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Sophia Q

@sqadir

10 tactics to help conquer shyness

I was much shier and more socially awkward when I was younger, but I've become better at dealing with social situations as I've gotten older. I used to hate saying anything in public, but now I make and give presentations for a living. I think it helps that I'm a natural extrovert, despite being shy, so a lot of the research I've looked into and have tried to apply has worked for me. Still, it has definitely been a challenging learning process, with lots of ebbs and flows. Here are some of the tactics I've found most helpful.

    1. Practice

    Anything and everything. For all situations. It may seem ridiculous to practice laughter, smiling, and even talking at yourself in the mirror, but, in my experience, it works! If nothing else, it could help you to realize that you most likely look and sound completely normal when doing everyday activities.

    2. Never forget that *anything,* including being personable and charismatic, can be learned

    When I was much younger, I think I almost felt that I was doomed to be permanently shy. Some people seemed so naturally charismatic, and most people seemed like they didn't have to try at all to be normal in social situations. I, on the other hand, often felt embarrassed or timid. I don't remember what triggered my change in attitude, but I do know that it made a huge difference. Switching from a defeatist mindset to an active one made me feel empowered to change my situation, which in turn gave me confidence.

    3. Remember a few important points about optics

    1) it's easy to be hypercritical of ourselves

    because

    2) no one observes us with as much detail as we do ourselves

    Most people aren't paying anywhere near as much attention to us as we think/fear they are. In this way, the bar for a "good" interaction is low.

    4. Analyze

    When do you feel the most awkward or shy? Is it when a certain person is around, or when you're in a certain context? On the other hand, are there certain situations in which you feel more at ease than normal?

    Identifying patterns in our own behaviors can help de-mystify them. By reducing shyness to a science, we can reassure ourselves that targeted action can help us move forward.

    5. Focus on body language

    Whenever I'm giving a presentation on Zoom, I try to have my feet planted firmly on the floor. This helps me feel centered and confident. In other situations, I try to have an "open" posture. Body language can actually trick your mind into feeling more comfortable. There's been a ton written on this subject, for those who are especially interested.

    6. Do the thinking beforehand

    This probably applies more to work/school than social situations, but I think a lot of my own shyness came from feeling ridiculous and not knowing how to act when the spotlight gets turned on. Actively reflecting on the social situation you're about to enter and on what's to be expected helps a lot.

    7. Know how to manage panic

    Panic means different things to different people. To me, it's often meant uncomfortable giggling and oddly wide eyes, in addition to a pained expression. I rarely feel panic anymore, if at all, but learning how to recognize my own "panicked" responses helped me learn to correct for them and adopt more standard body language, which in turn helped me to calm down.

    8. Fail, then observe the (lack of) consequences

    I've been awkward in public, at work, at school... in more places and on more occasions than I can remember. I'm still here. I've also observed people being awkward and have almost always forgotten about it the next day. Everything gets better with time.

    9. Speak louder

    I think part of my shyness stemmed from discomfort being noticed and heard. As part of the process of getting used to these, I started to speak louder. When you speak loudly, you basically commit to being the center of attention, and with this commitment it becomes easier and easier.

    10. Behave with sincerity, and don't pretend

    Sometimes, my shyness would manifest itself as not knowing how to react to social situations. To combat this, I would "fake" a response and would just react in the same way others around me were. I wouldn't recommend this, and I'd almost say no reaction is better than an insincere reaction. In my experience, people can usually tell when you're faking, and it makes you seem especially awkward, if not unlikable or untrustworthy.

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