It certainly does seem as though conversation with another would be simple and easy, yet all of us respond differently, often depending on the person or people present.
I have always been self-aware in conversations. As much as I wish it were different, it is part of who I am. I can strongly attest to my comfort (or discomfort) being related to whom I am conversing with.
Because I am aware of this response within me, I got curious as to what is behind it. There is sometimes an element of saying something "stupid" or sounding completely uneducated but more often than not, I am more concerned about being judged as a person and not about what I say.
I can recall meeting the wife of a long time friend of my husband's. We chatted about me being a pianist during dinner and as the evening went on, I mentioned being a certified energy practitioner. Crickets. It was instantly awkward. I was so paralyzed by her response that I couldn't even change the subject! Guess we should talk about the weather...so much safer.
Granted this person is not one that I am close to nor is there a high likelihood that I will spend any significant amount of time with her in the future, but I took a risk and the result was uncomfortable at best.
I can offer multiple examples within my extended family, too. I want to be able to have a conversation beyond the weather, Brewers, Bucks and Packers (GASP!) and it's as though I don't know how to even start. I'm not seeking deep, philosophical conversations (though I do enjoy a healthy, thought-provoking discussion) but my fear can get me stuck. The strange part of it is that I can walk away from a person and think of plenty of different things I could've asked to get a conversation started.
Bringing the circle in even more to those I see more often, I have an easier time in conversation but I find myself mentally scrambling to make sure I'm not oversharing. I don't want to be saying something that I wouldn't be ok being heard by somebody outside of the conversation. That's the trust piece. If I share something personal and it is perceived as a juicy nugget to tell another, I have to be ok in knowing that it could likely travel. Yes...I am an introvert...social situations can be very overwhelming.
I have also had experiences where something personal had been shared, no connection or engaged conversation happened, and then it was later thrown back at me with judgment and shame.
When I have a purpose for a conversation, all is good. However, even those can be awkward because I'll allow the purpose to be in the driver's seat and gloss over social graces. It's a blessing that there are enough people in my life who can laugh and acknowledge me for me.
In the midst of my experiences of lack of conversation and connection, I am blessed with dear friends who can be present, without judgment, and honor the courage and vulnerability of real conversation. Thank you.
May we all find at least one person where shared courage and risk create real conversation.
Here's a little P.S. to my thoughts...it's all fear. Every last drop of what I wrote is about fear. Fear of being me and being accepted. It has little to do with the other people as much as the fear within me. The trust (or lack there of) is also fear. So if I'm ever awkward in conversation with you, know that it has nothing to do with you!