Have you thought about how to design a conference event for Smart, Anxious Misfits (SAM)?
First, it would need to be intellectually stimulating and not the same humdrum that you get at many conferences.
Most interestingly, it would need to accommodate the A and M in SAM. And that would represent a revolutionary model for holding gatherings of human beings.
First, there’d be a panic room. Feel anxiety coming on? Head to the panic room where you are welcome in your hightened state. Take your time. There will be people there to talk to, if you want.
Then, there’d be a space for people who are highly sensitive. No talking there. None. No electronic devices. No bright lights. Spacious and quiet. Hang out there whenever you need a break. No one is allowed to disturb you.
And there’d be special rules of engagement in general. You could start conversations with, “Hey nice to meet you. I have social anxiety, so I might turn and run at any moment. And please don’t ask me personal questions. Please allow me to feel in control of what I reveal about myself. I’ll do the same for you.”
Of course, any classes offered would have rules, too. For example, presenters could never randomly ask students to participate in discussions. “Charles, what do you think about X?” If Charles wants to participate, he’ll raise his hand. Let Charles be in control of his own classroom experience and never have to worry about being called upon randomly.
Conference presenters would be Smart, Anxious Misfits, too. You might see a presenter get up and say, “So, I am super anxious – I may need to head over to the panic room at any minute. If I do, sorry about that! Now, if I merely break out in a cold sweat, but keep my voice, then I’ll continue presenting. Don’t mind the beads of perspiration or my pitted out shirt!
Of course, being SAMs themselves, students would all cheer in approval.
Then, there’s the SAMs who are not so anxious. They’re often just bored with social interaction. Well, they might walk up to you and say, “Don’t mind the flat expression on my face. I’m so used to being bored that this look is hard to break. I really am interested in talking to you right now. However, if I do get bored with with our conversation, I’ll be sure to tell you and hope you won’t be offended. And if that makes you panic, I’ll go with you to the panic room, no worries.”
You might wonder if anything productive would get done at a conference like this. Yes, of course, the most important thing in the world would be accomplished. People would be gathered together to understand and accept each other, and help each other through struggles.
In other words, it would be REAL. What more is there to accomplish?