Helpful tactics for overcoming social shyness


People who know me may not be able to tell, but I am a painfully shy person. Once you really get to know me though, I am gregarious enough. However, the actual process of getting to know other people is quite a challenge for me. The result is, I tend to be pretty quiet in most social settings. On the surface, I may look calm, but inside I am pretty anxious.

I have come to realize that shy people are a minority. Most people don’t seem to have much of a problem gabbing with strangers or near-strangers, talking in front of classrooms full of people, or talking to waiters and waitresses. A typical conversation between me and someone I don’t know may go as follows:

Outgoing person: “Did you see that episode of (insert television show name here) last night? It was pretty awesome.”

Me: “Um, no, to be honest I don’t watch much TV.” (Awkward silence.)

O.P.: “Oh, that’s cool.”

Me: “Yeah?” At this point I am filled with panic and am searching frantically for an escape. “Well . . . see ya.”

O.P.: “Okayyyy?”

I have also come to realize that shy people can sometimes be misunderstood as being stuck up or mean. There is not much I can do about this, but it is frustrating.

Through the years of being shy, I have found that I am usually forced out of my shell, since I aspire to be more than a secretary for a monastery in which all members have taken a vow of silence. Here are some tactics to help with shyness.

Get a job or some kind of activity in which you are forced to interact with a lot of people you don’t know.

The more you deal with different kinds of strangers, the smoother you interactions will become. You may never get over the anxiety completely, but you will feel more confident in your socializing prowess.

Know what the heck you are talking about.

If you have a class in which the teacher requires you to talk in order to get a passing grade, make sure you do the reading and have semi-informed views on the topics being discussed. This can apply to life in general. If you read the paper and have a pretty good idea about what is going on in the world, you will feel a lot less nervous about conversing with people you don’t know very well (meaning, everyone besides your parents, siblings and significant other.)

Be active and feel happy about your appearance.

I have red hair that is at the moment between lengths. So, I usually feel like Strawberry Shortcake these days. However, I have noticed that if I exercise and feel comfortable in my clothes and am okay with the way I look, the shyness factor will be greatly reduced.

Don’t be too hard on yourself for being shy.

This is advice I could take, uh, from myself. People are probably not fixating on the weird thing you just said. If you try to be pleasant, they will probably figure out that you are shy and will not think you are a snob. The most important thing is, don’t be overly fixated on what people think of you. Unless you are walking around with a bright red shirt that says “I hate fuzzy kittens,” you can’t really help what people think.

Everyone is different after all, and you are who you are for a reason.