My recent stammering win

A woman looking at the camera and smiling

Claire Coulton tells us about a positive speaking experience she had, after winning an award for her business, and what led her there.

My name's Claire and I wanted to share a little stammering win I had recently.

Last December I was delighted to have received an award for my business at an awards ceremony. On the night, the organisers approached me and said, “Would you consider doing a live interview for our social media?”. Sheer panic and dread washed over me. What would happen if I stammer and can't get the words out?, I thought. Would I make a fool of myself?

But how did I get here?

I started stammering when I was 8. It wasn't until I attended sixth form that I had some help with it and I saw a lovely speech therapist who tried to build my confidence. Looking back, my classmates were probably more accepting then the adults I faced at my first job when I was 16. I was humiliated by my boss who would say things like, "You can't answer a phone because you can't speak properly" or "You can't meet clients because they would think we employed stupid people who can't even talk". This was so soul destroying. As I was just starting out in the world of work, I thought these hurdles would be there in every job. But thankfully people weren't all as negative or nasty as that first boss.

Sheer panic and dread washed over me. What would happen if I stammer and can't get the words out?, I thought. Would I make a fool of myself?

I was in a relationship of domestic violence; my speech was something my ex partner used to silence me and put me down in front of other people because I wasn't able to stand up for myself. I eventually managed to leave that relationship with my newborn daughter and decided to make it on my own.

I started my own business selling bespoke luxury gift hampers and other gifts. Starting out at first was difficult but moving into an age of email in the 90s meant that I could do everything online and not have to speak much. But after a while I realised that wasn't helping me so I began ringing suppliers instead. I even explained to some about my stammer and that I needed a bit more time to speak. Not once did I feel like I was a failure because of it.

I still have days where I find it so hard to get out the simplest of sentences. I sometimes use alternative words for ones I can't say, and I can race ahead with my speech because I am passionate about the things I sell. But I've learnt that sometimes humour can help. Most of all, I have come to love my little quirk in life; if my stammer is all someone can use to try and upset me, it's more a reflection on them and not me.

At the awards ceremony

The award I won last December was the Yorkshire Prestige Online Gift Shop of the Year 2023/24. I had taken my daughter with me - she's 12 and my reason for everything. When was I was asked to do the interview she was like, "Go on Mum, what's the worst that can happen? You should do it and show people how passionate you are for your business, your customers and what you stand for in life". So I agreed.

We went into this room that had lots of lights and a backdrop, and the most supportive guys ever who said I could do as many takes as needed and if I wanted to stop I could. My daughter being in the room with me was the calming influence I needed. She encouraged me to breathe deeply and reassured me not to be scared.

No one should ever make you feel like you're not worth anything because you stammer.

The cameras started rolling. I was asked what my customers mean to me and how I will be moving forward — and because I am passionate about my business, however small it is, everything flowed. I stammered and I waffled on, and I did the interview in one take. No one laughed or called me stupid and I was absolutely over the moon.

I found out later that they had put my interview up on YouTube. I was mortified but I watched it and it was actually OK. I told my customers about it and joked that I would never be the next prime minister! The reaction was incredible; everyone was really kind and said they were so proud of me and so happy I stood there and spoke about what a lovely business I have. Some people got me cards, flowers and gifts. There aren't many businesses that can say their customers do that for them! 

I just wanted to share my positive experience with others who know how hard it can be sometimes, and who'd understand how proud I am of myself. No one should ever make you feel like you're not worth anything because you stammer. Own it and love your stammer, quirk or appearance. Life is for living.

If you'd like to share your stammering experiences, why not Submit Something For The Site?

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A speaker on stage at STAMMAFest 2023

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