Conversation, or rather, the art of conversation, is a very big deal when it comes to connecting with others and functioning in social circles. If you are unable to communicate with others effectively, you simply get left behind.
Growing up, suffering from acute social anxiety, the art of conversation was not something that I thought about much. I suppose, in my mind, it was so far out of reach that I simply made no attempt at it – it seemed to be something everyone else was good at, and I accepted my fate. In fact, it was everything I could do just to maintain my shy, quiet, and mute social presence as it was.
I feared conversation and had long since resigned myself to the fact that Id never master this skill in any form. Anytime I did get up enough nerve to take part in a conversation, I felt out of place and phony. I felt as though everyone knew this was not the real me and were having a good chuckle over it.
Needless to say, at 36 years old, I still have the conversational skills of a child. Without any real-world experience, this skill withered and died – it sat there, undeveloped, unused, and forgotten.
Its a known fact that conversation skills (along with many other social skills) start developing at a very young age. From the time we start interacting with other children, conversation and social skills play an integral part in the development of confidence, self-esteem, and social acceptance – each new experience building on the previous.
So now I have to ask the big question: Have I missed the boat? Is it too late to hope for an average level of conversational skill? No, I think its still an achievable goal. I still believe I can salvage something at this late stage. Im convinced that with enough effort, I should be able to catch up to everyone else at some point.
Ok, now having said all that, the thought of engaging in conversation still scares the life out of me. For a social anxiety sufferer, it still ranks among the most fearful tasks to undertake. It is so much more difficult than anything else Ive tackled in the two years thus far. To me, conversational skills are advanced techniques that should only be attempted after one has worked on, and come to terms with, such things as confidence and self-esteem.
While its true that Ive made some progress in these areas, the act of carrying on a conversation with an individual or a group seems overwhelming – I feel inadequate and ill-prepared. Am I ready to mix it up with others, or should I continue to work on my self-esteem and confidence while avoiding the conversation aspect?
The truth is that Ive actually started working on my conversational skills on a small scale. The feedback has all been positive so far; partially due to the fact that Ive started small. In fact, conversation techniques need not be attempted on an advanced level. There are many ways to gradually ease into a low-risk, low-profile conversation.
The question now is whether those efforts are enough to build on and bring positive results, or do I really have to step it up a notch.
By the way, Im going to be yammering on about the art of conversation for a few posts.