Shy people can feel they have "nothing to say," but consider these simple "shy-busting" tips.
Caroline found the wedding invitation skulking on her doormat like some malignant portent of doom. Crippling shyness meant that what she should enjoy, the chance to mingle with friends and meet new people, felt like an ordeal devised by an overly sadistic Spanish Inquisitor.
"I've always been shy! I hate the feeling of people's attention suddenly turning on me!"
Despairingly, she told me she had reached a point in her life where she wanted to stop worrying what others might think so she could meet new people and openly voice her ideas.
Her shyness was typical. Fear of meeting new people, lack of self-confidence, self-consciousness, and feeling by turns "invisible" or all too visible. But she now reckons she has got rid of 95% of her shyness.
I would like to share with you some of the simple tips and techniques I used to help her. So to kick us off, I want you to think about where you put your attention…
Tip 1. Focus outwards, your shyness. away from you
Shyness makes you self-absorbed. This is descriptive, not judgemental. Shy people can feel they have "nothing to say," that they should have amazing stories to tell and be the life of the party. But consider this: people love when you find them interesting.
Overcoming shyness is not about suddenly thinking you are great. It is more about forgetting yourself and focusing outward. Ask questions and cultivate genuine curiosity. If you're at a party with strangers, try to connect how everyone knows each other. You can ask questions such as: “How do you know Kathy?” (if Kathy is throwing the party) or "I live next door. Are you one of Kathy's tennis friends?"
- Gives you something to talk about.
- Gives other people a chance to talk about themselves (for which they will love you).
- Takes attention off yourself.
Tip 2. Prepare properly
Once shyness has gone you won't need to do this, but while you still feel shy, practice preparing topics of conversation. If you have an idea of the type of people that are going to be at a gathering, then do a little homework.
If many of them are sailing enthusiasts, for instance: Google the local sailing club, find out local sailing routes, prepare a few questions to ask about sailing.
If you feel shy at work, look out for interesting news items over the weekend and bring them into conversation on Monday.
Get into the habit of remembering what people have told you and referring back to it as future conversation starters. "Hey John, you know you were saying you wanted to see that film? Well I saw last night that it's now playing at The Nomoorshyness Cinema!" or "Jane, you were telling me that your daughter loves the circus; apparently there is a circus coming to town next week."
Tip 3. Send the right signals
Overcoming shyness is not just about talking more. Shy people are often misdiagnosed as unfriendly, aloof, or "stuck up." Shyness can make you look unapproachable. Research has found that:
- We find people who smile and look directly at us more attractive.
- People are 86% more likely to strike up conversations with strangers in the street if they're smiling.
Another benefit is that smiling even when you don't feel like it actually makes you feel better — which can lead to real smiling.
An important point here: if you smile at someone and they do not smile back, that is not your problem. You can't make anyone accept your friendliness any more than you can make someone like you through sheer force.
Tip 4. Focus on putting other people at their ease
Working as a coach I have seen so many clients who suffered from the fear of sharing their real selves with other people. And I have found that working to lift other people's fear has vastly improved my own confidence, communication and sharing of myself with others.
The point here is that by focusing on putting other people at their ease, you will find that you feel much more comfortable. Notice who seems a little more diffident or anxious, and work to help them feel more relaxed.
Tip 5. Learn to manage anxiety
Shyness is really a type of social anxiety. Manage your anxiety by:
- Making your out-breath longer than your in-breath. Extending the out-breath begins to relax body and mind very quickly. Once you feel more relaxed, you instantly feel more sociable.
- Rehearse being confident. Mentally rehearsing being more outgoing and relaxed has amazing results.
- Lie down somewhere comfortable, focus on breathing deeply and slowly, and imagine watching yourself in the upcoming social situation looking relaxed, comfortable, and even talkative.
You will be amazed how this "self-hypnotic" preparation will affect the way you actually feel when you get there.
Lastly, start to "wear out" shyness by putting yourself in as many social situations as possible. You build fear around what you want to avoid, so by purposefully seeking out situations which would have made you feel shy, you can begin to kick that shyness out of your life. Since overcoming shyness, Caroline has discovered whole new dimensions to her life.
As always, leave a man or woman all the better for knowing you.
Average men and women know only the rules.
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