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An edited and revised book on public speaking for introverts based on the articles from this site

How to Be Less Shy

You can overcome shyness.  You can also overcome social phobia.  The two issues are, for most people part of a spectrum.  In this article I aim to approach shyness – the less severe end of the spectrum, but I hope it will contain useful ideas for those struggling with more severe forms of social phobia too.

Shyness is a learned response – something has taught you to be shy.  For many shy people this is their introversion – talking to people is hard work, whereas spending time alone is rewarding – add to this the frequent requirements of being in social situations in the modern world, and its no wonder you learn to be shy.  Alternatively, others have learned to be shy as the result of violence and bullying – this is a different form of retreat – but the symptoms, nevertheless are manageable in the same ways:

I believe there are three aspects to overcoming shyness

1 – Understanding the numbers game

2 – Managing your energy efficiently

3 – Learning not just to be functional, but to be high-functioning

The Numbers Game

In life, repetition is everything.  Shyness is a learned behavior taken from repetition.  Outgoing confidence is the same.  Consider the schoolyard (which is where much shyness grows).  An introvert spends his days exhausted – there is a constant crowd of people surrounding him, asking for things, requiring attention.  There is no repite, no escape.  The introvert looks for as many opportunities as he can to hide away.  The bullied student is in a worse position still – every time they attempt to communicate they are spurned, rejected, humiliated or attacked.

What is true for both people is that they never make social interaction their preferred leisure activity.

The confident, outgoing, type, on the other hand spends most of his social life recharging in the company of others.  As such, the confident girl gains a wealth of social skills, whereas the shy guy learns the comfort of hiding away.

Its nothing about the individual – its about the amount of practice

There is still time to get this practice.  All you need to do is realise that ou need to up your social game – spend more time with more people – or actually spend time with other people more valuably.

Managing Your Energy

As an introvert, you only have a small quantity of time that you are able to spend with other people before social interaction begins to pain you.  As such, you need to plan your energy levels, so that you are able to get the most out of them.

Consider your daily life – there seem to be to be three sections

Enforced Socialisation (for example work, or school)

Being in crowds

Solitary time (which may involve a spouse, friend or partner – but a spouse friend or partner you have learned to avoid draining you

And of these, solitary time doesn’t aid your shyness – and being in crowds probably doesn’t either.  Certain periods of your life are enforced socialisation that you can’t avoid – and certain periods of your life are enforced socialisation which are low risk.  These are the two strategies you can choose to attempt to grow your confidence

Enforced Socialisation You Can’t Avoid

In these situations, there are people around all the time – people you work, live or study with.  if you’re shy, you probably avoid most of these people, keeping yourself mainly to a small group.  You can change this by stepping outside of your comfort zone.

When most people read ‘stepping outside of their comfort zone’ they think of making a drastic, scary action.  I wan’t to point out that this isn’t what I mean:  your comfort zone is anything that you do regularly – avoiding eye contact, ignoring people, hiding away during busy periods.  All I want you to do is think of the smallest more social thing you can think of – be it smiling at someone, or adding a few comments to a group conversation.  Thats it.  Just do that once a day, and if you are successful – feel free to take yourself away somewhere quite for a few minutes as a reward.

Low Risk Socialisation

Sometimes you will be around strangers – a taxi driver, and old lady at a bus stop.  These are low risk people to socialize with, because, whatever happens, once you’ve said goodbye, you’ll probably never see them again.  As above, just step outside your comfort zone – thank someone for holding a door open.  Comment on the weather.  By all means have a story about what you’re planning to do this wekend to tell the hairdresser – in case they ask.

But again, the important thing is to do little – then give yourself some space as a reward.  In time, you’ll get used to the little you are doing and be able to do more.

Learn to be High Functioning

The confident people, the people who have been socializing since they were fetuses,  they’ve learned the tips and tricks that make it easy.  You and I – we’re not as lucky.  What is lucky is that we have access to books by the best socializers in the world.  By reading books such as “How to make friends and influence people”, you can learn what the experts do to make themselves irresistible.

While there are many such tricks of the trade, here are a few that will make you feel more confident:

1. Stand up straight –  a confident, straight, pose helps you breath more easily, which makes you feel less stressed – also other people see you as more dominant, which will make your conversations go more easily.

2. Say people’s names to them.  It helps you remember their name, and people love to hear it.  Don’t overdo it, but asking ‘Ben, do you fancy coming to the pub’ rather than ‘do you fancy coming to the pub’ will make all the difference

3. Look people in the eye.  But if you feel too nervous – look at the bridge of their nose instead.  it looks the same to the person you’re talking to

4. Prepare some answers – know how to quickly and snappily say what you do for a living, what you’re doing this weekend and a bit out your life story and where you live.  It’ll mean you don’t get flustered when asked questions about yourself.