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Ten Tips For Shy People To Meet Friends

Ten Tips For Shy People To Meet Friends
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It can be hard work for shy people to meet friends. Shyness is a combination of genetics and upbringing and in its most severe form, it is referred to as a social phobia or social anxiety. Shy people tend to analyze more and their thinking style can hinder their progress. Here are ten top tips for reducing shyness and introducing more sociability into your life.

1. Visualise a Positive Outcome

Often, shy people are more afraid of the anticipation of meeting new friends than the event itself. Our thoughts can frighten us more than the reality and imagining making a fool of ourselves, being criticized or being rejected, make many of us fear social situations. Instead of imagining the worst,think of yourself going into a public place or a social event and see it going smoothly. Visualize yourself chatting easily to new friends and imagine the conversation flowing. This process of visualizing before the event is known as “priming.” Repetition allows the brain to process events quicker and when socializing, the experience will seem more familiar if you have visualized the event positively beforehand.

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2. Engage in Positive Self Talk

Be aware of negative self talk. Shy people tend to have more negative inner chatter than average. If you catch yourself saying something like “I am shy and no good in social settings. I always make a fool of myself” make sure that you challenge this. It is only a thought, NOT a fact. Ask yourself if your negative thought is really true.  More often than not you will be able to think of an example of a time when you felt less shy and coped well. Instead of negative self talk, replace it with something like: “I may feel shy and out of my comfort zone but I will handle it. I will deal with whatever comes my way.”

3. Get out of your comfort zone regularly

The only way to grow in confidence is to face your fears. The more you listen to your negative self talk and avoid social situations, the more the thoughts grow and take on a life of their own. Challenge this thinking, not only by replacing negative thoughts with more positive thoughts but also by confronting what you fear with action. Go out more in an attempt to confront your shyness. Take baby steps initially and perhaps meet a friend on a one-to-one basis. Gradually increase the amount of socializing and in this way, you will reduce your shyness. Join the gym, find a hobby that you enjoy, try internet dating or join a sports club. All of these activities will increase your social network. The more you have in common with the people around you, the easier it will be to interact and have conversations.

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4. Be inquisitive – people love to talk about themselves

Charismatic people tend to be those personality types that make others feel good about themselves. They are positive, open and are genuinely interested in those around them. When you are stuck for conversation, ask someone about themselves. Ask them questions to keep the conversation going. A few pauses in conversation is fine too. Try not to feel that all the pressure is on you to keep the conversation going either.

5. Focus on the person you are talking to

The reason for focusing on the person you are talking to is to take the focus off yourself. When we are shy and self conscious, we tend to worry about how we look and how we are presenting ourselves. When you place your attention on the other person, you automatically relax. Look at their body language, look our for signs that they might be shy or nervous too. This is a good trick and helps you to hone your social skills by focusing on the body language of others. The better you get at reading others, the more your confidence will grow.

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6. Take small steps initially

There is no need to rush ahead and start public speaking. Instead, take it slow and start small. If you jump ahead too quickly you might ‘bite off more than you can chew’ and this could backfire and result in you losing confidence. If you’re very shy, perhaps even going along to a public lecture would be a good start. This way, you are not forced to interact with anyone but you will be experiencing a social environment which will be useful in building confidence. Afterwards, progress to meeting someone for a coffee. If that goes well – progress to lunch and then dinner. Test your limits in phases and give yourself a pat on the back every time you socialize.

7. Be open and approachable

I like to call this being in “shop open” mode. By this I mean, if you had to think about walking past a row of shops – some with their windows and doors open and others with the shutters down. You would be more likely to completely ignore the shops that seemed closed and pay attention to the shops that seemed open and inviting. This reaction is similar to the social world as well.  People are drawn to others who seem welcoming and approachable. Think about the body language you are giving off in social settings. “Shop open” mode includes behaviors like: smiling, making eye contact, standing up straight and looking happy to converse. Often shy people tend to exhibit “closed shop” behavior without realizing it (ie. not making eye contact, hunched body language and so on). People then tend to ignore the shy person and this reinforces the shy person’s view of themselves. Hence a self fulfilling prophecy (refer back to point 2).

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8. Remind yourself regularly of your strengths

What are you good at? The harder it is for you to answer this question the more you need to think about it. People with higher self esteem tend to find this question easier to answer. Make a list and look at it every day if you have to. Focus on your strengths and minimie your weaknesses. It pays to adopt this attitude. Shy people tend to feel very self conscious when meeting new people and concentrating on your good points will help you to feel more confident and self assured.

9. Make a list of general topics of conversation

If you worry a lot about what to talk about when you’re out socializing, make a list of possible conversation topics. There’s always the safe subjects like the weather or current items on the news. Other good topics include – favorite movies, music and travel destinations. Ask about people’s hobbies and what they like to do to relax. Most people have a lot to say on this topic.

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10. Worry less about what others think

I have left this point last as it is one of the most important aspects of fighting shyness. The more we worry about what others think, the more likely we are to be inhibited. If you live your life according to what others think, you are living your life for them instead of yourself. Remember that it is your life, you have to live with the consequences of your decisions and actions. The people who judge you don’t have to deal with the consequences. One of my favorite sayings is by Eleanor Roosevelt: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Everyone is entitled to their opinion but don’t allow their opinion to be more important than your own.

Being shy is not necessarily a negative trait but it can be debilitating if left to grow without confronting it. We all need friends that we can connect with. Connecting with others is one of the most satisfying experiences we can have…and it’s free!

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Mandy Kloppers

Mandy is a Psychologist/CBT therapist who believes getting through life is easier with a robust sense of humour.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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