A blog by Brittany Rodriguez

If I have learned anything on my journey with stuttering it is that this journey is not linear. I have days, weeks, months and even years, where fluency is easy...and when it’s not.

For those of us who stutter, there can be a lot of anxiety surrounding something that many take for granted...the phone! During my teenage years I remember having a LOT of anxiety around answering the phone. I have certain sounds that I tend to get "stuck" on. Words starting with "H" can be very difficult. The very common greeting when answering the phone "Hi, hello, how are you?" was enough to send me into a panic! When answering our home phone (yes...the old landline...showing my age here) I often got stuck on that one dreaded word...Hello. Those that knew me would hear "H…h...h…" and would just start talking. Something as simple as "Hey Brittany..." was such a relief. Any other phone call resulted in anxiety, frustration and phrases such as "What do you want?" or simply being hung up on. My first job was at a restaurant and answering the phones required a relatively simple phrase "Hi, thank you for calling…How may I help you?" So many H sounds in one little sentence! I had never been so creative dodging the phone in my life!

Fast forward a few years and after many years working in an in-person retail environment, I found I had a knack for sales. I absolutely fell in love with learning about a product and sharing that excitement and value with my customer and became quite successful. I was a district trainer for add-on sales for my company at the time, when a very interesting opportunity came along…Telemarketing! I learned many techniques to help with in person fluency. I had learned to quickly change my verbiage when I felt a fluency block coming and I had learned to manipulate common phrases to make them easier to say. I had a lot of questions for myself. Could I do this? Could I take the same energy and passion and turn it into success in an area that absolutely terrified me...could I master the telephone? I decided to take the leap and challenge myself to do something that was both exciting and terrifying.

After starting this new job, I found myself doing very well, but I had times when I was struggling. I would have calls where I would get "stuck" on some word or sound, and I would hear on the other end "Hello...are you still there?" This is what I had been dreading. I could feel the anxiety around these instances building and the last thing I needed was a snowball of stuttering causing anxiety which in turn causes more stuttering! It was on one of these specific instances when a customer simply said, "I think we have a bad connection?"

That statement resonated with me in a way that was really difficult to explain at that time. I had always felt like my fluency issues were, in a way, like a bad connection between my brain and my mouth. I knew what I wanted to say so badly, but my mouth just would not cooperate! I also felt it was kind of funny. I guess we did have a "bad connection." Not in the way the customer had intended, of course. In that moment, I gained a confidence on the phone that I had never had before. I simply responded "yes, I guess we do!" and took a deep breath and continued on with my pitch. I would use that statement more times than I could count over the years when I was struggling with fluency. Instead of panicking, or becoming anxious, I would remind myself that the person on the other end could not see me. They did not know I was struggling. I would chuckle to myself and simply say "Sorry, must be a bad connection!" and continue on with what I needed to say.

Something so simple became so pivotal for me in my career. I eventually went back to an in-person environment after a very successful few years in telemarketing and I use the phone daily in my work today. Everything from helping customers to engaging in and even hosting conference calls. I no longer dread my fluency issues. When they happen...and they do...I take a deep breath and keep it going. I no longer use the phrase "sorry...bad connection," but it does pop into my head from time to time and it makes me smile. Looking at where I have gone in my journey in fluency and in my career would surprise my teenage self. Sixteen-year-old Brittany would never believe the things I have accomplished and the ways I have challenged myself. I look forward to continuing to challenge myself in the years to come and show those who stutter that we can accomplish anything we set our minds to! 

Brittany Rodriguez is a Pharmacy Certified Store Manager for Walgreens, where she recruits and mentors future leadership as well as oversees daily operations for both Front end and Pharmacy. This is her first blog post for the Stuttering Foundation.

Posted March 11, 2024