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Ten Tips For Shy People To Meet Friends

Ten Tips For Shy People To Meet Friends

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.

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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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