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I admit I have a problem.

Clearly I do, as I am about to lose my job for the third time.

I don't think anyone of my team or the organisation that I work for likes me, and I am not sure what to do about it.

I will start with my background.
I have 25 years experience in IT.
I have literally seen the good, the bad, and the ugly in the industry.

I am getting older, technology advances, and I am getting busy with family and study...

All that makes it much harder for me to find a tech job, especially considering that a fresh graduate now knows as much as I do and even better, and for half my salary.

With my broad experience I focused on management. I got an MBA, and a PhD.

But I cannot communicate properly.

I stutter when I talk... and cannot focus much (especially English is my second language and I work in the US).

I keep repeating the same point over and over. I start seeing people complain... although they do not say it... but I see it in their gestures and faces.

Add to this that I have rigid facial features and I think the way I talk makes people think I am abrupt... although I am very friendly and easygoing.

I have tried looking at YouTube videos of how to speak confidently and how to become a good communicator...

Nothing worked...

I am willing to work in a junior job just with half my salary just to find stability and not to worry of getting fires for the third time due to my bad communication skills.

Shall I give up looking up and accept that all my experience and education is worthless and just accept a boring job where no communication is needed?

Shall I keep embarrassing myself and put my family in hardship every time I lose a job and put stress and anxiety to me and my whole family?

Shall I quit before they fire me? At least I would keep some of my dignity.

Just a note: I do not have an English language problem. My IELTS in conversation score was 8.5/9, and I have published research in reputable journals.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 20 at 3:38
  • 21
    I agree you're a poor communicator, your post is all over the place and doesn't make the problem clear. Why do you repeat yourself over and over if you know it annoys people? Have you ever gotten specific feedback on your communication? How do you have 25 years of experience and no skills beyond what a fresh graduate would have? (And how is that relevant to poor communication?) You say your English competency isn't an issue but also say you "can't focus" because it's not your first language, so which is it?
    – Kat
    Jun 20 at 8:09
  • 6
    I really need to ask how you know that "poor communication" is the basis for being let go? I've worked with many people over the years for whom English was a challenge yet they were creative and productive employees. Perhaps there is a deeper problem with your skills or abilities that is the real issue and you are simply misconstruing the problem as communication.
    – jwh20
    Jun 20 at 18:54
  • 6
    It may not just be poor speaking, but poor listening. If you find yourself repeating yourself a lot and annoying people, it may mean that you are not properly listening to your audience. If the other person tries to explain some issue with what you just said, and you proceed to just repeat the entire thing, they will feel that you aren't respecting their point of view, or you are just ignoring it. Cooperative communication involves listening to what the other person is saying, and incorporating that into your response. Jun 21 at 0:03
  • 6
    We can't judge your verbal communication skills with no evidence, but every single sentence of your written question here has been edited by other users to fix basic grammatical errors. Maybe the problem is simply that you are not a competent in English as you think you are.
    – alephzero
    Jun 21 at 1:16

16 Answers 16

117

Hire someone professionally to assist you

You mentioned "repeat the same point over and over" and "look at YouTube videos". These are relatively poor solutions to a speech problem.

There are professional speech therapist that can help with this. Check with your family doctor for reference or the local community center.

Since you have not lost your job yet, you may be able to talk to your direct supervisor to see if there are corporate resources to help you.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 19 at 18:08
  • 17
    I think "repeat the same point over and over" was a description of the problem rather than the OP's attempted solution. Jun 20 at 12:23
  • @JonBentley you are right
    – Ken
    Jun 20 at 13:36
39

When communication is concerned, you cannot learn it passively. If you want to learn to communicate, you must communicate. YouTube videos, lectures, papers, books can tell you what to do - but you still must do it.

There are a couple of organisations that give you that experience. One that I've been involved with for a while is Toastmasters. I'm sure there are others. Find one in your area and join. It's usually fairly cheap and you get to communicate regularily. Either by giving speeches or by giving feedback or by chatting with people during the break. And since everyone is there because they want to improve their communication skills, you don't have to be ashamed.

The most important aspect of such organisations is that you get feedback - someone will tell you in a constructive way what to improve. You can then work on that, and the next time you will get feedback again, and see if what you wanted to improve worked or not.

A rapid feedback loop is pretty much proven to work for all kinds of improvement.


Meanwhile, at your work you should talk to your boss. Tell him pretty much what you said here (minus some of the details or that you're thinking of quitting, or that you've been fired before) and tell him that you have realized this is an issue, you are in your spare time working on it, and you want to ask the company for two things. One, is there something the company offers to help you? Some companies offer courses or training in not just the specific job domain but also job-related skills - like communication. Second, can he help you with this issue until your training shows success, such as having your back in communication problems or having an eye on the communication between you and the rest of the team. That is already his job, but he may not realize that here's a problem he's needed at.

That talk should buy you some time, and in this time you can improve your communication skills.


I can attest that training works. I'm a pretty introverted person, and shy. But once I understood that's a problem, I trained myself and I've since spoken countless times in front of large audiences, and while it still isn't the most natural thing for me to do, I have no problems anymore walking up to someone and starting a chat, be it for flirting or for networking purposes.

But the one thing that matters is doing it. Reading about it was interesting, but didn't help me. Going out and training did.

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  • Toastmasters does manage to train speaking in large audiences. On the other hand, I don't think it's a solution to communication issues involving stuttering. The OP doesn't say that his problem is about speaking with large audiences. A speech therapist as Nelson suggests is a much better address. (I have 4 1/2 years experience within Toastmasters, so I have an idea about what it does and doesn't do)
    – Christian
    Jun 19 at 9:29
  • 2
    @Christian it's not that large audiences, most clubs are 30ish members strong and 1/2 to 2/3 of that show up to any meeting. Yes, it doesn't help with stuttering. But from what the OP wrote, stuttering is just one of his problems.
    – Tom
    Jun 19 at 9:46
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Stuttering is nothing to be ashamed of; it is a medical disorder that can be improved significantly with proper medical treatment. I strongly recommend seeking out a speech therapist who's experienced with stuttering. I particularly recommend the Precision Fluency Shaping Program, which helped me personally with my stuttering.

If you have a long-standing concentration problem, it may make sense to get evaluated by a doctor or psychologist for ADHD, which again is a medical condition that can be managed with proper medical treatment like medication and counseling.

I was also personally helped quite a bit by Toastmasters, which is a peer-lead educational program for helping people with public speaking, leadership, and communication. I wouldn't say that I'm a fabulous public speaker, but I'm far better than I was and I'm much more confident speaking and communicating with others.

Finally, things like rigid facial features while you're talking, struggling to concentrate, and repeating the same point over and over again could indicate high anxiety. If this is the case, there are quite a few things you can do to work on that. This could also be a case where an evaluation by a psychologist to see if you have an underlying anxiety disorder could be helpful. (They can also help greatly with the treatment of this condition). A few other things I can think of:

  • There are lots of books and workbooks that give useful advice on how to manage anxiety. Books based on cognitive-behavioral therapy in particular can help you reduce your anxiety and improve your confidence and self-esteem by helping you to identify and change unhelpful thinking patterns that contribute to it. A few authors I particularly recommend include David Burns, Albert Ellis, and Aaron T. Beck.
  • Toastmasters can also help to reduce anxiety surrounding communication
  • Relaxation techniques can also be helpful. You may want to look at, for example, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (there are courses and books offered on this). Even if you don't do that particular program, meditation in general is fairly easy to learn and can help you relax and concentrate better.
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Toastmasters

Toastmasters has already been mentioned in other answers (which I upvoted), but I can't emphasize it enough. I have been a member since 2014 and it has made the difference for me - going from freaking out & unprepared every time I (reluctantly) spoke in public to being confident and able to give a speech when it really matters. I didn't give a eulogy when my Mom died - I couldn't imagine at the time getting up in front of all those people. When my Dad died - no problem - not easy, never is, but the fear of public speaking was gone and I was able to give a meaningful and coherent speech on short notice.

There are Toastmasters clubs everywhere. Really. Most are open to the public, but some are limited to particular groups (typically inside a big company). Search for your location and you'll likely find plenty of choices nearby. Clubs are always welcoming new people and you can visit a club once, and with many clubs more than once, at no charge.

Due to the pandemic, the rules changed and instead of "virtual" being prohibited, it became required for the past year, including meetings, training sessions and contests. Some clubs are meeting in person again, some hybrid, most still online. With online meetings you can "travel" around the world (I am now a member of my local club and one thousands of miles away), but as restrictions are easing in the US, it makes sense to find a club where you will be able to easily attend once they are in-person again.

Every club has its own style and meeting structure, but the basics are:

  • Prepared speeches - typically 2 - 4 per meeting, planned in advance. Most speeches are 5 - 7 minutes, a few are shorter or longer.
  • Table Topics - impromptu speaking on questions/topics from the Table Topicsmaster.
  • Evaluations - 2 - 3 minute evaluations of each of the prepared speeches.

Try a few clubs (easy right now online) and you should be able to find one that fits your personality and your schedule.

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  • 2
    In my experience of having to attend toastmasters (a former employer was a booster for their organization) I would state that everything you learn over two years at toastmasters is often taught in the first two weeks of an introductory course in public speaking (and the course will do a better job). Toastmasters believes that practice is the key to perfection, but they are incredibly slow at actually teaching you what you should be practicing. As a result, lots of the time is wasted.
    – Edwin Buck
    Jun 18 at 19:13
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    Toastmasters is, by its nature, a longer term process than a public speaking course. But that can also make it more useful, because of the ongoing practice. It becomes (for me and many people I've met) a group of friends rather than "just a class". One of my kids took a (required) public speaking course in college and the topics/skills covered were very much the same as what Toastmasters covers. In the end, I think it comes down to personality - both the personality of the individual and of the club. I've visited quite a few (online) and there are plenty of differences between clubs. Jun 18 at 20:16
  • Longer term, yes. But practicing doing a thing without first learning how to do it well can lead to a lot of very slow self-discovery that you're practicing it badly, or learning skills that are ineffective or wrong. I highly recommend that if you use Toastmasters, you at least pick up a public speaking textbook and skim it, as it will give you the real tools to plan and prepare an effective speech, instead of a committee that might mistake content for delivery (or fluid speaking for clear presentation of points).
    – Edwin Buck
    Jun 18 at 20:19
  • @EdwinBuck That is definitely one way to go - and nothing wrong with it. Evaluations are a key - I have heard a lot of mediocre evaluations - concentrating on content (and sometimes getting that "wrong" for one particular speech of mine - it had a very strong point with an analogy and the evaluator didn't quite get my point...which also means I need to work on that type of speech...) rather than structure and mistaking "nice words" for real meaning. But I've also heard (and hopefully given myself) some really useful evaluations. No perfect solution, that's for sure. Jun 18 at 20:24
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I think I detected another problem that may be underneath the surface. You mentioned wanting to move into management as a way to further your career. Since this is primarily a role based around communication, that might be a poor fit if you feel communication is not your strong point.

You also mentioned working on an MBA / PhD degree. Sorry, but the tech industry is one that doesn't really care too much for qualifications. I feel you would have done better to learn more up-to-date technologies and more-in-demand languages with that time and money. It's never too late to change though.

I've personally faced similar challenges. I would recommend that you find more advanced tech companies that have individual contributor roles. To get there, you have to do a lot of self studying. Going to meetups and working on side projects also help. Don't underestimate the value of your past business experience. The ideal programmer is one that is experienced in a given tech and has good domain knowledge, but they are hard to find. Employers will sometimes hire you to work on tech you can learn in a few weeks if you bring years of domain knowledge.

Don't get me wrong. You still will want to fix your underlying communication issues as this is relevant for any job. However, the bar will be much lower in an individual contributor role.

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  • You say "doesn't really care too much for qualifications" and then "to learn more up to date technologies / more in demand languages". This is a form of qualification. A PhD in a topic unrelated to industry demands won't help you — but you can obviously do a PhD in a field that is in demand and then your qualification will be highly valuable.
    – idmean
    Jun 18 at 17:23
  • 1
    @idmean, ...issue being that it's relatively rare (not unheard of, but rare) for a given number of years of formal education to be worth more than that same number of years of experience in software. There are exceptions -- if I'm hiring someone to build logic programming engines or optimize a rules engine, I want to be 100% certain they know the underlying theory -- but they're just that, exceptional cases. No good university offers a doctoral degree in language-of-the-week -- the goal of a competent university CS program is to teach theory and concepts, not individual languages. Jun 18 at 21:13
  • 2
    It's a weird characterization of a PhD. Probably the jobs you've had it doesn't matter too much, which is why you were able to have them without a PhD...
    – djechlin
    Jun 19 at 0:04
  • Well by qualifications I mean some bit of paper issued by a teaching institute. You can get certificates from Google / Amazon / Microsoft etc but those typically don't factor much on CVs. Hiring managers will typically look for experience or hobby projects in the tech they use or something similar. By tech I actually mean familiarity with specific "lego blocks" that are typically used to build software. Its not some deep thing worthy of a degree let alone a PHD. Jun 19 at 9:13
  • Tech as an industry is surprisingly not super technical. Most technical knowledge becomes obsolete fast and learning the new tech is super easy. So if you don't keep up it can be depressing to see fresh grads do better. Its actually soft skills that differentiate seniors from juniors. If you've been solving problems for a decade you can just solve problems faster. Also when the business drops some idea you can smell a bad one from a mile away. A lot of more corporate places don't value these skills and end up with shit tech. So if you are a senior you should work in more "advanced" places Jun 19 at 9:20
6

Have you considered that your problems might be due to an actual physical or mental disability? I think the first thing you should do is get yourself evaluated by an appropriate professional. This has two benefits. In the short term, your employer may have trouble firing you, given provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and so on. As I understand it (I'm not a lawyer), they have to first try to make reasonable accomodation, which might obviously include moving you to a role where you don't have to do much personal communication. (More about that below.)

Second, as others have mentioned, once you have a diagnosis, you might discover that there are ways of treating the problem.

Now for the longer term, I would suggest more attention to matching your job goals with your abilities. You got an MBA and apparently want to go into management, even though your lack of conversational ability is going to make that very difficult. OTOH, you seem to be very skilled at the technical aspects of your work, even if you don't bother to keep up with the latest fad languages. So concentrate on finding a tech job where you don't have to do much in-person communication.

I faced a somewhat similar problem myself. I too am lousy at interpersonal communication, and lack any sort of aptitude for management. (Something that's unfortunately true of a lot of managers: I just had the self-awareness to know that about myself :-)) So I went for tech jobs, eventually started consulting, and haven't had a face-to-face meeting with a client for over a decade.

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    And if you do go for tech jobs, work hard to keep up with the tech. Then you will be very valuable: possessing tech skills and experience. That experience can actually let you work as fast or maybe even faster than employees with "sharper skills", because you will know how to work smarter not harder (e.g. knowing how to debug your code systematically rather than randomly changing stuff to see what makes the symptoms go away, something that devs who are just starting out often do).
    – bob
    Jun 18 at 17:49
4

No, you should not quit the job. (To answer your question)

The first immediate thing you can do is to talk directly to your boss and describe your long history of difficulty in doing business presentations to a big group of audiences. This may reduce your chance of getting fired. I don't think you should get fired over this if your management is clearly aware of your "psychology" issues.

Hopefully, your direct boss will understand your issues, and transfer you to work strictly in other teams that mostly require you to perform technical tasks 99.99 % of the time, and very little or no business presentations. In those new teams, perhaps, you only have to do a little one-on-one technical talks occasionally with a few co-workers whom you are familiar with, which may significantly reduces your level of anxiety.

In my previous companies, I have known people who have Ph.D, and they specifically choose to work strictly on the technical side, and not the management side. So, they don't have to give presentations to any big audiences. They are very happy with their jobs, and always perform excellent technical works for the company.


The second thing you can do is that you can probably try to get some help from some professional presentation coaches who can help you to improve your presentation skills. There are a lot of coaches or speech/presentation clubs such as "Toast Masters", etc... Please try to google "How to improve public speaking skills or presentation skills", and hopefully, you will find many helpful results that apply specifically to you.

Also, a psychologist or some similar professionals may be helpful for you to contact. I believe you are right when you wrote that "this is not a physical issue" as it is more likely a psychology issue.

It is surprising that you don't have any difficulty giving lectures (as a Ph.D or MBA), but you have difficulty doing business presentations to a big group of co-workers.

In one of my previous companies, I knew a manager who had excellent technical skills, and in a small team meeting of 7 people or less, he spoke clearly. But, after he became a senior manager and did a presentation for a big group of about 50 people, he was kind of nervous, could only spoke in a low voice, and kept saying "Ummm... like, like, like,..." many times during the meeting (and I was worried for him). However, over a period of 1 year, his presentation skills eventually improved (although not 100% perfect yet at the time, but it was the good news). Then, about 10 years later, I learned that he became one of the senior directors of the company, which is great for him. BTW, he was not born in the USA, and English was his second language too.

So, yes, if you keep trying to improve your presentation skills a little everyday, then one day, you will be very good at it. Good luck.

4

Reframe your concept of communication.

Communication is a two-way street, and if fails when one or both parties forgets that rule.

In most instances where I've observed someone lose a job, it's due to their inability to listen, not their inability to speak to their point of view.

If you have to repeat yourself more than twice, something about what you're saying isn't working for the other party. You want to think like a negotiator, like a salesperson, like an account representative, like a servant-king. People will put up with a LOT of speech impediements if they feel like their needs are heard.

I'd recommend doing a deep dive into askamanager.org, The Phoenix Project, The One Minute Salesperson, How to Win Friends and Influence People, and The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Consider that many in the US prefer to be asked to do things - even if it's a directive coming from the CEO's office. Scripts such as "Are you able to . . .","Would it be possible . . .", and "Can I suggest . . ." get your point across with courtesy and grace - but you have to listen to the answer if the response is in the negative.

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  • I think the OP's problem is not that he has to repeat himself because the other party doesn't understand. Rather, the repeating is beyond his control. It might be something akin to Tourette Syndrome cdc.gov/ncbddd/tourette/facts.html or compulsive talking.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 20 at 17:23
  • I hope OP is able to get treatment soon!
    – LeLetter
    Jun 24 at 21:48
4

I'm in the tech industry but I'm also a writer so my perspective comes from that. I'm very good at communicating my ideas (usually). I suggest that you:

  1. Read Poetics by Aristotle. It's a very short book (maybe 60-80 pages at most) and it will teach you how to understand the fundementals of storytelling which will then make it easier for you to tell a story. Keep in mind that a story could be as brief as 1-2 sentences as long as you structure it right. Once you really understand this you'll be able to organize your thoughts and your speech so it comes out in a way that is easier for people to follow.
  2. Many would say, read "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie. It's classic and might help you too but I won't kid you and tell you that it's a magic solution because sometimes people don't want to be your friend and that goes for anybody. Also it's a much longer book and I want you to be able to get on your feet running soon... so see point #1.
  3. Think before you speak. Don't say anything before considering what you're going to say. Listen a lot. Don't repeat yourself in a conversation. This is easier to do if you say less, because it's harder to forget what you already said. Don't feel pressured to say a lot. It's more about quality than quantity. I know a guy who is SVP of Engineering at a highly successful company and he almost never said anything in a meeting but he listened and his 1 sentence of speech was worth more than most people's hour long blathering.

Getting Fired vs Resigning?

You're better off finding a new job now before you get fired. You may have time to switch jobs and resign from the current job. There's less pressure than looking for work without a job and it may buy you a little more time to improve your verbal communication skills.

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    I don't think the first two points really apply to the OP's problem. If I understood him, his problem is not with the "storytelling" and so on, it's with actually speaking. I think that's true of a lot of people, in various degrees. They can write much better than they converse. And of course some people are just the other way around.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 18 at 21:14
4

You are in IT, so you'll appreciate the simplicity of the solution

Fix the problem

Communicating effectively isn't about being older, having a family, or studying. It is about:

  • Having a clear idea
  • Sending that idea to someone else
  • Receiving feedback that confirms the idea in their head sounds like the idea in your head.

Communication isn't the sending of well formed or well spoken words. It is the agreement that you and someone else have the same idea. No one can be 100% sure it is the same idea; but, you can confirm if their idea sounds like yours by listening to them, not by telling them over and over.

I keep repeat the same point over and over.

Remember the old joke about insanity: It's doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.

To fix this, don't repeat the same point over and over. When it is important for them to understand something, say "This is important. I need to know you understand it the way I'm trying to communicate it to you. Would you repeat it back in your own words?"

Then you can move into confirming the parts that match your intentions and altering the parts that differ. In any case, it will prevent you from just repeating the content.

Shall I give up looking up and accept that all my experience and education is worthless and just accept a boring job where no communication needed.

Come on, stop playing the victim. You know that there is no job where communication is unnecessary. The problem is that you've neglected to develop a skill. This skill can be taught, or they wouldn't offer courses at universities that covered it. Perhaps you've been hampered by your stutter, but I've worked with people who both stutter and communicate effectively.

the way I talk makes people think I am abrupt.. although I am very friendly and easy going.

I hate to break it to you, but your opinion is that you are friendly and easy going. My opinion about myself is that I'm a very handsome devil, the kind of man that women swoon for, and I'm brilliant, charming, and the life of the party. I'm kidding, I'm nearly none of that. When it comes to the parts about ourselves that really matter to others, it is the others that must be listened to (that's part of communication theory too). The others are saying you are abrupt. Then, when having to work with the others, you are abrupt. There's no objective truth here, their subjective truths are the reality you need to manage.

Shall I quit before they fire me. At least I keep some of my dignity?

Stop playing the victim card. Of course you shouldn't; because those extra pay checks will feed you and your family more effectively than your dignity will. In addition, between now and when they actually fire you, things can change and maybe they'll not fire you.

Shall I keep embarrass myself and put my family in hardship... ?

Stop playing the victim. There is no guarantee you will embarrass yourself in the future, and even if that happens, you are the person in control because nobody makes you say or do what you choose to say or do.

I think you have a fundamental mistake on how communication works, probably because you have focused on how you send information to others without focusing on if they received it. Give the others more time to replay your ideas back to you, it will develop your listening skills and that might help remove some office tension. Also, ask the others for their input, and try to relay their input back to them. Odds are if they haven't understood you through poor communication, you aren't understanding them too.

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2

I keep repeat the same point over and over.

Is it possible you have palilalia? Palilalia is an involuntary repetition of your own sentences. This is something you could start by asking your GP about.

You could also ask about the possibility of having other neurodivergent traits such as autism. I mention this because the way that you formatted your question is very idiosyncratic. You have communicated well, I understand your problem, but both your phrasing and your paragraph structure are unusual. This leads me to wonder if you may be neurodivergent.

Should a doctor help you find a proper diagnosis they will also be able to give you tools to help with problems you may be having in communicating. The tools and advice they offer will be more specific to the problems you encounter. The diagnosis may also enable you to explain to your employer how they can communicate better with you; sometimes neurotypical people do unhelpful things that can also be improved.

Please know that being neurodivergent does not make a person any less valuable or intelligent. You already obtained a PhD, so you know you are capable of remarkable things. I was taught by a professor who had palilalia, he was an excellent professor and an excellent researcher. I also have a learning disability, and hope to work in academia one day.

2

I'm also a non-native English speaker, but even in my own native language, I used to have a stutter (and when I was a baby, it took me an extra year to even say my first word).

Now, I did outgrow my stutter and I did go through years of speech therapy, but I honestly can't tell you if speech therapy really helped me outgrow my stutter. The fact is, many people do outgrow their stutter in their late teenage years, but some people, even with speech therapy, do not necessarily outgrow it.

This isn't to say that my struggle with speech is over. I arrived in the United States when I was 12 years old, and I've lived in the United States for 30+ years, but I still sound like someone who just arrived one or two years ago.

So I'll tell you what really helped me. In addition to speech therapy, I've done drama, Dale Carnegie, Toastmasters, improv, door-to-door fundraising, telephone fundraising (once I mastered public speaking, telephone was my next terrifying challenge), you-name-it I've done it. It doesn't matter if I was terrified of doing those things, nor does it matter that I was probably the least qualified to do any of those things, but I did those things anyway.

And although not everyone understands what I say, I know how to captivate an audience and keep their attention. And Toastmasters was super helpful in that respect. So I definitely second the vote for https://www.toastmasters.org/. Toastmasters is non-profit public speaking club. They're basically everywhere.

With that said, not all Toastmasters clubs are equal. And I recommend you visit as many different ones as you can before you finally settle on one. Hopefully, as the pandemic subsides, these clubs will begin reopening again.

Another thing that helped me is this program called: American Accent Training

Although, that program didn't resolve my accent issue, the exercises it contained made me realize that I didn't have a pronunciation problem, I had a hearing problem first and foremost. And yes, I've had my hearing tested since then and I've passed all the tests with flying colors, so whatever problem I have can not be picked up by traditional hearing tests, but knowing that I couldn't hear the difference between certain sounds was psychologically liberating for me.

And yes, I've also found some extremely insightful videos on YouTube, but I also agree with the others. You can't rely on YouTube. YouTube is too passive. You wouldn't learn how to swim from YouTube videos alone, would you? You need active feedback from others. And you need to actively practice.

And while hiring a speech therapist is a good idea, I would also recommend that you hire an accent training coach as well, and that you join one or more Toastmasters clubs when they open up again. You need to approach this problem from as many different angles as you possibly can.

In the meantime, I also recommend that you listen to Byron Katie, to help you cope and reframe some of the anxiety you're feeling right now: Byron Katie's channel

And perhaps, listen to Donald Knuth as well. Donald Knuth has a stuttering problem, but his career is still doing just fine. And I suspect it's the same thing for you. After all, your current employer most likely interviewed you before they hired you. And despite any shortcomings you may have shown during those interviews, they still decided to hire you anyway.

So whatever you do, do not do anything rash. And do not quit your job, unless you have another better job lined up already.

0

Be very good at your job. Provide value to your employer.

Other answers address the communications skills. That's very important. But regardless, being good at your job will make a big difference in how people react to these issues.

  1. People may still not like you, but they'll need you. If I need to choose between someone who'll politely suggest that I turn it off and on again and the annoying one who'll solve my problem - I choose the latter. Over time people get used to you. You'll turn from annoying to weird to eccentric.

  2. Your manager won't want to lose you. If complaints come in, your manager will fend them off, knowing that keeping you on board is more important.

  3. A good manager will offer you to help with your issues. They'll understand them much better than anyone on this site and will be able to suggest solutions.

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If English isn't your primary language then you do indeed have sub par communication skills. Your English is good enough, but you're not paying enough attention.

When you're in a minority it's not enough to be as good as others, you HAVE to be better. No lazy spelling, clear enunciation, think before you communicate, communicate confidently.

Mostly it's just THINK before you communicate, prepare before meetings, try and anticipate conversations and compose as much as possible beforehand.

That's really all there is to it, millions of us do the same thing.

I don't think anyone of my team or the organisation that I work for likes me

It's not about being liked, it's about being professionally respected.

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 20 at 3:40
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I would tackle this from two sides:

First, it may sound old-fashioned, but think about taking soft-skill courses on communication - either those given in business context ("Communication for Consultants" or whatever), or more on the medical side (i.e., finding a speech therapist). Large businesses offer support with this kind of thing, and that's no coincidence. You are not the only tech person struggling with interpersonal communication.

I know several people who stutter enormously; both are working in roles which focus on voice communication. One of them specializes in moderating IT teams or large meetings (100+ people). So it's not insurmountable.

Secondly, there are jobs in IT with different types of voice communication. You don't tell us what you are doing right now, but I assume you are in software development right now. This means frequently talking with your team about complex things that require quite advanced communication skills (which, in my experience, only few persons per average team have, pulling the others along).

Maybe think about going into classical ops (or the ops part of a type 3 DevOps organizaton) - you will need to communicate there as well, but the topics you talk about are much more, let's say, "structured". You still need to discuss things with your colleagues, but you do not have to come up with new stuff all the time, or find ways to express concepts new to everybody.

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Your problem is not communication. It's self-confidence.

I don't think anyone of my team or the organisation that I work for likes me, and I am not sure what to do about it.

This is what screams at me that you lack confidence and self belief. It's almost certainly not true.

I've worked with people who nobody liked, but they are usually utterly obnoxious people with extreme arrogance and who are abusive to people and utterly self-serving. I'm not getting that impression from the rest of your post, not least because not being liked would not bother any of those type of people one iota. They would never ask the questions you ask.

So you're probably not disliked by most people. There will, of course, always be some people who dislike any of us, but that's normal - you can't please everyone.

What do you need ?

You need to speak to a professional counsellor. A psychologist.

It's not surprising if you have low self-confidence now because things are difficult for you in terms of achieving goals you want. You're probably at the age when practically everyone has a mid-age crisis.

Some other points that suggest your issue is self-confidence :

But I cannot communicate properly.

Very few people actually communicate well. I have a feeling you are startingg to look at your communications as a problem when in practical terms they're probably adequate. Practice is what you need, possibly guided by a professional, but if you start out believing you cannot, then you won't even believe it when you succeed.

I stutter when I talk... and cannot focus much (especially English is my second language and I work in the US).

Stuttering is a sign of lack of self-confidence, shyness. It's relatively easy to address this with the right counselling.

Lack of focus is addressed by going in with an solid outline of what you plan to say and sticking to it. Don't improvise, don't worry about what people think. If they want to ask questions, they will.

Follow the engineer's Golden Rule : Keep It Simple !!

I keep repeating the same point over and over.

This is what many politicians and business people do. It's not necessarily a problem.

I start seeing people complain... although they do not say it... but I see it in their gestures and faces.

You are reading things in their faces that probably have nothing to do with you or what you say. It's absolutely normal for people to be bored to tears in meetings and even more normal for them to think that everyone else is saying things they don't really care about.

Again, mis-reading people's expressions and fitting them into a narrative in your own mind where they don't like you is a sign of lack of self-confidence (and maybe some depression).

The reality : they're just as dinsinterested in everyone else who is not their boss or more senior to them. Some of them will only come alive when they want to be impressed by people who can advance their careers.

Add to this that I have rigid facial features and I think the way I talk makes people think I am abrupt... although I am very friendly and easygoing.

Again, there is a significant gap between what yoo believe people think about you when speaking in a meeting and what you think you come across in a human context. That's again (IMO) a sign of lack of self-confidence, particularly relating to speaking in meeting.

I have tried looking at YouTube videos of how to speak confidently and how to become a good communicator...

While there are some good communicators on YouTube remeber that they are all communicating in video. They can remove bad takes, they can edit, they can rewrite what they say, they use make up and audio filtering and a whole raft of other things to control the setting and finesse the result.

It's like any recorded performance - all those people will be quite different if you stop them in the street and chat.

It's an act. They are performing and they are by and large able to correct all the mistakes they made in editing.

You want to talk with a professional who can give you impartial feedback and techniques to help you.

An example : when I was younger I was speaking to a colleague in sales (I'm a technical person) and complimenting him on his presentation and slides. He asked me if I noticed the way he turned off the projector before changing every slide. I said yeas, but it made no difference to the presentation. He said he did it because his hands shaked so much when he was speaking that he didn't want it to show when he changed the slides.

I got the lesson : almost everyone is nervous speaking. Confidence comes after a long, long time. Very few people are truly comfortable at it. Most people don't believe I'm shy when I tell them, but it took me twnety years of effort to reach that point and it did require professional help.

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  • Downvoted because the statements about confidence and self belief are just plain wrong - in general, of course I don't know about the OP specifically. It's perfectly possible to be extremely self-confident & capable, yet still be the sort of person who is not inherently likeable, or dislikeable FTM, just neutral enough that nobody really cares.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 21 at 4:23
  • @jamesqf The OP did not say people were neutral. They said that they don't think anyone on the team or the entire organiszation likes them - that's a completely different statement from your comment. Frankly I don't care about your downvote and the answer is only intended to help the OP, but you clearly didn't read the OP's question properly if you didn't understand the scope and implication of what they said.
    – StephenG
    Jun 21 at 8:51
  • I think I did understand the OP's question (though who can say for sure?). I think you are perhaps confusing not liking (in the neutral sense) with active dislike. They're quite different, and neither has anything to do with self-confidence. A person can be extremely self-confident about many things, such as their technical ability, without being liked at all.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 22 at 5:35
  • @jamesqf You dimply fail to grasp the signifigance of thinking everyone in an organization dislikes you. There is simply no "neutral sense" for not liking in this context. It would be extraordinary for someone to be in an organization and be correct that no one likes them. Even the most repellent, arrogant, offensive, dictatorial, presumptive and even violent people have, in my personal experience, people who like them and would make excuses for their bad behavior towards others. It is an absolutely clear sign that someone who thinks no absolutely one likes them has little self confidence.
    – StephenG
    Jun 22 at 9:31
  • It seems that you're still not grasping the difference between active dislike, and a simple, neutral not liking someone. I've certainly worked in organizations where nobody particularly liked me (even though they respected my competence). I particularly recall one job where the VP of Engineering was a hard-core country & western fan, pretty much selected employees who shared his taste, and expected people to go to cowboy bars with him on Fridays. My tastes are radically different, so I wasn't particularly well liked.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 23 at 4:17

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