allow flexibility in the timing of speech therapy sessions when people who stutter follow. It is important to them and it is often not possible to choose the meeting time.

– Adapt the position to the needs of the person who stutters. Here are several simple adaptations :

  1. When time is of the essence, written communication may be preferred;
  2. When there is a customer contact, the interlocutor can be notified upstream;
  3. When there is an oral presentation, the person who stutters may be warned in advance and have more time to prepare.

Stuttering also develops abilities that are out of the ordinary . When we are forced, the brain adapts and compensates. Each person who stutters experiences their disability differently and will compensate for it in a different way. By making the person who stutters comfortable and trusting them, you will let them thrive and express their original abilities.

– The crucial element is not to limit the responsibilities of the person who stutters because of his disability. On the contrary, she must be given the opportunity to go further if she wishes, without forcing it.

There are many examples that show that a stuttering is compatible with activities coaching teams, building trusting relationships with customers, the ability to negotiate with suppliers… and the leadership qualities that go with it . Stanislas Niox-Chateau , Co-Founder and CEO of Doctolib and people who stutter, perfectly illustrates these qualities :  » The most useful is my stuttering. I’ve been stuttering since I was little, and 15 years ago I couldn’t get a baguette from the bakery. Today I speak to clients, I speak in public etc. This stuttering helps me question myself every day. »

– People who stutter talk about their job: