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Shyness and social anxiety can ruin a person’s self esteem and social freedom.
“She’s so awkward! Everything she says is stupid. And look at what she’s wearing – ugh. Such white trash; why does she even bother? She should just go away already.” I heard this in my head every time I ventured into public. It echoed endlessly until I wished I could disappear. I huddled in the corner, afraid to speak to anyone and trying to be invisible.” – Kittie Eubank
For many guys, shyness prevents any chance of getting into a quality relationship. It’s hard to talk to women when our palms start to sweat even thinking about it. If you're shy, it can seem like an impossible to even think about how to meet women.
It’s not just relationships:
Being shy can ruin our chances of making new friends, being comfortable at social events, and even getting a raise or promotion. When we’re shy in the workplace, it’s easy to get passed up for more outgoing personalities.
(How to overcome shyness, build confidence, and improve all of your relationships. Click here for info.)
The American Psychological Association defines it as:
“The tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people. Severely shy people may have physical symptoms like blushing, sweating, a pounding heart or upset stomach; negative feelings about themselves; worries about how others view them; and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions.” – APA
Being shy is not the same as being an introvert, that is people who find social gatherings draining. Shyness is about fear, being tense, or even having physical symptoms when you are in a social situation.
It’s normal to be shy sometimes. It’s only a problem when it starts to interfere with life and alters the choices we make. Try asking yourself these questions.
Do you freeze up when you want to talk to someone new? Do you avoid networking events, because you hate, HATE, talking to new people, your palms get sweaty or your heart races?
If that’s true, I bet that you avoid any situation where you might have to meet someone new. But you can’t avoid meeting new people your whole life. New schools, no jobs, or promotions all mean meeting new people. You can’t avoid it.
Don’t let your shyness get in the way of your life.
Consider this situation. A good friend is throwing a birthday party, and he’s invited you to come. You want to celebrate with him, but you get so worked up around groups of people, even when it’s people you know.
Does this sound like you? If it does, it means your social anxiety keeps you from living the life you want.
Not accepting an invite to a party, avoiding networking events which could improve our careers, or not asking out a girl we like are all areas where shyness can lower the quality of life.
You can get over shyness. That’s what this guide is all about. Take a look at the tips below, and you’ll be on your way to learning how to overcome shyness.
Social anxiety disorder is an extreme version of shyness. The Mayo Clinic offers a list of symptoms:
Most shy people will recognize a few items on the list. That doesn’t mean you have a disorder. When these symptoms start to take over your life, then you should worry.
If you think you might have social anxiety disorder, contact your doctor. A good therapist can help you manage your symptoms and your anxiety.
If you want to learn how to overcome shyness, it’s all about how you act. Like anything else in life, you need to practice. Thinking it away doesn’t work.
Mindset is crucial, but we should always focus on which actions we should take to overcome shyness.
“Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strength. When you overcome hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger
Although it may be awkward, going to more social events, not less, is the key. Social confidence comes from directly challenging your fears and doing the things that cause anxiety.
Take baby steps though, too much too soon can be a path to failure.
It’s going to require a lot of effort. With dedication, you can learn how to overcome social anxiety.
While it might take a lot of work, it’s still good news. Why? Because being shy isn’t something that’s part of your DNA.
Just like any skill, you can learn to be more outgoing or to talk with people you don’t know. You can learn to be comfortable in front of crowds or mingle at parties like a pro. All it takes is some practice.
Read the 57 shyness tips below, or skip to the Q&A with the clickable table contents. You’ll find useful links which provide more details on different tips and techniques to overcome shyness. You’ll also find videos to help you succeed socially.
Having a coach in your corner can allow you to do the things you’d never do on your own. It’s an extra push, accountability and support to get through tough challenges. When dealing with shyness, coaching can be the edge that gets you past your sticking points.
“I joined theater in 10th grade and was forced out of my own comfort zone.” – Lukas Schwekendiek
Performing arts is a low-pressure way to put yourself out there. You don’t have to worry about what to say or whether you sound good. Just play the part you’re given. You’ll also learn how to change your emotions for a better performance. If you can change your emotions, you can reduce shyness and be more outgoing.
When we do something we have experience in it’s easier to feel confident. Pick a skill that you’re confident in then offer to teach some of your friends or family. You can even put an ad in Craigslist or any online classifieds site.
Showing other people a new skill will take your focus off of yourself, and put it on your students.
Challenge yourself to learn specific social situations. One month you may try dance lessons, another could be business networking, and another month you may try speed dating.
By splitting up each scenario you’ll avoid becoming overwhelmed trying to overcome shyness everywhere. You’ll also be able to focus on the specific skills involved in each scenario.
Being late is not only a bad habit, but one that will increase social anxiety. When we’re late, it makes us more self conscious.
Who wants to show up at a class only to have everyone look when we walk in and interrupt? Or what about a date?
When we show up late we’re just adding one more thing (in our minds) for the other person to judge us by. Eliminate some anxiety and self consciousness by making a habit of being on time.
Pause at the end of the day to praise yourself for the good things you’ve done. It can be a small thing, like showing up on time or having complimented someone. By giving yourself praise you’ll send some ‘positive energy’ your own way.
“I realized that;I am beautiful and always have been; I was just too blind to see it.
My heart opened to the truth that I have intrinsic value as a human being, and I bring something to the world that not a single other person can offer. It’s not about what I’m wearing or how much I weigh or what anyone else thinks about me. I am enough. Just as I am, right in this instant.” – Kittie Eubank
Calling yourself names will never make anything better. Avoid all self-slander and demotivating self talk. Use constructive criticism instead when a self analysis is necessary.
Talk yourself up when you need a boost. Sometimes we just need a little more time to get through a situation. By using positive self talk your can push your limits and perform better.
Pro tip: Use “you” instead of “I”. Some studies show that saying “You can do it” is more effective than saying “I can do it”.
“Exposure therapy is a technique in behavior therapy used to treat anxiety disorders. It involves the exposure of the patient to the feared object or context without any danger, in order to overcome their anxiety and/or distress.” – Wikipedia
By exposing ourselves in small increments (baby steps) to the things we fear, we lose our fear. Sometimes social anxiety will never go away completely but getting it to manageable levels can change our lives.
Don’t worry about going to a therapist to get exposure therapy. You can do it yourself. Go every day into a social situation where you feel shy, chat a little, and then move on. By doing this daily the shyness will slowly decrease.
If you have extreme shyness you might consider a professional therapist too. Confidence coaching can also be effective.
It’s comfortable to be around people who are similar to us. The problem is when we’re learning how to overcome shyness we don’t get positive examples to change our behavior. It’s too easy to stay the same when our closest influences hold us back.
Find more outgoing friends. You can find them at social events or on recreational sports teams. Watch what they do, and you might learn something.
Have you had positive or negative experience with the influence of friends or family? Skip to the bottom to comment.
One of the worst traps is negative self labeling. It’s ok to acknowledge certain conditions or a lack of skills in any area. That’s being honest and avoiding self delusion. It allows us to figure out what we need to work on too.
Don’t let shyness become a part of your identity. Once we’ve established that ‘it’ IS US it’s no longer a matter of working on how to be more outgoing. It becomes changing our very identity, which is much harder.
Don’t become your shyness. Identify it for what it is, a set of habits, lack of skills, or an unconscious reaction to social situations. Whatever it is, it doesn’t define you.
If you’re already identifying personally with it begin to detach. Catch yourself in the act of labelling yourself as shy, and gently correct it. You can use self talk such as, “I’m working on becoming more confident.” Focus on the positive traits you’re developing.
Keeping all of our feelings to ourselves doesn’t allow us to vent. It’s important to relieve the stress that shyness can cause, especially when you’re working on improving your social skills.
Write down your experiences and feelings in a journal. If you trust someone, expressing your thoughts to them can have the same effect.
It’s impossible to change overnight. Sometimes change can be gruelingly slow. Expect your confidence to increase incrementally as you expose yourself to more social situations.
If you’re moderately shy it will be faster than if you are severely shy. Set realistic expectations to work on yourself over the course of months, even years.
As you get better you can add more difficult social challenges to be more confident.
Don’t hide from difficult social situations. Seek them out.
If something makes you uncomfortable, it’s a good sign that you should work on it. Get out of your shell, and embrace discomfort.
Enlist your family, friends, or spouse to help. They will keep you accountable, and you won’t have to do it alone. A supportive group will increase your odds of success.
“I spent years in a poor relationship because I feared rejection. As I achieved some success in my career, I came to understand that people in general respected me and found my contributions worthwhile. Eventually, I came to the realization that this acceptance might extend to romantic partners.” – Jim Heaphy
Can you relate to Jim? Scroll to bottom to comment.
Everyone thinks the whole room is watching them, judging them. Here’s the secret– no one is. They’re just as nervous, insecure, shy, and worried as you are.
Instead, focus on what you think of them. When we put our attention on other people and decide what we think of them, we can take the pressure off ourselves.
“For me, that is the crux of no longer being shy – taking the focus off what others think of me and placing it on being my best self and surrounding myself with others who make me want to be a better person.” Kittie-Eubank
When standing on a street corner, call out loudly to your friends on the other side. This will temporarily force you to deal with a few eyes pointing in your direction. When you face discomfort it can help you be more confident.
It’s important to know what you want. We don’t all have to be James Bond, but you might just want to be comfortable in a small group. Maybe you want to overcome stage fright or learn to approach women. For other people it might be about overcoming stage fright, and yet others might want to be able to cold
Goals help you focus. You’ll be able to tackle specific situations instead of worrying about all of them.
Once you know, write them down. By writing them down, we take them out of the idea category and make it a real thing.
When we don’t love ourselves, how can we believe that anyone else will? Reflect on your successes, and focus on your good attributes. Take care of your health by eating well and sleeping well. All of these little things show self care and appreciation.
Anything that helps you build confidence will help you overcome shyness. If you’re self-conscious about your body, it makes it that much harder to get out there.
Most of my life I was a skinny guy. It was a major point of insecurity. When I got older I learned how to workout more effectively, and I added a lot of size. I never became “jacked”, but my new strength made me more confident.
Have you ever dealt with body insecurity? Scroll down to comment.
When your body feels bad, you get more anxiety and stress, and that makes everything worse. Avoid eating out a lot, watch the junk food, and eat more veggies.
Bad sleep lowers intelligence, increases stress, and can cause anxiety, too. We can minimize the social anxiety we feel by getting better sleep.
Pumping our minds full of media junk is a sure way to increase a general feeling of ‘unease’. When we’re trying to work on our confidence, anything that causes a bad outlook on life has to go! Every little thing counts, so don’t consume the daily bad news that the media uses to get clicks.
While negative news makes you feel bad, positive media can make you feel better. Watch inspirational videos, read uplifting stories, and get your daily dose of personal development.
That slight edge from taking in the good stuff could be the difference between getting into a conversation with a stranger, or keeping to ourselves.
Breath is a perfect way to use your body to control your emotions. When you start to feel nervous, focus on long deep breaths to eliminate tension. With your anxiety under control, you can get focus on learning how to overcome social anxiety.
You can use your body to affect your emotions. When people feel anxious, we change our body language. We slouch, cross our arms, or avoid eye contact.
That kind of body language will make you feel even more anxious. It’s a sort of insecurity feedback loop. Check yourself when you talk, because you probably do it habitually without noticing.
Insead, stand up straight, lift your chin up slightly, hands out of your pockets, and unpin your elbows from your ribs. Standing tall and taking up more space will make you feel more confident.
Amy Cuddy explains power poses in her 2012 TED Talk. Power poses, just like positive body language, will instantly change the way you feel. Use these before going into a situation where you feel shy.
Gratitude keeps you calm by focusing on what’s good in your life. You can stay focused on the big picture while you work on how to overcome shyness.
Sometimes I still wake up with anxiety. It’s usually when life is extra stressful, or I neglect myself. Gratitude helps me to regain control.
How do I do it? I focus on my breath, and then I think about the good things in my life. This simple strategy has saved many of my days from going down the drain.
You can also try Marie Forleo’s suggestion and start a gratitude journal.
Martial arts can help you learn how to overcome shyness in two ways. First, it’s a great social experience. You’re together with a bunch of guys learning something manly. It also is a great place to make lasting friendships because training with others creates deep bonds.
“At its core, martial arts teaches us the importance of socializing with others and it increases our social circles tenfold.”
“At its core, martial arts teaches us the importance of socializing with others and it increases our social circles tenfold.”
Second, martial arts will help your confidence. Martial arts teach you to master your body, and mastery builds confidence.
When you’re strong and in control, you act differently, and people will notice.
“Imagine being able to walk down a dark alley without fear, or being a woman that has the ability to take control over any situation. Any martial artist will tell you that the confidence they feel knowing that they are able to defend themselves in any compromising situation is incomparable. The self-defense skills you learn in class – from sparring to the techniques, prepare you for real-life situations.” – Evolve MMA
“The first time I went on, I got booed off stage as I could not remember the words or chords to the song I could play in my sleep! I felt like crap but it got better and so did my shyness. The instincts that pushed me to overcome stage-fright pushed me to become calm in many of the social and business settings I would placed in the future.” – Sae Min Ahn
Singing usually means having an audience. This forces us to deal with insecure thoughts about being judged. Being a bad or good singer. Or even the weird shirt we wore that evening.
The good thing about singing lessons is that you’ll learn with an instructor, and with other beginners. This will take away some self consciousness and allow you to grow.
“As someone who experienced low self-esteem for a long time, singing has, personally, made a huge difference to my life.” – Fay Agathangelou
Yeah, Nike got it right. Don’t just “give it a shot.” Do it.
If you “give it a shot,” you aren’t planning to succeed. You’re hoping, wishing that you could do it, but you’re not acting on it.
Commit to a plan of action with real steps and defined goals. Then, follow up on it.
When you tell yourself you can’t do it, you won’t. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Positive self talk can get us through the most difficult challenges. The opposite is true for negative self talk. Telling yourself that you ‘can’t’ will demotivate you and lead to quitting.
How do you know for a fact that you really and truly cannot do something? Have you given it your best, failed, fell, flunked and then attempted at least two more times? Have you pushed yourself outside that awful comfort zone that keeps you trapped to know your true boundaries? Have you explored every which way possible? – Farnoosh Brock
Here’s a great exercise to break the “can’t” habit, from prolificliving.com
Replace every statement of “cannot” with the statement of “choose not”.
Examples: I can’t travel => I choose not to travel. I can’t do yoga => I choose not to do yoga.I can’t stand up for myself => I choose not to stand up for myself.
It may seem strange, but when I started vlogging I was really uncomfortable. You’d think it would be easy, but staring into the camera made my mind go blank.
Worse yet, posting my videos online brought up all sorts of negative thoughts. I felt like I’d be plagued by trolls and negative comments.
What happened? Nothing. Most comments turned out to be positive. Eventually posting online was no biggie.
Start by filming videos which you keep to yourself. Most of the videos I filmed years ago never made it online, and I’ve since deleted some which did because my new videos are better.
When you feel more confident, start posting on YouTube. This will further stretch your comfort zone.
Writing a public blog scared me at first, publishing my opinion to random strangers. This caused more than a little anxiety. Just as with vlogging, nothing bad happened when I started posting online.
Eventually I started writing on some publications which have major traffic. That was another anxiety hurdle and another success.
Pick a topic you’re really passionate about. If there’s nothing you want to write about, try a public journal.
Make it a goal to speak to one stranger every day. It can be in a coffee shop line up, a table next to you at a restaurant, or even the girl who just delivered your drink.
Start a conversation by making a simple observation. It could be the crazy heat, some jewelry they’re wearing, or a comment on the book she has.
Speaking to strangers allows us to get outside of our own heads. It helps us to connect with others, and is a great way to overcome shyness.
“It seems like a very small thing if I talk to a stranger, and learn something about them… but it stacks up, it’s incremental.” – Kio Stark
It’s scary to approach someone you like– heart pumping adrenaline and shaking hands. But it’s also a great way to grow a thicker skin by learning to deal with rejection.
The fear of rejection is a big part of shyness. Bringing it out into the open is essential for personal growth.
Not only will you learn how to overcome shyness, you can get some dates too. For many, it can be too much to handle on their own. If that’s you, then you might consider dating coaching.
P.S. this is an old interview I did with Derek Cajun (Love Systems) on overcoming approach anxiety.
What do other people do in social situations? It’s easier to learn from people who are already outgoing. See what they do, and try it yourself.
Pay attention to how people use their voices, their body language, eye contact, and their reactions to certain behaviors.
Every morning on you’re way to work, say “good morning” to the people who pass. Simple, right? That’s why it works.
Many shy people will find this simple act to be uncomfortable. A lot people who don’t consider themselves to by shy also find it uncomfortable because they’re not used to it. That makes them feel “weird”.
Make this part of your daily routine for social confidence. When you start getting used to it, you’ll know that you’ve already become a more social person.
Here’s how you do it:
Walk down the street and meet each person’s eyes with your own. If they look at you, smile. If they look away, just keep walking.
Avoid aggressively staring by keeping your facial expression inquisitive, like you’re curious about the people you see. If you attempt eye contact and they don’t reciprocate, don’t worry about it. Look away after a couple of seconds to avoid overdoing it.
Some of my students get deterred when they look at me talk to women. They realize they’ll probably never be as good as I am. It’s true, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and have devoted a ridiculous amount of time to meeting women and dating.
But here’s the thing: why would anyone have to be as good as a pro to get great results? Can you not enjoy a game of soccer without playing like David Beckham?
"Aiming for perfection is the ultimate confidence killer, because if you aim for perfection, you’ll always fall short.” – Derek Halpern
Aim to improve your own personal social skills and confidence. Not to become perfect. Doing that will only cause frustration and end up in quitting.
Perfectionism is also a path to procrastination:
“Perfectionist tends to conjure up an immaculate vision of how things should be. So when it’s time to get to work, they become extremely detail oriented, start to obsess about every single thing, get weighed down by every problem, and get caught up by the need to create everything perfectly. Over time, the “pain” of such intricate attention becomes too painful, and this subsequently leads to procrastination — putting off a task to get some relief, but is in actual fact pushing away the pain that they create with each task.” – Personal Excellence
If you dress better, you feel better. Everyone is self-conscious when we hate the way we look.
Lucky for us, the rules are straightforward for guys. Ditch the cargo pants and the graphic T. Confidence comes from looking better, more formal, that from more casual.
You have to remember that you’re a man, and being extravagant isn’t necessary. You don’t need a lot of bells and whistles to look great.” – Robert, Restart Your Style
Here’s a great guide on the basics of style for men from Restart Your Style. Check out: 20 must follow rules for men who want to dress well
Use your clothes to start a conversation. Wear something loud or dramatic, and people will notice. Another name for this is “peacocking.”
I know this guy who loves to wear bright colored pants, like teal or lavender. He stands out when he walks into a room, and people comment on it all the time.
It’s a simple way to get people to notice you and to have a natural way to start a conversation.
Don’t think you can pull that off? Here’s the secret: You can pull it off if you act like you can pull it off. That’s what the guy with the lavender pants did.
You can take this principle too far, though. You want your clothes to start positive conversation about you, not a negative one.
Derek Halpern does just that. Instead of dressing well, he wants you to wear a t-shirt or a hat that says something outlandish. You read that right; he wants you to impress people with that novelty T.
Um, no. That “female body inspector” shirt isn’t going to win over the ladies. It’ll start a conversation, for sure, but not the one you want. If you’re going to start peacocking, choose clothes that help you dress better.
Here’s a tip: choose a dressy piece of clothing and try a color or pattern that is louder than you usually like it.
A lot of shyness comes from fear of the unknown. Learn how to visualize yourself in different scenarios, talking to people. This will give you more confidence to speak since you’ve already ‘been there’ in your mind.
Focus on the person in front of you to reduce your social anxiety. A lot of shyness comes down to being self absorbed and only thinking about ourselves. Show interest in the person in front of you; what does she do? Why does she do it?
Don’t wait for your opportunity to speak. Far too many people don’t actively listen, they just nod their heads while waiting for a chance to jump in. Instead, be a good listener.
Repeat back to her, in your own words, what she just told you. Then, add an opinion to it and dig deeper by asking another question. I call this the snowball technique, and it’s great for creating deep conversations and making connections.
Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that’s making a comeback. It teaches us to see things the way that they are, and not embellish. It’s also helps us to detach emotionally from things that can stir us up. For more info try The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living
It can feel awkward to compliment people when we’re not used to it. Sincere compliments are a great way to charm those around us and make connections. It’s also a good chance for you to practice getting out of your shell.
To make a sincere compliment, look at her and pick a quality like her sense of style, jewelry, hairstyle, or whatever else stand out to you. Keep the compliment low key and don’t repeat it more than once. Just be causal like, “That’s a nice tie. Where did you get it?” or “You have nicely done nails. Good summer colours.”
Smiles not only make others happy, but they also make the smiler happy too. When we smile it tells others we’re friendly and open to being approached. Smile at a stranger every time you go out to spread the good vibe to yourself and others.
Meditation has a calming effect and helps us to sharpen our focus. Doing this on a daily basis will relieve anxiety that agitates shyness.
“Anxiety is a cognitive state connected to an inability to regulate your emotional responses to perceived threats. Mindfulness meditation strengthens a person’s cognitive ability to regulate emotions.” - Psychology Today
Before going to a social event, rehearse what you’ll say to open conversations.
What will you say and do when someone approaches you? How will you respond? How will you approach other people?
Although scripting an entire conversation isn’t possible or desirable, practicing the opening and exit for a conversation will give you more confidence.
Looking for ideas? Check out this great book, The Art of Mingling.
It’s too easy to fool ourselves thinking that by chatting online we’re socializing. In reality, online friends are mostly a distraction and can deprive us of real human interactions. When we don’t have face to face chats shyness will get stronger.
“Social support can be a strong predictor of positive mental health. Emotional support has been shown to protect us from a wide array of both psychiatric and physical ailments. But unlike online friendships, real-life relationships take time and effort. They help us learn about others and ultimately ourselves.” – Shelly Bonanno, Pychcentral.com
What do you think about the effect of social media on our ability to socialize? Scroll down to comment.
All of these social exercises are going to make you uncomfortable, tense, and use a lot of energy. Whenever we try something new it takes extra effort.
Give yourself time to recharge or you’ll burn out and quit. Leave the city and recharge in nature. You’ll improve your concentration, short term memory and relieve stress.
Reward yourself when you succeed. It’s nice to have an extra incentive, and it’ll help you celebrate, too.
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says that reward is key to developing a new habit. If you want your social skills to stick, you need to get to that reward, even if you set it up yourself.
It’ll help you develop your social skills. Whether it’s approaching an attractive woman, starting a conversation at a cafe or going to a social event, give yourself a reward for following through.
Maybe you’re not ready to approach an attractive stranger. If that’s so, speed dating will get you in front of some potential dates fast.
It’s a good chance to practice body language, eye contact, and conversational skills. Experiment with different openers so you don’t say the same thing to your dates as every other guy in the room.
Meetup.com has a ton of different social groups for every interest. Join an established group and talk to the people.
Everyone there will be there for the same reasons as you, to meet new people and have fun. In your case, you’ll be able to sharpen your conversational skills and acclimate yourself to being in a group.
The potential for fun while drinking and playing baseball probably doesn’t have to be explained. One extra benefit is that everyone will be focused on the game and drinking, which will give you breaks to recharge in between conversations.
You’ll probably get introduced by the organizer, so that will take pressure off of having to do it yourself. After that, grab a beer and enjoy the game.
When you struggle in social situations, it’s probably because you aren’t confident with your social skills. Practice is the only way to get better.
Fortunately, there are whole groups dedicated to teaching conversation skills and public speaking. Toastmasters teaches members social skills and gives them a place to practice.
Best of all, everyone goes to toastmasters to get better. Everyone is there to learn, not just you.
“Be present. Be in that moment. Don’t think about your argument you had with your boss. Don’t think about what you’re going to have for dinner. If you want to get out of the conversation, get out of the conversation but don’t be half in it and half out of it.” – Celeste Headlee
The Indiana University Shyness Research Institute goes over some basic steps to overcome shyness.
The same Indiana University describes several types of shyness:
In other words, shyness can affect you cognitively through negative thoughts, emotionally through negative feelings, or behaviorally through actions you’d rather change.
To find the cause of your shyness, you don’t have to delve deeply into your unconscious mind. You don’t have to lean back on the psychiatrist's couch to talk about your mother. It’s much simpler than that.
Make a list of the situations in which you feel shy. Remember how your shyness manifests in each situation, and write it down.
Keep a detailed log of the symptoms you feel. Did your heart start racing? Did your mind turn all judgemental on yourself? Did you start stammering?
These details will help you find the triggers for shyness and the symptoms. Once you’ve identified those, you know exactly what to target for improvement. All it takes, after that, is a plan for each situation.
If your shyness has to do with excessive emotions, if you’re privately shy, the only way to fix it is by eliminating or diminishing the emotions that trouble you.
Your body has several natural tools to calm your emotions. We all know that deep breaths help calm us. You just have to do it when your emotions flare up.
Focus on deep breaths, both in and out, and listen to the sound of it. When you put your attention on your breathing, it will take tension away from your emotions.
You can also use your muscles to quiet your emotions. Intentionally tense up your muscles, and then let them relax. It sounds counterintuitive, but it works.
If your shyness manifests in your behaviors, practice will help you change it.
Practice works like this in just about every aspect of life. When a pianist plays a sonata, he doesn’t mentally think about every key he presses. Muscle memory from hours and hours of practice takes over.
It’s similar when you practice social skills. The more moves you practice, and the better you know them, the easier it will be to speak up when you want to be quiet.
When your shyness is cognitive, you have excessive anxiety about social situations, and you worry too much about people judging you. Here are some techniques to fix that:
When you’re shy, you sometimes dwell on your mistakes too much, and you project them into the future, too. It can become a cycle, where your mistakes make you expect the worst. Your expectations create problems, and you make more mistakes.
Break the cycle, and stop imagining the worst. Work on positive images of social interaction by using visualization.
When I joined a rowing team, we got together before the very first race. The coach sat us down in the locker room, and he talked us through the whole race.We closed our eyes and listened to him describe it, step by step, and we imagined our boat racing through the water.
Visualize your plan to succeed at the next social function you attend. Think through the specific steps you plan to take. It will ease your tension and focus your mind on the positive.
Every time I talk to someone new, my body automatically stops working. What do I do?
If your body does strange things whenever you meet new people, you’re going to hate meeting new people. It’s simple, right? When bad things happen to us, we don’t want to keep doing it.
According to Harvard Medical School, when you body perceives a threat, it moves into survival mode, sometimes called “fight or flight.” Your heart starts to beat faster, you blood vessels open up, and your lungs get ready to take in more oxygen.
Your body thinks that you’ll need to max out your physical performance to get away or defeat danger. Sound familiar?
That response might be right for killing a mountain lion with your bare hands, but it’s the opposite of what you want when you’re meeting new people.
When your body shuts down, your heart might race, your palms might sweat, and your brain might totally shut down. But there is a way out of it, a way to get past it.
Just like you have a system to ramp up your physical response, you also have a system to calm yourself down, called “relaxation response.” We need that kind of response to help us go to sleep or to get our bodies ready to digest food.
You can push your body toward a relaxation response with a few simple techniques:
If you practice these techniques, they can help you remain relaxed even in social situations. They can also calm your body down when your in social situations that get your heart racing.
While the stress response is based on fear, getting red in the face comes one of the self-conscious emotions, identified by Psychology Today. Embarrassment is a public emotion that comes from social awkwardness. But you already know that.
Embarrassment has a few symptoms that are easy for most of us to identify.
When you blush, it comes from the hormone, adrenaline. You blood vessels open up, and the blood rushes closer to the skin. While blushing is a flight response to adrenaline, it is unique to social situations, and researchers aren’t certain why.
Embarrassment can be a good response to a social mistake. Researchers show that people who look embarrassed in response to a mistake are more likely to be forgiven, to be liked, or to be trusted.
It becomes a problem, however, when you get embarrassed even before you do make a social mistake. So, what do you do to fix that?
The spotlight effect is when we believe that the people around you have become as preoccupied with you as you are. You believe that they can think only about your potential failure.
Now, think about that. Isn’t it absurd to think that everyone around you is focused completely on you and your embarrassment? In fact, it’s likely that everyone is thinking the same thing, that others only notice and judge them.
The spotlight effect has power, because you dwell on your embarrassment. You can eliminate that by making a joke.
Say something like, “Well, that was smooth.” Laugh at yourself a little, and you create some solidarity with the people around you.
Here are some tips to help come with the spotlight effect:
The key, finally, to overcome blushing whenever you’re in front of people is having positive social experiences. A little work and a little preparation can get you ready to have those. Eventually, you won’t react that way to social situations.
School and work put extra pressure on someone who’s shy. You have to get your job done, and you have to work on relationships with your peers.
There are some things we can do to ease the nerves a bit.
We all have to talk with people we don’t know, especially when we’re at work. It might be an interview for the job you want, or it’s a lunch meeting to get to know a new client. Maybe you’re the one doing the interview, and you want to make a good impression on a possible hire.
Work meetings come with a side of stress when it’s your livelihood on the line. You don’t want your shyness to be the thing that gets between you and that promotion, right? That means you’ll need to be extra prepared for times when the stress is on.
When there’s extra stress, you need to be extra prepared. But you have an advantage, too. When you know who’s attending and what the meeting is about, you know exactly what to prep.
Do that. Get prepared so you can be more confident. Here are some things to remember when you‘re getting ready.
First of all, memorize everyone’s name beforehand, if you can. You don’t need to make up flashcards like you’re in high school. But, if you know who’s going to be there, having their names in your head before the meeting gives you one less thing to fear.
Gather what you know about the people involved, even if you’ve never met them. If they have a family, if you know they have a hobby, ask about it. People love to talk about themselves, so asking a question about something they love is a great conversation starter.
If you’re going to a book club, read the book thoroughly and have some questions. Before you get to your meeting, know the topic as well as you can.
If you you know the topic of the meeting well, you won’t have to worry about it when you’re there. You can focus on the skills you’ve practiced to make the conversation smooth.
Politicians prepare for interviews by reviewing their own campaign material. They have a few simple talking points they remember so they can stay on task and so they don’t get rattled.
You can do the same thing. It doesn’t have to be a weird, politician thing. You don’t need to come of like a smarmy salesman.
Just prepare a few good ideas that might start conversation. Focus on things that will get the other people to talk, and practice leading into them.
When you’re shy, a room full of strangers might be more daunting than climbing a mountain. It can be terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be.
You can learn the skills you need to walk into a room full of people with confidence (or at least looking like you have confidence).
You probably got the hint in the last sentence. They key to looking confident isn’t being confident, it’s acting confident.
No one needs to know that you’re terrified. You don’t need to broadcast that you’d rather sprint home to your pajamas and Netflix. Smile and act like you belong, and people will believe it.
A room full of strangers can be much simpler to navigate than meeting someone one on one. You don’t need to sustain long conversations with one person. You can talk to one group here, one group there, and move on when you run out of something to say.
So, you don’t need a deep bench of social skills to mingle. You just need a few good superstars to win the game.
Jeanne Martinet is a mingling professional. She can go to a party and meet everyone in the room before it’s over. She’s got her moved down, and she wrote a book to help you out.
The Art of Mingling is a completely practical book that walks you through tricks, tips, and skills for starting conversations. Martinet even covers some great ways to recover when you make a mistake (yeah, even the pros screw up).
All it takes is some memorization and some practice, and you’ll be able to make your way through any crowded room.
Romance can be one of the most difficult situations for a shy person. If you think we stress out for work meetings, it’s nothing compared to asking someone out.
I think that’s because we internalize the results of a romantic conversation more than we do others. At work, they might reject your work. If things go wrong in romance, it feels like they’re rejecting us.
I know what you’re thinking. You want me to think about the worst way it can go before I go talk to some gorgeous gal? Yeah, maybe not.
Thinking about the worst-case scenario can help, though. That’s because our brains tend to exaggerate risk.
Do you feel nervous when you get in a plane? As it lifts off, do you tense up? Most of us do, because we’re afraid that the plan will crash.
Do you feel the same way every time you get in a car? Probably not, but you are much safer 30,000 feet above the ground than you are pulling out of your driveway on the way to the grocery store.
What’s the worst-case scenario when you want to talk to someone you’re attracted to? She’s not interested, and you go back to your day. Even if you make a total fool of yourself, it’ll be over fast, and you can move on.
You don’t need to come up with a smooth intro or a fancy line. Be simple and direct.
Introduce yourself, and ask her an open-ended question. Get her to talk about herself, and you’re golden.
We’ve written this over and over, but that’s how important this technique is. Use your body to control your emotions.
Some simple body tricks will be a big help.
For a lot of people, shyness manifests itself in altered behavior. You might lean up against a wall for comfort or avoid eye contact.
One of the most common symptoms of shyness is a quiet voice. When you’re at home with family, you have no problem speaking out. As soon as you’re in a social situation, you clam up.
Even if you get the courage to speak, the words come out so quietly that no one can hear.
Do you have to repeat yourself frequently? Do people ask you to explain regularly? Do others constantly lean in to hear what you’re saying?
You need to speak louder. Happily, there are some easy ways to practice getting louder in social situations.
To help you speak louder, use some of the tricks that singers use to make their voices project:
When you stand tall with your shoulders back you no only take a strong physical position, but it frees up your airway so you can speak strongly with less effort.
Singers train their bodies to push their sound, not from their chest, but from their diaphragm. It makes for a stronger and clearer tone for the best sound.
To speak from your diaphragm, you need to learn how to breath from it. When you breath in, push your stomach out rather than puffing out your chest. After you’ve mastered that, breath in and the speak straight from your core.
Even more important than your volume is how clearly you speak. Singers enunciate, because their audience needs to understand the words from a hundred feet away. They overpronounce so it’s clear.
Focus on making your consonants count. Use hard “C’s,” strong “T’s,” and explosive “P’s,” and it’ll be easier for everyone to understand you. Bonus: focusing on your pronunciation can distract from your shyness.
All this comes pretty easy when you learn to sing. Join up with a choir or take singing lessons, and you’ll get to practice being loud in a public setting.
If singing isn’t for you, you can try public speaking, instead. There are a lot of ways to do it. You can take a class, join up with people at a meetup, or join toastmasters. Anything that gets you speaking and supports your learning will help.
Find a public place and try shouting just to get used to it. Start out somewhere loud like a fast-moving river or street with lots of traffic.
Being loud in public will also help with social anxiety. When you get used to drawing attention to yourself, and finding that you don’t die from shame, it takes some of the fear away.
Social awkwardness comes down to a feeling of not fitting in, or not feeling right. It can cause us to act oddly at times. It can also make us feel like we’re not being ourselves.
To overcome social awkwardness:
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It doesn’t matter who you are, even the most independent people need others. Human beings are social creatures, and we need people for our mental and emotional health.
Sometimes we push people away when we’re afraid we’re going to be rejected. We close ourselves off from the world, and we act like we don’t like anyone.
I used to be the same way. I hated being around people, and would always find reasons why “people suck”.
But that was my depression talking. After I dealt with my depression, I tried to focus on everyone’s good qualities. I started to like people, and it helped me get out there.
If you’re overly worried about getting hurt, you’ll just keep pushing people away. It takes some vulnerability to connect to others.
When you’ve been hurt a lot, being vulnerable is hard, really hard. The best way to work on it is to find someone you trust and open up a little. Take it step by step, and soon you’ll be comfortable enough to try more.
Here are a few more tips to help you learn to like people.
Through this whole article, we’ve presented a ton of ideas to help you work on your confidence, develop social skills, and get ready to control your emotions. There are enough tips and tricks to keep you working for a long time.
But maybe you’re looking for the short, short version. So, here’s a brief summary to get you started:
Lastly, and maybe the most important of them all: Just do it. Don’t wait. Don’t dither.
Do it. The only thing you have to lose is being shy.
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“My experiences with shyness came down to fear of the unknown, as in “what is going to happen?” and fear of disapproval. The way to get past this is to have scenarios modeled and to understand one’s own value in the world. Modeling scenarios helps with that “what will happen?” question…” – Doug Dingus
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I'm the founder of Conquer & Win, and since 2011 I've been helping guys get into great relationships, build their core values as men, and become confident. I'm published on Lifehack, Order of Man, POF and many more. I want to help you get socially confident and live to your full potential. Feel free to contact me here.
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