It's Not Weird If You Have To Get Momentum Going In Some Of Your Conversations Every Time
One little social thing that can throw people off is when they're able to have good conversations in a particular setting, but then feel clumsy and rusty when they're back in that same situation a while later. Here are the two main ways it happens:
When you're talking to people who make you nervous
The most common situation where this occurs is when you're speaking to people that make you anxious, like chatting to strangers at a party or bar or at a networking event. When you first show up you feel inhibited and out of your element, but you manage to start some conversations, perhaps by beginning with someone who doesn't seem as intimidating. After a while you get into a groove and start feeling more relaxed and confident.
If it's your first time ever finding your flow like this, at the end of the evening you may feel amped up and like you've conquered one of your fears for good. However, two weeks later you're at another pub or party and your nerves are mostly back. It can be quite demoralizing. You may think you've lost all your progress, or fret about whether you'll ever get over your shyness.
The fact is that while you can do a lot to work past your fears, there are some social settings where you may always be at least a bit anxious, and you'll have to warm up, shake off the rust, and get some steam going each time you show up at them. Your starting level of fear may become a 3, instead of the 8 it used to be, but some of it will always remain.
It doesn't mean you're weak or that you're doing something wrong. It's just that some situations have a built in level of risk to them - of rejection or an awkward moment. We're aware of those possibilities and it will always evoke some low, reasonable level of nervousness. Also, some social settings draw on a headspace and set of abilities you may not use every day. Most of us don't spend our week walking around a loud, crowded room trying to chat up wary strangers, so the mindset and skills required to do all that at a bar on a Saturday night feel odd and unfamiliar for a while. It takes some time to wake them up.
Most people intuitively deduce all this sooner or later, but again, if you're new to this kind of thing it can throw you off until you realize what's happening and learn to work around it.
Needing to get momentum going when talking to people you're closer to
Mingling-focused settings where there's a risk of rejection are where people usually notice this momentum issue, and can get worried or down on themselves about it. It's not as common, but it can also happen with people you know well. They may even be a family member, close friend, or longtime co-worker, but for whenever you meet up with them your conversations feel a bit forced and stilted at first. It's like you've forgotten how to talk to each other, or have to work to find things to chat about. For a moment you may question why you bother hanging out with them when things are so halting. However, after a few minutes you find your rhythm, and speaking with them starts to feel smooth and comfortable again, as it always does.
Even though it works out every time, you may wonder why things between you two always start in that shaky place. You might worry the fault lies with your hopeless awkwardness, or fear maybe the two of you just aren't that compatible. Here are a few other possible explanations:
- One or both or you are not as comfortable with the opening stages of conversation, where people will often ask rote catching up questions with each other. Once you're past that more scripted feeling stage you can relax into the interaction.
- Your two conversation styles or preferred topics are slightly mismatched, in the sense that if you both follow your natural tendencies the vibe between you will feel halting for a moment or two, but once you make the few usual adjustments you make it work.
- If you both spend a lot of time alone, when you meet up you may both be feeling socially rusty, and have to exchange a few clunky sentences to get into the swing of things.
- There's some minor ongoing tension between the two of you, and it interferes with your ability to make conversation with each other whenever you first meet up, but then you push past the mild discomfort. For example, they're a co-worker and you generally get along, but there's a bit of lingering strain because you disagree on some political topics.
Again, the main point is that if this happens, and always continues to happen, it doesn't necessarily mean something has gone wrong. That may just be the pattern conversations in your relationship will follow. If you realize and accept that, it can take some of the pressure and worry away.