Too shy?

Being shy is an ongoing feeling of being nervous or timid in the presence of other people, especially strangers. it is an uncomfortable feeling. It doesn’t mean you don’t like people, it doesn’t mean you are not friendly.

If you see someone laughing and happy in their usual group of friends, and then going quiet when in a group of strangers, chances are they are shy. They are not unfriendly, they are just a bit nervous among new people.

Being shy can cause problems because it can interfere with the number of people you expose yourself to. You could miss potentially great relationships because you were too shy to engage. You could be perceived as snobby, people may think your aloofness is because you think you are better than them. You could be judged for something that is a long way from the truth of how you are really feeling.

If you are shy, you tend to clam up around new people. When meeting new people, you go quiet, you might avoid eye contact, hang back physically, or struggle to find your words. You might blush, or feel your heart beating faster. This is usually a combination of various emotions: anxiety, fear, nervousness.

Those emotions are always triggered by something your brain is telling you. All emotions are linked to thoughts. Often our thoughts are so instinctive and reactionary, we don’t even realise we are having them. So when you start to feel that shy feeling creeping on, you are not even aware of the thoughts that have lead you there.

Thoughts that trigger shyness include things like:

  • I won’t know what to say
  • They will think I am stupid
  • They won’t want to talk to me
  • I won’t remember their name
  • They won’t like me
  • I never know what to say
  • I am so bad at small talk
  • Making friends is hard
  • I always feel uncomfortable around new people

 

These thoughts are knee-jerk and instinctive. They are your brains way of trying to keep you safe, to stop you from befriending and getting close to someone who could hurt you. Understanding that, is a good start in addressing it.

Back in the time of early human development, the human brain developed brilliant fight-or-flight responses to keep you safe. If you saw a scary lion, the fear centre of your brain would switch on, and your body would respond, ready to run from the lion. The same thing is happening when you meet new people. Your brain has got slightly confused, crossed its wiring, and is assessing this new person to be as threatening as a lion. The primitive fear-centred part of your brain is always looking for threats to your safety, and trying to keep you away from them.

 

There are a few things to do that will help when you feel shy.

See if you can identify the scary thought your brain is accidentally feeding you, that is making you feel this way? Remind yourself it is normal to be protective of yourself.

Ask yourself: how do I want this person to see me?  Do I want to be seen as aloof, disconnected and disinterested? Or do I want to be seen as engaging, friendly, open and warm? Make a conscious decision about the style in which you want to show up, then do your best to act the part.

Don’t forget your body language. Are you making eye contact? Is your body language confident and accepting? Or needy and nervous?

Think about the body language of ‘Hi, I am Rachael, I really need you to like me’. and compare it to the body language of  ‘Hi, I am Rachael. I am happy to talk if you want to, but I don’t need you, I am perfectly happy in my own company if it doesn’t suit

Stop thinking about yourself, and start thinking about them. Put all your focus on the other person.

Remember that everybody, even the most popular person in the world, even the strongest person in the world, all of them are human, and they just want to feel loved.

It is a generous thought, which makes your whole body open up. Your shoulders will drop, your heart rate will slow down, you will kind and warm and receptive. So you are primed to start talking. And the best version of you will be available for them to talk to. Not the scared version of you, but the kind version of you.

Be curious about them. Ask questions, and when they answer, listen. Take their response on board and lob it back to them. By passing the baton back to them, you are ensuring the conversation will continue

  • Where are you from?
    • Wellington
      • Wellington? That must feel a long way away now

 

  • What do you do?
    • I am a teacher
      • A teacher? That must be stressful!

 

  • What are you doing next?
    • I have a French class
      • French class? Is that hard?

 

NOT like:

  • Where are you from?
    •  Wellington
      • Oh

 

 

Don’t invest too much in the conversation. Try to adopt the mindset that you are just giving this a go. If you make a new friend, great. If they are unfriendly, or the conversation keeps getting more awkward, don’t stress. Just move on and try again. Don’t get hung up about it meaning anything. Don’t refuse to try again because one person rejected you. Suck it up, stop making it mean anything deeper than the fact you two just don’t have great chemistry. Don’t turn it into something dramatic ‘nobody likes me’ etc.

I have loads of other techniques, I can talk about this forever! So if you are struggling with connecting with new people, I can help you.

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