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How to Overcome Shyness

How to Overcome Shyness

Shyness is a common trait among children and adults from all walks of life. Characterised by feelings of self-consciousness, self-criticism, and a reluctance to enter social situations, shyness has a negative impact on many aspects of a person’s life, including their relationships and career.

Even though it can feel crippling to some people, shyness is not a fixed state and you can take steps to overcome it.

Practice mindfulness

If you struggle with shyness, you might find yourself entering a cycle of self-criticism before you’re even conscious of it. Practice noticing the thoughts and feelings that come up when you think about entering into a social situation. Notice what your internal dialogue is saying and the judgements you are making about yourself.

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As you notice, remember that these self-judgements are opinions, not facts. Just because you are thinking them doesn’t mean they are true. Practice distancing yourself from your anxiety and self-judgements using the phrase “I notice…” when describing how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking.

Set an intention for each interaction

Take some of the uncertainty out of each interaction by setting an intention for each conversation you enter. This might be an intention to really listen, an intention to find out more about someone, an intention to ask someone about particular topic, or anything else that is relevant to the situation.

Focus on other people in the conversation

A characteristic of shyness is self-preoccupation, which can create a vicious cycle: the more preoccupied we are with ourselves, the less likely we are to listen to others in the conversation, and the more likely they are to have a negative experience of us.

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Focusing on others helps you distance yourself from self-judgement and be more present in the conversation.

Watch how other people interact

If you’ve avoided social situations for a while, you might worry that you’ve forgotten your social skills.

Watching how other people express themselves, converse, and socialise can provide you with a helpful template for your own interactions. Like focusing on other people in the conversation, studying other people’s social skills also prevents you focusing too much on your own feelings of self-consciousness.

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Practice

As anxiety-provoking as the prospect might feel, the most effective step to overcoming shyness is to practice.

Although your first instinct might be to avoid social situations altogether, deliberately seeking out interactions with other people on a regular basis will help normalise social situations. The more you can enter interactions and social gatherings and leave in one piece, the more you will learn to trust yourself. Over time, the sense of fulfilment you get from these situations will replace the sense of fear you feel right now.

Remember that your first few practice attempts will feel hard. You won’t overcome your shyness overnight and it might be tempting to quit along the way. If you can stick with it, however, it will become easier over time.

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Develop your self-compassion

Combat the self-criticism you experience by exercising your self-compassion muscle instead. As soon as you become aware of your inner critic, practice finding ways to empathise with yourself and your situation.

The more you can practice self-compassion, the more natural it will feel to exercise self-compassion when you’re feeling anxious and self-conscious. This helps stop the self-criticism spiral and prevents you from becoming focused on your own shortcomings instead of focusing on the interaction. It also makes you a better conversation parter, as when you can extend more compassion to others, they will have a more positive experience of you.

Prepare for interactions

If you’re worried that you’re not going to know what to say to someone, then prepare for the conversation in advance. Brainstorm a list of suitable topics you can ask the other person or people about and talk about yourself.

Get support

If you’ve been struggling with shyness for a while, you might not have a huge support network, however support is very important.

Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a colleague, or a professional, finding someone who will offer you compassion and support as you overcome your shyness will make a positive difference to your experience.

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Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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