A ROBINSTOWN man who was once terrified of talking on the phone after developing a childhood stammer has signed up to answer calls for a charity after overcoming his fear of public speaking.

Conor Daly (30), says he was overshadowed by a stammer that stopped him from engaging fully in life before finding the help he needed to overcome his speech difficulties. Through finding a “life changing” solution, Conor’s confidence has rocketed and he has even changed careers after finally finding the courage to attend job interviews, something he says he could never have conquered beforehand.

“I was a covert stammerer, so I hid it well,” said Conor. “This meant I avoided certain words and situations that I knew I would have difficulty in. The main issue for me was saying my name.

“I would avoid words that I knew that I was going to have trouble with so for example one of those things was saying my name. This time last year if I knew I had a call with somebody I would have a lot of anxiety beforehand thinking how am I going to get through this, how am I going to say my name?

“Over the years that builds and builds up, This is one of the most basic and important things that a person will say during their lifetime, so having fear about saying it had a huge negative impact on me. To get by, I learned some tricks to use, one of which was to say the word “eh” and then “my name is” before I said Conor so I could roll into it. It was incredibly frustrating for me having to go through life like that.”

The Robinstown man says fearing speaking up in group environments held him back in his younger years.

“All during school it would have affected me. I wouldn’t have been confident in speaking up. Some teachers would probably say I spoke too much but that was probably over compensating for not being able to say everything I wanted.”

Being involved in sport locally helped Conor engage with people better despite the stammer as he explains:

“I am an outgoing person, I have always played sport so I would have got a lot of confidence in that but speaking up in those group environments is something I would never have found comfortable doing.

“Looking back at university I think I would have got a lot more out of it if I was able to deal with my speech better because I probably went into my shell at some stages because I was afraid of going out and embarrassing myself in front of groups of people.”

After years of looking up different ways to deal with his speech problem, Conor finally sought help in February 2023 through the McGuire Programme. The intensive course claims to give people control over their stammer in just three to four days by using a new way of breathing and overcoming the fear of stammering.

“This is a group run by people who have stuttered,” said Conor. “Everyone on the programme has been through the programme,” he added. “At the beginning of the course we worked on breathing techniques and methods to conquer the feared words and sounds. Once familiarised with these techniques, with the help of coaches we put them to use.

In the last eight months since I’ve done the course, my speech has been very strong. I don’t avoid any words or speaking situations anymore. I’m now in a position where I feel comfortable giving presentations in work, speaking on the phone and volunteering with my local football club.”

Conor who works as an accountant says he now has his dream job after gaining the confidence to go after what he wanted in life.

“Two weeks after the course I quit my old job which I had been putting on the long finger for a couple of years as well because I had the confidence in myself to go to job interviews. Afterwards I was doing as many interviews as I could and a lot of them I didn’t particularly want the job but I was doing it so I could practise my speech more!”

The Robinstown man is even planning on becoming a volunteer and doing something he never thought possible without huge anxiety, talking on the phone.

“I signed up to answer phones for a charity in December. When you have a stammer talking on the phone is one of the most difficult things to do. It’s giving something back but you are also getting a lot out of it yourself.”

Conor urges anyone struggling with their speech to seek help.

“I didn’t realise until I did the course and got that confidence in my speech how much it was weighing me down,” said Conor.

“The sooner you go and get help, the better. There was a fourteen-year-old on my course and I thought if I had done this at his age maybe my life would have been completely different.”

“There is a great freedom to be able to speak more freely and not to have to hide it anymore,” he added.

Published: Thu 11 Jan 2024, 3:12 PM LINK: https://www.meathchronicle.ie

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