How To Avoid Connection

Liz (my wife) calls me out on a lot of things. This is good, since I have a lot of issues that need work. Early in our dating relationship, one of the first issues she called me out on was that I would, as she put it, deflect questions about myself.

This would happen most often in a group setting, but would occasionally spill into conversations just the two of us were having. She'd ask me a personal question, and I would find a way not to answer it. Often I didn't even realize that I was doing it, but I would find a way to answer vaguely, segue into a question for her, and keep the conversation going.

Since many people are happy for any opportunity to talk about themselves, they wouldn't noticed I had done this and would happily answer my question. Liz was and is not one of those people. She would stop the conversation with a simple "you didn't answer my question." I would do my thing again, and she would once more answer "you still haven't answered my question."

Can you see why I married her?

I'm not entirely cured of this habit, and will go into this mode if I'm uninterested in sharing about myself to someone, for instance if I don't feel they're worth my story. That might sound harsh but I don't think it is. My story is unique and precious, as is everyone's, so I don't want to share it in an unsafe/uncaring environment.

I do actually love to listen to the stories of others, that's why I became a coach and call myself a Professional Listener. I find that I'm able to listen to the stories that people tell and pick up on themes and threads in their lives. I'm able to paint a picture of peoples' lives they've never seen before.

Because I'm good at this, sometimes I find myself using it as a defense in social situations. I'll be listening and asking questions so that I don't have to be vulnerable, and sometimes I don't talk about myself because of a particular voice inside of my head. This is a voice that as soon as I start talking about myself begins yelling "BOOOORRRIIING. NOBODY CARES. STOP BLABBING ABOUT YOURSELF. WRAP IT UP ALREADY!"

Who is this voice and where does he come from? I really don't know, but he's mean. There a side of me that wants to be known, and wants to tell my story, and there is this other side that wants to keep me silent. I think that he's hoping to protect me from getting hurt, and from the embarrassment of someone else telling me that my story is uninteresting.

Every time we share our story we are expressing what is deep within us, what is truly ours to give. The fear I have, and I think I may not be alone, is what if there is no place in the world for what I have inside me? What if I have no place in this world?

As soon as you open your mouth you give up something. Words have power, but that goes both ways.

Words can prop you up and give you power over others, they can also show you for who you really are. What if who I am isn't good enough? What if by opening my mouth people will realize that I'm not as smart as I want them to think I am, or not as wise as I pretend to be? What if I say something insensitive, ignorant, or inadvertently racist?

I find myself like the duck, swimming in the waters of others, but when I leave, the connection slides off my back like water on the duck's feathers. So yes, sometimes I will swim in your waters, but I won't take you with me.

Do you find yourself avoiding intimacy in conversations, if so, how? Where do you think that is coming from?