So, I have this problem. I find it very hard to start conversations. This has never really been a problem, I put it down to how I'm wired. Just recently, I have cause to think this is holding back my career progress so I have been working on understanding why and finding a solution or workaround.
First, I looked back and realised that fear had a big part to play. I have a tendancy to build up the conversation in my mind, running scenario after scenario in an attempt to control the conversation when I have it. In reflection this creates a negative feeling around the conversation so I shy away from starting it in the first place.
The build up also means that if I do start a conversation I am already apprehensive about it, which I am pretty sure the other person picks up on. Bad news all round really.
Now, I use 2 things to help break this cycle. The first is to think only about what the conversation is about and how I let the person know that. Seems simple really, I just work out how I open the conversation e.g if I am just checking in, I let the person know that in the first few seconds so they can relax.
Even if this is something that the other person might find difficult to talk about, I realise that I only need an opener - something is worrying me, this is why, now lets find a solution. I find this far less scary to think about.
This got me some of the way in that I could shut down a thought process by recognising it as daft from the outset. Once I had an opener, I could put it to one side as there is nothing left to think about.
Then I needed to find a way of countering the fear of starting the conversation, which felt like a learned response at this point.
Taking a cue from story planning, I came up with the idea of having a reference conversation. This gave me something I could refer to in the lead up to a conversation if I was feeling anxious about it. Similar to how we would use a reference story in planning, I would compare the type of conversation I was going to have with my reference conversation in help me recognise that it is really much less than I had built it up to be.
I use my reference conversation at any point that I am holding back from a conversation. If I am putting off booking it or starting it, I review my opener and remove my fear by comparing with my reference conversation.
For me, my reference conversation is one that I would not have the words for. It is one that I can think about and realise that all mine are trivial in comparison. As simple as this technique is, it has helped me move on and focus on having the conversation itself.