Avoid saying these phrases to an introvert.
By Karen Cicero
You probably interact with shy people every day—whether it's the barista at Starbucks, your pilates classmate, or the FedEx driver.
"More than 40% of the general public is shy," says Bernardo J. Carducci, PhD, a professor of psychology and director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast in Bloomington. "But you may mistake shyness for something else entirely." Since shyness isn't terribly obvious, you need to be especially careful that you don't say something unhelpful or downright offensive.
Here, shy people share 7 cringe-worthy phrases they really wish you'd avoid:
1. “You’re so quiet.”
Shy people have a lot to say once you get to know them, but you'll probably never find out if you call them out for not jumping in the conversation right away. "I still vividly remember being called out for not talking while doing my best to socialize with a group of people 25 years ago," says Amy Beal of Pennsylvania. "I was horrified—and spoke even less."
"More people need to realize that speaking to those who you don't know doesn't come easy to everyone," says Sara Alberts of Toronto. "You only get one shot at making a first impression. A shy person is like a book that takes a couple of chapters to get good. It may just end up being your favorite."
2. “You’re not very friendly.”
"Shy people want to be social and talk to you, but they just don't know how," says Carducci. "That's the real pain of shyness—it holds you back from what you want."
If someone comes off as unfriendly or stuck up in a group situation, try talking to that person alone, suggests Rhonda Waterhouse of North Carolina. "It's so hurtful when people tell me I'm not friendly because it's untrue," she says. "I just do better talking to people one-on-one or in small groups."
3. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”
Shy people don't have trouble with comprehension skills. "What I have found the most difficult is the assumption on some people's part that a shy person isn't intelligent or savvy. We know when we're being judged in this regard," says Susan DeRose of Maine.
Shy people have plenty that they want to say, but they're usually apprehensive about chiming in, especially in a large group. "I may completely disagree and not want to argue, or I prefer that the person talk with someone else," says DeRose. "It's comparable to when one is in a serious mood and other person commands her to, 'Smile.' Please don't order me to talk or display false emotions."
4. “Look me in the eye.”
Shy people may struggle to make eye contact. "I'm well aware that I'm not the best at this, but it puts me on the spot and makes me overthink once someone points it out," says Angelic Venegas of Illinois.
If you truly need to know why someone isn't making eye contact with you, then when it’s just the two of you, ask something like, "I notice you have a hard time with eye contact, why is that?" Says Venegas: "I would feel safer explaining my shyness if they make it more of a conversation rather than pointing out a flaw they see in me."
5. “Just go up and talk to her.”
You may think giving a shy friend a gentle nudge to strike up a conversation at a party is being helpful, but more often than not, it'll backfire. "You're asking people to do something that they're not prepared to do or say," says Carducci. "They get frustrated and leave with a sense of failure."
What would be useful, if your friend is up for it: Making a longish introduction that weaves in something both people have in common. For instance, you might say, "I wanted to introduce you to Anne, who has a garden similar to yours. I think you both had a bumper crop of tomatoes last year."
6. “Why don’t you talk louder?”
This statement makes a shy person feel self-conscious. "I have never thought of myself as someone who speaks quietly," says Nancy Velasquez of New York. "In my head, my voice sounds like it's normal volume." So don't call someone out about it unless you truly can't hear—in which case, you might say, "It's awfully noisy in here, can you speak a little louder because I really want to hear your story?"
7. “You’ll grow out of it.”
This article was originally published at Prevention. Reprinted with permission from the author.