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Overcoming Shyness

January 11, 2009
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Most of us can relate to feeling shy at one point or another, but for many overcoming shyness is a huge roadblock to meeting new people or carrying out their hopes and dreams.  Shyness can affect everything from the way you communicate with others, meeting new people, and even your lifestyle and career decisions. Some of us have been shy from birth and in many different situations – others seem they never feel shy in any circumstance.

It’s hard to say exactly what causes shyness – it could be a natural instinct some of us have had since childhood – for others it may be painful experience after painful experience that only causes us to be more shy and less confident in ourselves. Sometimes it is an issue of self-confidence and self-esteem.

Fortunately, you can move past shyness and learn how to be more confident and outgoing so when meeting new people you don’t start automatically looking for a corner to hide in or feel uncomfortable around groups of people you don’t know. Once you get past those nail biting situations , the rest starts coming easily.

Here are Some Tips on How to Overcome Shyness:

1. Practice Open Body Language: When a person feels uncomfortable or shy, they typically will avoid making eye contact, cross their arms or legs, or change their posture. Open body language on the other hand involves making direct eye contact, standing (or sitting) straight, and having your arms and legs open. This makes others feel more comfortable in talking to you and may make talking to others easier.

2. Start Talking to Strangers: I know, your mother probably told you never to talk to strangers, and sometimes even as an adult it’s still good advice. But there are some instances where you can safely chit chat with a complete stranger to practice overcoming shyness: a waiting room, standing in line at the grocery store, people you work with, someone at a table next to you in a restuarant. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation – just practicing talking to people you don’t even know can help you in other situations.

3. Learn a few Good Ice Breakers: I used to have this friend who never knew what to say. His classic lines were either “How ‘Bout Them Mets?” and “Nice/Awful Weather We’re Having Today”. While these may work in some situations, chances are it’s not going to be an interesting conversation that goes anywhere. Instead, learn how to ask questions, such as “So are you from around here?” or “How do you know [insert mutual friend’s name here]?” Other topics such as recent movies, music, tv, and other current events can make for good ice breakers. Giving a sincere compliment can also help break the ice – “Wow! I love those shoes! Where did you get them?”

4. Put Negative Reactions Into Perspective: Not all people are nice, let alone polite. If you’ve tried talking to someone and it didn’t go too well, don’t dwell on it. Many times a negative experience is meaningless in the big picture – and the reason the person reacted negatively or unresponsive might have absolutely nothing to do with you.

5. Go Into the Spotlight: If you’re shy, chances are you’re not up there singing karaoke or being bold and sitting in the front of a room. While going into the spotlight is uncomfortable, sometimes you have to force yourself into a few uncomfortable situations in order to start feeling comfortable about it. Volunteer to read books to kids at your local library, offer to make a presentation, and sit in the front of the room when at a class or seminar. Pushing your comfort limit little by little will help you feel more confident in other aspects of your life.

6. Try Relaxation Techniques: If the thought of being around large groups of people or talking to an attractive person across the room make you feel dizzy, sometimes relaxation techniques can help. Deep breathing, visualization, and or learning easy meditation techniques may help.

7. Write About It: When you’re an introverted person, you tend to bottle up a lot of things that extroverts never experience. Sometimes writing it all out can help you feel better, more relaxed, and more confident. It may even help you brainstorm for other ways to be less shy.

8. What’s the Worse That Can Happen?: An exercise I learned is in any situation you don’t want to deal with is to ask “What’s the Worst That Can Happen?” Continue on and on with what will happen that would be the “worst” – and you’ll probably realize it’s not as bad as you think, and it certainly can’t be that bad when it actually happens.

9. Practice: Overcoming shyness isn’t going to happen overnight. So don’t give up if a few social situations don’t go as well as you had hoped. Just keep practicing and before long you’ll be feeling more outgoing and confident in no time.

Do you have any thoughts or advice to share for someone trying to deal with overcoming shyness? Share it in the comments below.

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