How Can I Help a Stuttering Coworker?

by Staff - Original publish date: December 5, 2011

Dear Annette,

One of my colleagues stutters. How should I handle this with him in the office? What if we are making a presentation together or doing an important conference call?


Dear Hesitant,

For all you know, your coworker may be staying late at the office, composing his own letter to Me, far more worried about your discomfort than about his level of fluency. If my People were that distracted, they'd never be able to keep me ahead of style trends.

As I tell all those reporters who keep calling and calling and calling, fabulousness is fundamentally a way of life. No need for special strategies for special individuals, because you approach every situation with tact, intelligence, and respect for others. My celebrity investors understand how powerful an idea that is - in fact, I'm amazed I was able to retain a 34 percent interest in myself: they initially wanted everything.

Treat your colleague's stuttering as you would other strategic factors in business communications. Ask your colleague in a matter-of-fact way how he would frame the call (or presentation), how he sees his role, and what preparation he wants given the resources available. The same questions you'd ask any team member, no?

Brainstorm strategies. It might be as simple as substituting certain words for others, using a handout he could review with the audience, or orchestrating when you step in if he can't be as fluent as he'd like on the phone or in person.

He might not want changes. But don't forget that what's most important is the information you're conveying. Even the best presentation skills can't save lackluster work, although I have rescued myself once or twice from difficult situations by sheer glamour. How fondly I recall appeasing that charming little man from the IRS who had those boring questions about all the little slips of paper my accountant makes me keep.

In the office, be your own fabulous self. Don't interrupt, and do focus your attention on him the way you would any other person talking to you.

Stay fabulous,