Thursday, January 27, 2011

Too Shy for Words

Amy from Utah asks,
“How can I be more outgoing in social situations? At parties, church, or just meeting new people anywhere, I’m really shy and don’t talk much.  I’m sure people think I’m stuck up or something, but I just don’t know what to say, or I’m too nervous to say it.“
First of all, don’t worry. It’s completely normal to be a little shy when meeting new people. The good news is that with some dedication and focus, you can learn to be a master mingler in no time.  Below are some tips to consider when you're ready to leave your comfort zone and explore the exciting world of social interaction. 

Be Other-Conscious; not Self-Conscious 

It turns out “other-conscious” isn’t a word. Maybe “empathetic” is better. Although it may feel like each new conversation is a personal interview set up to decide if you’re “cool” or “hip” or “legit” or whatever the kids are saying these days, the other person has not been informed of this. They don't have a score card and most likely assume YOU are the one who will be judging THEM. You’ll be much more relaxed and your company will be more enjoyable if you focus all your attention on the person you’re speaking with. Assume that they have every insecurity you have, and do what you can to make them feel comfortable. If you want to impress someone, don’t try to convince them that YOU are witty, intelligent, and "with it". Convince them that THEY are witty, intelligent, and "with it".

Stay positive.

I’ll never forget the time I was meeting my new boss and was a little bit too opinionated about the topic of smoking, only to see her taking a smoke break an hour later. Talk about what you DO like and not what you DON’T like. Most people who don’t like Seinfeld won’t be offended if you do, but I wouldn’t blame anyone for being offended if they do like Seinfeld and you go on a 30 minute rant about how much you hate it. Never assume everyone feels the same way you do about a topic. 

Don’t Give Up.

Not every conversation will go smoothly. Don’t let this discourage you, and don’t assume that every awkward moment is your doing. Everyone has just as much a right to be awkward as you do. If your attempt to spark a conversation goes poorly, try again. Keep mingling. Keep going to parties. Keep stretching your comfort zone to include more enriching experiences. 

Some Notes

One thing you can do right now, is stop referring to yourself as shy. If you want to change, you can’t label yourself as the thing you don’t want to be. It only gives you excuses like, “I’ll just sit over here in this corner, and that’s okay, because I’m shy” or “I’m shy, so I’ll just stick to my close friends and not meet anyone new”

Being shy isn't the same as being an introvert. 
Bernardo J. Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute, says, "If you see two people standing by a wall at a party, the introvert is there because he wants to be. The shy person is there because he feels like he has to be."

If your shyness interferes with daily life, and causes extreme fear, you may have Social Anxiety Disorder.
Check out this information from the Mayo Clinic, and talk to a doctor or counselor. 

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