13 Ways To Overcome Shyness In Social Situations

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Are you someone who’s always been naturally “shy”? Do you feel a little tongue-tied when you're in new situations or with new people? Are you overly nervous when meeting people?

If you answered yes to these questions, you are probably wondering if it is something you can change and learn how to stop being shy. 

A recent survey on psychcentral.com concluded that somewhere between 40 and 60 percent of all adults report being shy, or identify more as someone who is shy. 

You’re keeping great company! You’re definitely not alone, even though you may sometimes feel that you're the only one experiencing shyness in social settings.

RELATED: 7 Subtle Ways Shy People Flirt (So Pay Attention!)

How to stop being shy starts with defining what shy is. 

We use the term shy in many different ways. For some of us, it’s feeling a bit unsure when we're in new situations or with new people.

What should we say? What should we do? We find that when we know someone, we feel comfortable speaking, but until then, it can be a real effort to make conversation.

Some people who are naturally shy are also introverted — meaning they gain energy from alone time and internal reflection — but not all introverted people are automatically shy.

For others, it’s a definition we received from a family member or other authority figure because we weren’t like someone else.

For example, if you have a really gregarious brother or sister, any behavior not like theirs could be labeled “shy.” 

We just love to label and define people because it makes our environment easier to understand. And when you are told you are “shy,” it’s easy to take on that persona, because those around you reinforce it.

Shyness can also come upon you if you're questioning your self-worth or value.

If you convince yourself you don't have a worthy contribution to the conversation, or you are wondering why someone would want to listen to what you have to say, you can become hesitant to share your opinions or thoughts.

If you had an experience where your opinion was not listened to, or you encountered a bully or some other negative response to your thoughts, you could become more “shy” about sharing yourself with others. 

Shyness isn’t some type of mental illness, or permanent social anxiety, or some genetic curse. It’s a normal phenomenon that almost all people experience at one point or another.

It isn’t even something that you necessarily have to be concerned about, unless you feel it holds you back from opportunities and social situations you would like to experience.

It’s not bad or good, it just is...and it’s what YOU think of it that makes the difference.

As we get older, our life experiences will sometimes help with shyness, because we begin to feel more confident about what we’ve been through and worry a bit less about what others think.

But that doesn’t mean we just have to wait until we have enough experiences to validate ourselves; we can do something about shyness right now.

It may never be your natural tendency to be the life of the party or the loudest person in the room, but you can learn tips and tricks to help you cope with your shyness and make it easier to feel confident in yourself.

Here are 13 tips to help you learn how to stop being shy:

1. Accept yourself.

One of your personality traits is shyness. So what? It’s not the worst thing in the world.

If anything, it’s because you seek genuine connection with people without the fluff and small talk. Isn’t that a great thing? 

2. Minimize the build-up.

When we are going into a new situation or meeting new people, we can often make it much bigger in our heads than it actually is.

Allow yourself 5 minutes to really worry. Set the clock. And when the buzzer rings, stop. Don’t allow yourself to stew over something new for hours or days at a time.

3. Remember everyone is human.

You don’t know what other people are thinking at a networking event or party. Don’t go in assuming everyone there is a natural conversationalist and you are the only shy person.

Remember, if 40 to 60 percent of people identify with being shy, you are likely standing in a room of mostly shy people.

4. Have a share at the ready.

Is there something in particular you feel comfortable sharing about yourself?

Think of a ready answer to common questions such as “What are your hobbies?” or “What do you do in your spare time?”

5. Have an “uncommon” question.

Think of a unique question that you can turn to if you become nervous.

If someone is talking about what they did with their children, you could ask “What’s a trait about your child that really surprises or delights you?” 

They'll remember you as the person who asked such an awesome, interesting question that made them really think.

6. Focus on listening.

Often shy people go into a situation fearful of their need to talk. Turn it around. Be the best listener in every conversation.

People love to talk about themselves, and we are socialized to think about responding, not listening. 

If you make someone feel heard, you’ll develop a genuine connection, which in turn can make the conversation much more friendly and less daunting.

RELATED: 25 Motivational Quotes For Introverts (To Help You Come Out Of Your Shell)

7. Start small.

Set a time limit when you feel it would be appropriate to leave a situation or conversation. If you are going to a networking event or a social at a bar with new coworkers, give yourself 30 minutes.

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At the end of the 30, allow yourself to go home if you’d like. You don’t have to stay till the bitter end to make a social event a success.

8. Boost your confidence.

For me, if I’m going somewhere, it always makes me feel better to have my nails done. I’m not sure why, but it makes me feel really pulled together in any situation.

Figure out what that go-to confidence builder is for you and make sure you do it regularly.

If I’m in an uncomfortable place and begin to feel unsure of myself, I can always say “I’ve got my nails done. I can do this!”

9. Believe in your value.

There is something you are good at, or know about, that other people do not. You have a lot to contribute to a conversation. Don’t let past thoughts about who you are affect the now.

10. Create a persona.

If you are really nervous about going into a new situation, imagine how the most confident person you know would handle it, and then just act like that person.

Doing this gives you permission to act in ways you might not normally, and it becomes easier not to take things personally.

11. Stay interesting.

Keep reading, listening to podcasts, thinking about new ideas. If you have a broad base to pull from, it becomes easier in the moment to start a conversation.

12. Admit to what you are feeling.

Sometimes the best approach is honesty. If you are starting a conversation with someone you don’t know, just say “This is new for me, I’m not always comfortable networking/talking to new people.” 

This immediately builds rapport with whomever you are talking with, because they will want you to feel comfortable and appreciate the vulnerability. 

13. Practice with someone.

Find someone you trust — a significant other, a good friend, a mentor — and tell them you are struggling with shyness. Simulate a conversation like you are at a party or networking event!

Chances are they would love to help, and will give you some good ideas for when you approach new people for real. It will also be a fun way to learn about each other.

Shyness is not something permanent, and you can overcome it with some effort and creativity. In the meantime, give yourself grace.

You desire authentic connections with those around you, and the people in your life love you all the more for it. Celebrate yourself as you are today!

Appreciating yourself and the value you bring to those around you will help you feel confident sharing yourself with the world.

RELATED: I'm Not Shy - I'm Just An Introvert Who Is Choosy About Who I Surround Myself With

Amy Bracht is a certified life coach and PSYCH-K(tm) facilitator specializing in client transformations. For more information, visit her website.