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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!