The bad news: Shyness can cause you to miss out on rewarding friendships and experiences.
The good news: Shyness isn’t always bad. It can help you think before you speak and can make you a better observer and listener.
The better news: Shyness is not a permanent trait, so you can control its negative effects. This article will show you how.
Turn the light on your fears
Shyness can make you dread the very idea of talking to people face-to-face. As a result, you might feel isolated from others, as if you were alone in a dark room. That can be scary. But if you turn the light on your fears, you might see that they are unfounded. Consider three examples.
Fear #1: “I don’t know what to talk about.”
Fact: People remember less of what you say but more of how you make them feel. You can take control of your fear by developing your skill at listening, being genuinely interested in what others have to say.
To think about: What kind of friend do you prefer—a chatterbox who always has something to say or someone who is a good listener?
Fear #2: “People will think I’m boring.”
Fact: People will form opinions about you whether you are shy or not. You can take control of your fear—and help people form a better opinion of you—if you let them see you for who you are.
To think about: If you think everyone is judging you negatively, could you be judging them unfairly by assuming the worst?
Fear #3: “I’ll be embarrassed if I say the wrong thing.”
Fact: At times, that happens to everyone. You can take control of your fear by viewing blunders as an opportunity to show that you don’t take yourself too seriously.
To think about: Don’t you enjoy being with people who can admit that they are not perfect?
Did you know? Some people think they are not shy because they text a lot. But genuine friendships are easier to form with people when you have in-person conversation. Psychologist and technology expert Sherry Turkle writes: “It is when we see each other’s faces and hear each other’s voices that we become most human to each other.” *
Avoid comparisons. You don’t have to become an extrovert. Instead, your goal can be to bring your shyness under control so that you don’t miss out on rewarding friendships and experiences.
“Conversations don’t have to be long and drawn out, and you don’t have to be the life of the party. Just introduce yourself to someone new, or ask a few simple questions.”—Alicia.
Bible principle: “Let each one examine his own actions, and then he will have cause for rejoicing in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.”—Galatians 6:4.
Be observant. Watch sociable people and notice how they converse with others. What works for them? What doesn’t work so well? Which desirable skills of theirs could you develop?
“Observe and learn from people who make friends easily. Watch how they act and what they say when they meet someone for the first time.”—Aaron.
Bible principle: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens his friend.”—Proverbs 27:17.
Ask questions. People usually like to give their viewpoint on things, so asking questions is a good way to start a conversation with them. It also puts less attention on you.
“Preparing beforehand can help reduce your anxiety. You can even think of a few topics or questions before a social event so that meeting new people will be less stressful.”—Alana.
Bible principle: “Look out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.”—Philippians 2:4.
^ par. 14 From the book Reclaiming Conversation.