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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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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

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It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

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3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

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Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

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6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

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