I first became aware that I had a stammer at the age of three. Growing up in Karachi, Pakistan during the 90s, access to information on stammering was fairly limited so my situation seemed quite unusual to everyone. I have early memories of my elders trying to help me control my stammer by telling me to calm down when I spoke. At school, I was expected to read aloud and contribute in class – there were some very embarrassing moments that really affected my confidence. I reached a point in my teenage years where I just didn’t want to communicate with anyone at all. That’s when I decided to visit a speech therapist and learned a breathing technique to help me articulate my words clearly, which I still use today.
Things got much better with time as I learned to control my stammer with various tips and tricks, and eventually moved to London for university. One of my proudest achievements was a couple of years ago when I won a prestigious international debating competition – that really boosted my confidence and taught me a lot about resilience.
People often associate stuttering with a lack of confidence or think that it stems from impatience, but in fact it’s a hidden disability that affects 1% of the world’s population. If you ever come across someone who stutters, give them time to complete their sentences and adopt body language that shows active listening. It’ll make a huge difference for their morale.
Within my role at Colt, I need to communicate a lot and I still have moments where I struggle to speak as fluently as I’d like, such as giving a presentation, participating in a meeting over the phone, or even saying my own name. But with time, I’ve learned to accept myself and not let this hinder my personal growth – I surround myself with people who are supportive of my ambition and educate others to raise awareness about stammering.
Zeeshan Khan | Executive Analyst, HR | London