...Okay, this really happened to me last year and I never got to blog about it, and I had to do an assignment for summer school, so I just used this experience. It's too funny. I wish I had a video camera to record my funny times asking for rock salt in a lisp. Ha ha ha. So, here's my paper talking about my experience. It's kinda long, but funny.
A Day of Tongue-Thrust and Distortion
As a Speech Language Pathology major, changing my speech pattern for one day really opened my eyes. For this assignment, I was curious and anxious to view people’s reactions as I spoke with a tongue-thrust and distortion (lisp). This paper will discuss the places I went, the products I requested, and people’s reactions to the lisp I spoke with. In order to maximize this change and observe people’s reactions, I made sure I visited a few stores throughout the day and asked employees for certain products with an ‘s’ in them. Rock salt was one product I was in need of anyway and the word salt just happened to have the letter ‘s’ in it…perfect!
The day I spoke with a lisp my family and friends just laughed and thought I was just being regular me. My cousin Maddie and I talk in lisps just for fun quite often when we get together, but never to make fun of others, of course. So, because of this, they didn’t think too much of it. I’m sure they thought I was just in a lisping mood; little did they know about my experiment and the results it brought. Even though I feel comfortable lisping with my cousin and around my family, I was nervous and apprehensive to do it in front of strangers for real. I didn’t think I would feel so nervous, but when it came right down to it, I totally was.
Looking for rock salt for a project took me first to Wal Mart. As I walked in, I knew what I had to do…actually talk to someone! I had an anxious feeling inside while I looked around for someone I dared ask about finding some rock salt. It was funny because I couldn’t just ask anyone, I had to walk around and wait until I found someone that I felt comfortable asking. Inside, I was praying that I would be able to keep a straight face when I spoke. I knew my lisp wasn’t real and if I laughed out of embarrassment, it would give me away. After looking around for a while, I found a younger kid back in the electronics department that I got the courage to ask.
I went up to him and said, in my best lisp, “Do you guys carry rock salt?” Immediately he noticed my speech impediment and I could sense he felt really uneasy and uncomfortable. Without looking me in the eye, he stumbled to tell me that he wasn’t sure and that I should go and ask customer service up at the front of the store. I thanked him for his help and wanted to talk some more, but it seemed like he just wanted to hurry me off to someone else. After I talked with that kid, I found myself too nervous to actually ask another person about rock salt. I did not go to the customer service woman at Wal Mart.
The young kid’s reaction to my lisp was what I had sort of expected. He just felt very uncomfortable talking with me and looking me in the eye. I did try and talk to him, but as I said, it seemed like he just hurried me off to another department. Interesting! His non-verbal language communicated to me that he was nervous and uncomfortable with the situation. He backed away and turned a little bit, signifying that he was not interested and didn’t want to stay there and help me. One place down and a few more to go, I needed some rock salt.
The second place I went to look for some rock salt was Kmart. Even though I had mustered up a little bit more courage this time, I was still kind of nervous about asking. It seemed like I walked around forever looking for an employee, there were just none to be found. Back at the bike racks, I finally saw a man in a red vest and figured I better ask him while I had the chance. I looked the man in the eye and asked if they carried rock salt in their store. Again the same thing happened, when I spoke. This man noticed right off the bat that I spoke with a lisp and it caught him off guard. Instead of hurrying me off though, he and another employee walked me to the place where it should’ve been, but they had none in stock. The man wouldn’t look at me very long when I was speaking, but he was very kind to help me when I asked more questions about sizes of cans and prices for future reference. With the non-verbal body language, something was just off, again, and he stood further away than normal.
After two unsuccessful trips for rock salt, the last place I went to was Smith’s. Since this was my third trip and I had been speaking with a lisp for a good while, I wasn’t nearly as nervous. An employee stacking some oranges saw me coming toward him, but he turned to stack the oranges again until I approached. I said, with my very best lisp, “Excuse me, do you sell rock salt here?” After I spoke, the look on the man’s face said it all. He turned bright red and said, “What?” So, I asked again. It was totally apparent that he had no idea what I had asked him for. He was very uncomfortable and I could tell easily. I asked him again if they sold rock salt, and he replied, “Rock thelt?” Ha ha ha.
Thelt is not even a word, and it was so hard for me to not laugh out loud. The poor guy had not a clue what I asked for. I asked again, and while asking, I made a hand gesture like shaking a salt shaker to give him a non-verbal cue. In the mean time, he was on his radio, trying to get some help, and all of a sudden he shouts, “Oh. Rock salt!” And, I said “Yeah, rock salt.” I could sense the huge relief he felt when he finally figured out what I asked him for. In a fumbled, nervous voice, he told me where it was located, but funny enough I couldn’t understand him this time. Kind of frustrated he said “We seem to have a hard time understanding each other.” I actually couldn’t believe he said that. What if I really did have a lisp? I’m sure I would’ve been offended. But, walking quickly in front of me, he lead me to the rock salt as I asked tons of questions along the way.
When we got to the rock salt, he helped me for a bit but then hurried to leave. I know he was uncomfortable, and I would love to know what went through his mind during our crazy conversation. I am sure he was relieved to go back to stocking the oranges peacefully and quietly. I was grateful for his help and grateful that I did not laugh out loud when he was helping me. After I finally got my rock salt and was out of the store, I did have a good long laugh about that experience at Smith’s.
I will say that the little adventure at Smith’s took the cake and was a great finale for this speech observation project. I had a great day and learned a lot from my experience. One major thing I learned was about myself and how I felt about speaking with a lisp in front of strangers. I had no idea that I would feel nervous or anxious, because I do it so often in front of my family. I was really nervous at first, and afraid to speak to other people. I felt kind of embarrassed to speak with a speech impediment and I just kept thinking about all the people in the world that really do this every single day.
As for perception and what it means, my views of that were expanded and I realized that perception was not just seeing, or hearing. Perception involves many different senses that we possess. With my experience lisping for a day and observing different reactions, I realized that different senses come in to play. I noticed that as people heard me speak with a lisp, their body language of backing away or turning away kicked in. At first, they withdrew and their eyes diverted from me as I spoke. So, perception isn’t just hearing, body language and non-verbal actions follow, to convey a message of uneasiness or discomfort, in my experiences. It was a real eye opener to be a part of this experience and I learned many things. After this experience, the way I perceived a speech impediment was different than before. I realized how hard it was to communicate with a lisp, and how uncomfortable I felt at times. People perceive others in different senses, and many senses come in to play to convey a number of messages.
The experience I had with having a lisp for a day changed me forever. I am grateful for the insight I gained about being in someone else’s shoes, or speaking someone else’s way. I am going to help others with their speech problems someday, when I have a degree in Speech Language Pathology. I cannot wait for that day to come, and I hope I will be successful and help others communicate more effectively. My perception of others has changed and there are no words to describe what a benefit this experience has been to me personally and professionally.