More Advice for the Shy

camera shy Here’s a guest post from Susan Murphy, another in our two-part series on shyness.

The mere thought of walking up to a total stranger and saying hello, picking up the phone to cold call a potential client, or standing in front of a large group of people is enough to cause me to have significant heart palpitations, cold sweats, and shortness of breath. Even as I write this, I’m feeling the butterflies well up inside.

Sound familiar? If you’re shy like me, I bet it does.

I believe I was born shy. Since I can remember, I’ve been more inclined to back away from the spotlight and avoid being the centre of attention. As a little kid, I spent a lot of time peering warily out from behind my Mom. In school, I was mortified every time the teacher called on me. Even as a young adult, I could barely pick up the phone to order pizza delivery without panic setting in.

Yet, these days, I’ll regularly walk up to people I’ve never met, pick up the phone a half dozen times a day and call strangers, and stand on a stage and talk to a large crowd, with hardly a second thought.

Shyness can be very debilitating, resulting in missed opportunities, and even depression in extreme cases. I’ve learned over time that although this personality trait of mine will probably never go away, shyness can be managed to the point where it doesn’t have to be an issue. Here’s how I do it:

Accept Your Shyness- Like it or not, shyness is a part of your personality. It’s ingrained in your psyche. Instead of worrying about it, accept it as a fundamental part of you. Stop identifying with your shyness – in other words, stop using phrases like “I can’t do this because I’m too shy”. Once you have completely accepted this part of yourself, you can move beyond it.

Put Yourself Out There- I’m not saying you need to jump on a stage in front of 500 people or start shaking every hand in the room at your next conference. But regularly putting yourself out there, in situations that demand decidedly un-shy behaviour is key to overcoming shyness. This takes practice, so start small. It could be something as simple approaching someone in line at the coffee shop, and asking them for their thoughts on the dark roast they just ordered. Put yourself out there, in small ways at first, and you will begin to get used to it. Then you can build up to the bigger stuff.

Hang Around with Un-Shy People- Funny thing about shy people – they tend to attract extroverts. Ironically, nearly all of my friends are total extroverts. Hanging around with outgoing people is actually very good if you are shy. You can learn from the guy who always has a crowd of people around him (not mentioning any names Chris Brogan!). Observe what Mr. or Ms. Popular does to engage people, and keep them interested. Observe how much they are enjoying giving that speech. And see if you can’t pick up a few of their techniques and use them yourself.

Be a Conversation Starter - Not sure how to kick off a conversation with someone you’ve just met? Ask questions. Not sure what to ask? Next time you set out to a conference, or meet up, or the coffee shop, prepare a list of questions and commit them to memory (nobody wants to talk to the guy carrying around a list of questions). People love to talk about themselves. So if you aren’t sure what to say, start asking questions. Not only will you learn a lot, you’ll be at ease because the conversation will just flow.

Suck It Up- In the end, if you really, really want to achieve something badly enough, then at some point along the way you will be forced to suck it up and just go for it. This means pushing aside all of those voices in your head that tell you that you’ll look stupid, humiliate yourself, or say the wrong thing. The only way you can overcome these voices is to simply ignore them, and go for it. I guarantee that doing un-shy things never turns out as badly as what you make up in your head.

These are just a few techniques I’ve used over the years to cope with my shyness. What about you? How do you deal with your shyness?

Susan Murphy is partner/producer at Jester Creative. She blogs at SuzeMuse, and hangs out somewhere up north.

Photo credit, orangeacid

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  • http://www.twitter.com/thronkus Jesse Page

    Chris:

    Superb blogging! It is intellectually stimulating and interesting (I read lots of other blogs as well and yours is one of the best!).

    ~Jesse
    twitter/thronkus

  • http://www.twitter.com/thronkus Jesse Page

    Chris:

    Superb blogging! It is intellectually stimulating and interesting (I read lots of other blogs as well and yours is one of the best!).

    ~Jesse
    twitter/thronkus

  • http://www.bloggeries.com Bloggeries

    Solid advice for those that are shy. Think of it like basketball you’ll miss 100% of the conversations you don’t start or throw in your $0.02 when appropriate. You live once; go for it!

  • http://www.bloggeries.com Bloggeries

    Solid advice for those that are shy. Think of it like basketball you’ll miss 100% of the conversations you don’t start or throw in your $0.02 when appropriate. You live once; go for it!

  • fendergurl

    I really enjoyed Susan’s list of suggestions for over-coming the ‘shyness’ issues.

    Truthfully, being shy is quite debilitating, and missed opportunities, lead to yet even MORE shyness ensuing. It is a vicious cycle for those that are struggling with ‘putting it out there’ and speaking up/speaking out.

    I am struggling with shyness, related to expressing my opinion in the ‘social media’ world. I question whether my response to a blog or someone’s daily update is going to sound foolish or irrelevant.

    Well…everyone is entitled to an opinion – and yes, we all DO have an opinion. Why not express it and perhaps, find others who are of ‘like mind’ in the process? Therein lies the ‘social network’ we all strive to maintain and create for business/pleasure.

    It pays-off to be a conversation starter, as Susan noted. You might just learn something about someone…and yourself, while you are at it!

    fg

  • fendergurl

    I really enjoyed Susan’s list of suggestions for over-coming the ‘shyness’ issues.

    Truthfully, being shy is quite debilitating, and missed opportunities, lead to yet even MORE shyness ensuing. It is a vicious cycle for those that are struggling with ‘putting it out there’ and speaking up/speaking out.

    I am struggling with shyness, related to expressing my opinion in the ‘social media’ world. I question whether my response to a blog or someone’s daily update is going to sound foolish or irrelevant.

    Well…everyone is entitled to an opinion – and yes, we all DO have an opinion. Why not express it and perhaps, find others who are of ‘like mind’ in the process? Therein lies the ‘social network’ we all strive to maintain and create for business/pleasure.

    It pays-off to be a conversation starter, as Susan noted. You might just learn something about someone…and yourself, while you are at it!

    fg

  • http://www.leroux.ca/ WTL

    Nicely done, Suze. Struggling with shyness is something that I’ve done for many years, but one thing I tend to do is to put myself into situations where I have to be unshy and interact with new people.

    It *does* get easier with time.

  • http://www.leroux.ca/ WTL

    Nicely done, Suze. Struggling with shyness is something that I’ve done for many years, but one thing I tend to do is to put myself into situations where I have to be unshy and interact with new people.

    It *does* get easier with time.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/aliendaddy32 Mike Thompson

    All kinds of successful people battle with shyness and stage fright. For me, it is social situations. I have been on live TV, acted in theater and taught adult classes in various subjects over the years…. but I hate going to a party.

    I learned a little trick from my Dad that helped…

    “Act brave, even when you’re not, because no one can tell the difference.”

    MT

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/aliendaddy32 Mike Thompson

    All kinds of successful people battle with shyness and stage fright. For me, it is social situations. I have been on live TV, acted in theater and taught adult classes in various subjects over the years…. but I hate going to a party.

    I learned a little trick from my Dad that helped…

    “Act brave, even when you’re not, because no one can tell the difference.”

    MT

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com KatFrench

    Well done, on this and the previous post on the same topic. Like Suze, I’m one of those “born shy” people who has worked really hard to overcome it–especially over the past few years. In fact, most people who’ve only known me a few years would laugh if I said I was shy around them.

    One thing that is hard to make clear to non-shy, extraverted people is that I really do enjoy being around people and socializing. It’s just draining, rather than energizing, for me.

    That’s fine, when I remember to take it into account and do what I need to do to compensate. It’s when I try to pretend I’m a natural extravert (like my boss) that I get into trouble.

  • http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com KatFrench

    Well done, on this and the previous post on the same topic. Like Suze, I’m one of those “born shy” people who has worked really hard to overcome it–especially over the past few years. In fact, most people who’ve only known me a few years would laugh if I said I was shy around them.

    One thing that is hard to make clear to non-shy, extraverted people is that I really do enjoy being around people and socializing. It’s just draining, rather than energizing, for me.

    That’s fine, when I remember to take it into account and do what I need to do to compensate. It’s when I try to pretend I’m a natural extravert (like my boss) that I get into trouble.

  • Mary

    Great post, Suze.

    I can relate to all these points, especially accepting your shyness. It’s part of who I am, I don’t need to reference it all the time or use it as an excuse.

    One thing I’ve found helpful is teaching college courses as an adjunct instructor. My palms are ALWAYS sweaty at the beginning of the first class, but once I get started the sweaty palms and the fear dissipate and I just have fun. I’m also afraid of heights–so I took up rock-climbing. I’m still afraid of heights, but now I can climb, hike, and drive over a bridge. :-)

    Lots to be said for facing our fears.

  • Mary

    Great post, Suze.

    I can relate to all these points, especially accepting your shyness. It’s part of who I am, I don’t need to reference it all the time or use it as an excuse.

    One thing I’ve found helpful is teaching college courses as an adjunct instructor. My palms are ALWAYS sweaty at the beginning of the first class, but once I get started the sweaty palms and the fear dissipate and I just have fun. I’m also afraid of heights–so I took up rock-climbing. I’m still afraid of heights, but now I can climb, hike, and drive over a bridge. :-)

    Lots to be said for facing our fears.

  • http://www.tickleticklebicycle.com HelloChris

    I love the photo that you used Chris, matches the post perfectly.

  • http://www.tickleticklebicycle.com HelloChris

    I love the photo that you used Chris, matches the post perfectly.

  • http://twitter.com/rebecatrautner Rebeca

    I’d like to echo what some people have stated in different ways: if you take a step back and consider the situation at hand as a once in a lifetime opportunity (which many times it CAN be!) then you may just be able to convince yourself that you would be doing a severe disservice to yourself and your personal/professional development by letting your fear/doubt/uncertainty hold you back.

    and if that doesn’t work: FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT! I’m always astonished at the sense of empowerment I feel if I was able to act the part then afterward find that it felt very natural and rewarding.

  • http://twitter.com/rebecatrautner Rebeca

    I’d like to echo what some people have stated in different ways: if you take a step back and consider the situation at hand as a once in a lifetime opportunity (which many times it CAN be!) then you may just be able to convince yourself that you would be doing a severe disservice to yourself and your personal/professional development by letting your fear/doubt/uncertainty hold you back.

    and if that doesn’t work: FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT! I’m always astonished at the sense of empowerment I feel if I was able to act the part then afterward find that it felt very natural and rewarding.

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  • http://philipjohn.co.uk Philip John

    Great post and I can completely identify with the back story, too.

    I found that the biggest problem with overcoming shyness is the root cause – fear. I’ve studied social dynamics and realised I suffer from what’s been termed Approach Anxiety (AA).

    AA is based around the mentality that you might be rejected. MIGHT. Unless you’re a complete tool you won’t get rejected. Especially in an environment filled with like-minded people.

    So go ahead, approach, there’s nothing to be scared of.

  • http://philipjohn.co.uk Philip John

    Great post and I can completely identify with the back story, too.

    I found that the biggest problem with overcoming shyness is the root cause – fear. I’ve studied social dynamics and realised I suffer from what’s been termed Approach Anxiety (AA).

    AA is based around the mentality that you might be rejected. MIGHT. Unless you’re a complete tool you won’t get rejected. Especially in an environment filled with like-minded people.

    So go ahead, approach, there’s nothing to be scared of.

  • http://suzemuse.wordpress.com Susan Murphy

    Great comments, everyone! I really like what you’ve said, Philip, about fear of rejection. Absolutely shyness is about fear of being rejected – and actually I think most people have that on some level, even the non-shy types.

    “Fake it till you make it” and “acting” like an extrovert are definitely up there, as Rebeca and KatFrench have pointed out, and are key – the more you do it, the more you just get used to it.

    As for “acting brave”, as Mike’s Dad puts it – well, just so happens that Mike’s Dad is my Dad too – so of course that makes him a pretty smart man. :)

    Would love to hear from a couple of extroverts on this topic…

  • http://suzemuse.wordpress.com Susan Murphy

    Great comments, everyone! I really like what you’ve said, Philip, about fear of rejection. Absolutely shyness is about fear of being rejected – and actually I think most people have that on some level, even the non-shy types.

    “Fake it till you make it” and “acting” like an extrovert are definitely up there, as Rebeca and KatFrench have pointed out, and are key – the more you do it, the more you just get used to it.

    As for “acting brave”, as Mike’s Dad puts it – well, just so happens that Mike’s Dad is my Dad too – so of course that makes him a pretty smart man. :)

    Would love to hear from a couple of extroverts on this topic…

  • http://www.getitwrite.ca Sue Horner

    I absolutely vote for “fake it till you make it”! In one of the networks I belong to, people don’t believe I am shy because I just don’t show it. (Good thing I no longer turn beet red as I did when called on in school!)

    A great place to practice is at a conference. Everyone there has a big badge identifying them as attending the same conference. How hard is it to spot the badge when you get on the elevator, and say “I see by your badge you’re a communicator” (or whatever the conference is for)? Then you just ask where the person is from, or how he/she is enjoying the conference, or what the best session has been so far. Bingo, you’ve started a conversation and you’ll seem like an extrovert.

    Another good conference tip is to attend any sessions given for newcomers. Whether or not you’ve been to the conference before, it will give you a chance to meet a few people. Chances are, many of them will be looking to meet new people too.

  • http://www.getitwrite.ca Sue Horner

    I absolutely vote for “fake it till you make it”! In one of the networks I belong to, people don’t believe I am shy because I just don’t show it. (Good thing I no longer turn beet red as I did when called on in school!)

    A great place to practice is at a conference. Everyone there has a big badge identifying them as attending the same conference. How hard is it to spot the badge when you get on the elevator, and say “I see by your badge you’re a communicator” (or whatever the conference is for)? Then you just ask where the person is from, or how he/she is enjoying the conference, or what the best session has been so far. Bingo, you’ve started a conversation and you’ll seem like an extrovert.

    Another good conference tip is to attend any sessions given for newcomers. Whether or not you’ve been to the conference before, it will give you a chance to meet a few people. Chances are, many of them will be looking to meet new people too.

  • http://www.deontee.com Deontée Gordon

    Great advice, Susan. I’ve been an extrovert for much of my life (but, ironically, I find myself still tensing up in some situations). A great way for someone to overcome/manage their shyness is to strike up small-talk with cashiers and similar workers. I usually like to make a comment about how I can tell they’re ready to get off work and go home. It usually elicits a smile, and a quick 60 second conversation.

    By the time it’s over, my groceries are sacked and ready to go. It’s a great way to get in the habit of saying hi and starting convo with complete strangers. Plus, people love it because it gives them a break in their, otherwise, monotonous work day.

    -Deon

  • http://www.deontee.com Deontée Gordon

    Great advice, Susan. I’ve been an extrovert for much of my life (but, ironically, I find myself still tensing up in some situations). A great way for someone to overcome/manage their shyness is to strike up small-talk with cashiers and similar workers. I usually like to make a comment about how I can tell they’re ready to get off work and go home. It usually elicits a smile, and a quick 60 second conversation.

    By the time it’s over, my groceries are sacked and ready to go. It’s a great way to get in the habit of saying hi and starting convo with complete strangers. Plus, people love it because it gives them a break in their, otherwise, monotonous work day.

    -Deon

  • http://www.deafmomworld.com Karen Putz / DeafMom

    Nice, post! I can be shy in social situations, but I think it’s related to being deaf and sometimes worried about how I will sound or communicate with someone.

  • http://www.deafmomworld.com Karen Putz / DeafMom

    Nice, post! I can be shy in social situations, but I think it’s related to being deaf and sometimes worried about how I will sound or communicate with someone.

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  • http://how-to-overcome-shyness.org/ Pia Cindy

    This is a great article , lots of good, solid advice.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kiran-Appiah/1842649157 Kiran Appiah

    I am shy, and what makes my situation worse is that i was born half deaf, so my communication skills aren’t up to par with everyone else. This makes talking to people VERY awkward as I find myself stuttering and having to repeat myself several times, which makes me look stupid to my verbally dexterous friends.

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