Jan 30, 2013 0 Share

New Club, New Nerves


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As you may already know, I'm a Toastmaster. I love speaking, always have. Starting in junior high school, I participated in debate—something which surprises probably no one who knows me. In my first few weeks of high school, I voluntarily gave an opening line for a speech, and soon thereafter also voluntarily gave the speech itself. 

A little over five years ago, encouraged by an acquaintance's example, I looked for a Toastmasters club in my community, found one, and attended their monthly meeting. In my very first meeting I gave my “Icebreaker”—the Toastmasters' word for one's first speech in a club. Since then, I've moved to another club on the invitation of a high-ranking Toastmaster. A disproportionate number of speaking champions and Toastmasters leaders come from our club, and I think it's really cool. As far as I can tell, I'm well-liked there—enough to have been elected Club Secretary and Club Treasurer in different years. (The last time I was ever elected to any office was in high school decades earlier, and if my memory serves for high school I didn't so much get elected as volunteer. So I've come a long way.) 

Now I'm thinking of joining a new club, one dedicated to helping people become (better) professional speakers. I've already attended a couple of meetings (and spoken briefly about being an Aspie), gotten in touch with a couple of members privately and played a role at a recent meeting—specifically, thinking up, announcing and keeping track of usage of the Word of the Day. (It was “mnemonic”—and I forgot to use it myself!) And I've been asked to both serve as General Evaluator for another meeting (basically evaluating the meeting as a whole and introducing the individual speech evaluators) and give a speech at another meeting. 

So why am I more than a bit nervous? 

This is a whole new group of people, most of whom (so far) know each other quite a bit better than I know any of them. In fact, I'm definitely an ethnic minority in that club (again, so far) and I'm not so naïve as to assume that these things never matter. As an Aspie, I sometimes have a rough time getting to know new people—even just in the sense of stepping on their (metaphorical) toes as little as feasible. 

If I had a dime for every person who became offended at something I did or said, and paid a dollar for every time I had a fair chance to turn them around, I'd have my Toastmasters dues paid for life. You may have heard of hypertension as “the silent killer” because if you have high blood pressure and don't check yourself in time, you could die suddenly of heart disease or a stroke. Well, for many Aspies including me (and some NTs too), interpersonal conflict is an (emotional) silent killer. Either way, you can feel good without things being good. 

I'm putting all my relatively newly earned knowledge on human relations to the test. Wish me luck!