My oldest brother was afflicted with shyness
Robert didn’t even like people looking at him when he was young. At that time, it was fashionable for women to wear coats that fitted snugly at the top and then billowed out towards the hemline. If anyone spoke to Robert, he would lift up Mom’s coat and hide underneath it until the person had gone, or Mom forced him out of hiding!
Fortunately, Robert is no longer shy. I’m not sure whether this was because fashions changed or he just grew too big to fit underneath Mom’s coat!
Are you shy?
While many people can recall incidences of feeling shy, applying the label, “I am shy” to yourself can be extremely inhibiting. People who consider themselves shy often believe they’re stuck with being shy. However, this is not the case and shyness is not a ‘condition’, but behaviours that results from an individual’s thinking patterns.
Maybe you are happy being shy
If you do consider yourself a ‘shy person’ – are you happy with this label? This is a serious question because often being shy can have many secondary gains that make it worthwhile to remain shy. If others consider you shy, you might not be expected to contribute to discussions – and that allows you to sit on the sidelines. It forces other people to engage you in conversation, so you don’t have to take the initiative.
If you think about it, there might be other gains from being shy.
If you’re happy being shy, my suggestion is that you embrace your shyness wholeheartedly.
Being shy doesn’t mean you can’t have good relationships or great work achievements. However, if you really want to get over your shyness, here are some ways to begin that change. I recommend starting with number one and working your way through the whole list:
1. Stop telling yourself you’re shy.
Instead, remind yourself of times when you haven’t been shy – counter examples. Think of times you’ve been able to say what you wanted to say in a way that felt comfortable for you. Really analyse those times to determine what made you feel comfortable. Then do more of that!
2. Look up.
When you’re out, look up rather than at the ground. Look at people. Smile and say ‘hello.’ The worst thing that can happen is that they ignore you. Their mind may be elsewhere or, they might not have heard you or, ironically, they may be shy! It doesn’t matter why they ignore you; you’re certainly not going to turn into a warty, black toad. Suffice to say it’s not personal and it’s nothing to do with you! After you’ve smiled and said ‘hello’, congratulate yourself for having taken this step, feel good and anchor it (see step 3)
3. Learn how to anchor a state of confidence.
This is a really useful, simple and effective technique. Click here to learn more. By learning how to manage your emotional state, you can be your best more often.
You can’t feel confident and shy at the same time – unless you want to be confident in your shyness!
You could also anchor a feeling of self-esteem.
4. Realise that people don’t really care about you.
They care about themselves. As Andre Dubus said,
‘Shyness has a strange element of narcissism, a belief that how we look, how we perform, is truly important to other people.’
It’s not! That must make you feel more liberated already!
5. Stop talking to yourself and start talking to others!
If you are shy you’re probably very good and talking to yourself. Your internal conversation may go something like this: “Those people are so clever, what could I possibly contribute to the conversation? I haven’t got anything to say. I don’t lead a very exciting life. People will think I’m an idiot!” etc, etc.
Not only will you lose track of the conversation because of your own internal dialogue but the quality of the self-talk will cause a drop in confidence (see articles – How to Change That Negative self Talk and How Words Affect Your Health If you really, honestly, have nothing to talk about, start reading some books, watching some films, learning a new hobby or taking some courses.
6. Stop making horror movies in your head!
This often occurs in conjunction with no.5. So, as well as talking to yourself, you make pictures of what you don’t want to happen; people ridiculing you, ignoring you, imagining yourself tripping over your words – or some furniture. Instead, make pictures of people hanging on your every word, laughing when you make a joke and nodding in agreement.
7. Focus on others instead of yourself.
This probably sounds hard, but it’s not meant in a negative way. The thing is, you can only feel self-conscious if you consciously focus on yourself. When you put 100% of your focus on the other person or people you’re engaged with, you’re really paying attention to what they have to say. You can’t feel self-conscious and shy because your whole brain is occupied with listening.
8. Talk about what excites you.
When you’re naturally excited about something – and provided you don’t engage in numbers 5 and 6 your voice will have a natural rhythm and pitch that will make what you have to say both interesting and absorbing.
9. Build your self-esteem.
When you have good self-esteem you can stop worrying about getting approval from others.
What others think about you is none of your business anyway.
When you feel good about yourself it doesn’t matter what others think of you. And oddly, when you don’t need approval, you’re more likely to win it!
You can build your self-esteem and overcome shyness by making a list of your good qualities. Reviewing your CV might be a good place to remind yourself of what you’ve achieved and the skills you have. Ask your close friends what they love about you.
10. Develop your communication skills.
Most people have learnt English at school. But many have never been taught to communicate effectively, and especially how to have a conversation when things aren’t going according to plan.
Read books, do a course or get some coaching. Then practice. Ask yourself, ‘Under what circumstances is it easy for me to speak up?’ Put yourself in those situations more frequently.
11. Notice the way in which you think about others.
When you think about people you’d like to converse with, where in your mental landscape are they located? My bet is they’re located up above you somewhere so that you have to ‘look up to them.’ If you find this is the case, move them down so they’re on the same level as you. Read more about how your Social Panorama affect your relationships.
12. The power of rapport.
If you’re engaging with a group of people, consciously and subtly copy the body language of the person speaking. While you may think that you’ll be found out, this is far from the truth. In fact, it’s something most people do naturally and it creates a sense of connection and trust.
If you don’t believe me, just start watching people when they’re getting along – and when they aren’t. Read up on rapport.
Reading an article won’t make you less shy. But at least now you just know some of the reason’s you’re shy! It’s important to put some – or all – of these things into practice on a regular basis so you begin to change the habits that have led you to where you are now.
What’s the alternative to remedying shyness?
I think there could be a couple of alternatives. The most obvious is that you continue to do what you’ve always done, you live with shyness, but embrace it.
Another option it to wait until someone invents a real invisibility cloak as in the Harry Potter films – then you could use it like Robert used to use Mom’s coat; hide underneath until the world goes away.