The following is an excerpt from a dialogue between me and my language partner.
The sentence in question needs some context.
I wrote to her about my struggles with real-time conversation. I also asked her whether the construction I used in the respective sentence was correct or not. The following is me telling her about my struggles and then asking her about the grammar of my sentence:
私には対話で相手に自然に答えることがいつも難しいものでした (Or would it be better to say it with a verb + にくい“ construction/pattern: 私には対話で相手に自然に答えにくいでした)。
She replied to me quoting part of my sentence and adding her commentary:
「私には対話で相手に自然に答えることがいつも難しいものでした」 という文章に「にくい」を使うかどうかですが、使わない方が自然な文章になると思います。 これが過去のことであるのならば、 「私は、対話での自然な受け答えをいつも難しいと感じました」 でいいのではないでしょうか。「対話」と「受け答え "response"」という言葉で、「相手がいる」ことははっきりわかるので、「相手に」は省略して良いでしょう。
What confuses me the most is ならば, printed in bold. However, I'm also not sure if I understood the rest correctly, so below I'll write down my translation of her entire reply above:
"Whether to use 'にくい' in the phrase 'It always was a difficult thing for me to reply to my partner naturally in a dialogue' or not, I think it becomes a more natural sentence not using it. In case this is a thing from the past, wouldn't 'I always experience a natural response in a dialogue as difficult' be fine as well? Because one knows clearly 'a partner exists' because of the words 'dialogue' and 'response', it is okay ommitting 'to the partner'.
What I did here was simply taking なら from here because that's the only result jisho gave me when searching for ならば. I must also add that until now, なら was only known to me as a suffix when picking up something up a partner in dialogue said. I thought that the conditional semantics listed on jisho suits this case better, but I might be mistaken here as well.