Imagine waking up one day to find your words trapped inside your head, unable to say what you feel, think, want or need with ease.
That’s exactly what happened to Katherine Preston, when she developed a stutter at the age of only 7. Seventeen years later, determined to get some answers, she decided to do something about it.
At the age of 24, she left her life behind and set out on a quest. What started as a search for a cure, though, turned into a year-long journey. One that would lead her into conversations with people like legendary GE CEO, Jack Welch, and actor Emily Blunt, who shared how more than anything, when people see others who stutter, they are willing to see courage.
What she’d discover along her quest would surprise and, inevitably, release her. It wasn’t so much a cure, but something far more transformative. Something that would lead her to embrace her stutter as, in her words, “the best part of me.”
Something that would open her vulnerability and inspire her to return to a passion for writing and eventually pen and sell her forthcoming book, Out With It: How Stuttering Helped Me Find My Voice (due out in Spring 2013).
While this episode was in post-production, a question that’d been on my mind but I’d forgotten to ask came back to me. So I emailed Katherine to ask:
When you’re really working to get a word or phrase said and it’s not coming easily and that little smile comes, what exactly are you thinking at that moment?
And, here’s what she said:
So, the smile…
I think it’s a compassion thing – for myself and for my listener. I do it subconsciously, but it stems from a desire to remind myself that I don’t need to be scared of stuttering. Beyond that, I do it to put my listener at ease, to let them know that nothing terrible is going on, that stuttering doesn’t need to frighten them or make them feel awkward.
In general, I believe in laughing at my stutter, in addressing it and treating it with as much common sense as possible.
How extraordinary that in the midst of her working to get her words into the world, she has the compassion and presence to be thinking about others and the desire to put whoever’s on the other side of the conversation at ease.
You can learn more about Katherine at KatherinePreston.com
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