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A LITTLE LESS CONVERSATION
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."
 thoughtful
mood: thoughtful
music: General Public—In Conversation


Comments

I can fake it 'til I make it but only because I find awkward silences worse than conversing.

I can too, but it's a real effort.

lol I've been called "bossy" more than I think I should have been! Bringing up 3 younger siblings when you're 11 years old does that, I think. *snort*

I'm not advising you here, but it seems that the BF speaks both English and Swedish and, in your home, I think you should feel free to speak whichever you like best. I'm sure it'll be fine. Just ask questions! Guys love to talk about themselves. ;)

haaa! Everyone likes to talk about themselves, right? We'll see. I've been thinking of things to talk about all day, so at least I'm feeling slightly more prepared.

(Anonymous)
From Megsie

This obviously depends on the context, but in general, I can make a friend of anyone. Sarah is always disgusted about this because I chat with everyone...at the store, in line, walking down the street... But I have to go to a GALA tonight, and there? I will probably be a wall flower. I hate the schmoozing. So I will fake it tonight and this is after I made friends at Firestone this evening when I had a flat tire. I am weird.

Re: From Megsie

I can make a friend of anyone, too, but I'm NOT much of a public chatter. You make me laugh, because I can identify with Sarah... my mom (hi mom!) does the same thing.

(Anonymous)

Martin made me laugh! :0 Well, I would have to admit that you must be like me when it comes to conversations, but if the moon is in a fire sign I am much more outgoing. So, my suggestion is plan your social events by the moon sign! HAHAHAHA! Love, Lizardmom

How am I supposed to know when the moon is in a fire sign?? Keep me updated on that, Mom!

As you know, I'm the strong, silent type.

*gives Liz time to pick her jaw up from the floor*

I'm quite good at bullshit small talk with anybody. Hey, I even talk to the dog, a rock or even a non-responsive Swede. I don't know whether that's because I'm the oldest child (read also "bossy") or that I'm endlessly curious or that I simply like people to feel welcome. This means I am a formidable talker who is congenitally incapable of remaining silent or keeping myself to myself. Karin's boyfriend would never come back :-)

You're another of my chatty friends that I envy. I have so many friends who ARE that it makes me wonder a bit. Am I surrounding myself with talkers so that I don't have to? (apart from the fact that you aren't actually nearby) Hmmm...

Well, I HAVE asked you to move further north where there are more moose...

I didn't find you reserved or struggling for something to say when I met you, or were you faking it? Ha, ha! Or maybe I didn't notice as I was gasbagging so much myself.

A thought for tonight is to initiate a "talking point" by wearing lamé - of course Karin may never speak to you again, but it will be a conversation starter, even if it's along the lines of "Mom! How could you..."

Oh my.
Boyfriend is probably having conversation misgivings as well. You are THE MOM.
Liz, I think you could feel free to speak English in your home as you always do, since he speaks English..Why not?
Karin has probably already told him that it is the language of the home.
Don't set a precedent, or rather, DO set a precedent.

As far as the rest, I am always uncomfortable starting conversations with folks I don't know. Just wait until it is potential future in-laws! Yikes.

Anyhow, you can ask HIM questions to get things rolling. A game is a good idea. That has worked for me before with a daughter's boyfriend.

I flipped back and forth between English and Swedish. Karin told me I did a good job talking :D

*Pats you on the back*
Good Job Liz!

I'm terminally shy around people I don't know well socially, and sometimes too pushy with those I do know well. So, I guess that makes me someone in search of a happy medium!

A happy medium would be good!

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