November 7th, 2014



My daughter told me that her boyfriend is coming over for dinner tomorrow and she adjured me that "this time, mama, you have to TALK to him!"

She has a point. It's not that I haven't talked to him, exactly, but I find it really hard sometimes to initiate conversation. I'm not a naturally chatty person, though I bet people who have met me will be surprised at that self-assessment. But it's true: I find it much easier to keep up a conversation than to get one going. And of the four of us, only Karin is a natural chat-initiator. Anders, Martin and I all do better with people we know well, than with trying to start and continue conversations with people who are not so familiar.

In addition, I have the issue of language. Her boyfriend is Swedish (though I understand his mom is from somewhere else...can't remember where, somewhere Spanish-speaking I think...will have that to ask about tomorrow, at least) but I don't know if he's been raised bilingual. And even though all teenagers in Sweden are pretty much fluent in English, thanks to an early and thorough education in English plus a cultural policy never to dub things, they're not always comfortable speaking it.

So, I find myself clamming up, because even though I am also fluent in Swedish I'm, for obvious reasons, much more comfortable in English. Plus, English is the language of our home and my default when speaking with my children. It just feels WRONG to speak Swedish with them.

I have a LOT of friends who are excellent natural conversation initiators. I envy them. They can talk to anybody, at any time, about anything. They ask questions, they get things going and they manage the flow of a discussion without no apparent effort. In contrast, I feel like I stumble, and stutter, and fall silent, at least with people I don't know. There are lots of questions and statements going on in my head, but sometimes I find it ridiculously difficult to make the transition to actual out-loud conversation. Weird, for someone who is articulate and outgoing, eh?

My mom has said that I was shy as a child with strangers, but bossy with people I knew, and I think that still holds true in many ways. Not bossy, exactly*... but at least assured and capable of kidding around on a much more relaxed level.

I've told Karin I think it's a good idea if we maybe play a game after dinner since that is usually a good way to break the ice. Martin won't be home, which is a shame, though he's more buttoned-up than I am when it comes to conversation with strangers.

What about you? Are you a Chatty Cathy or a Silent Sam? And have you always been that way? Or can you fake it 'til you make it?

*Martin just came in and read this over my shoulder and said, "No, no, bossy is correct."
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