SHYNESS

‘We can’t all and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it’ 

Eeyore.

In a world that values the extrovert and admires the vocal and gregarious, shyness could be seen as a disadvantage. Unfortunately, many confident, verbose individuals have nothing of value to say, while their quieter counterparts possess the skills that extroverts often lack: thoughtfulness, empathy, loyalty, respect for others and an openness to new ideas.

However, if and when, a shy individual feels the need to appear more outgoing and confident, there are a variety approaches that they could adopt: –

  1. Join a group, so that the focus of attention is on the team rather than the individual; then use that group membership as a way to gradually adjust their mindset.

‘Part of why I started a band was due to feelings of shyness. It was a way to interact with people from a safe distance.’ Jarvis Cocker – musician.

2. Practise being confident. While competent, outgoing people may appear to breeze through presentations, speeches and performances, they will undoubtedly have put in a lot of practice to make it seem so easy. They will have practised and anticipated potential problems: nothing will have been left to chance.

3. Use technology and on-line communication in preference to face to face situations. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is painfully shy, but his world famous compensatory communication system is a phenomenal success.

4. Involve themselves in something they are passionate about in order to overcome their reluctance to be centre stage. 

‘It is sometimes our actions and determination that matters more than the volume of our voice.’ Rosa Parks – political activist.

‘I have learned you are never too small to make a difference.’ Greta Thunberg – environmentalist.

5. Be brave, deliberately stepping outside their comfort zone and making themselves cope with any resulting uncomfortable feelings. 

‘As an introverted child, my mother worried my shyness would hold me back as I got older. To help try and tackle this, my mother always challenged me.’ Richard Branson – entrepreneur.

6. Create an alter-ego. It is a surprising fact that many actors and performers were shy children; Their parents enrolled them for drama classes to help to boost their self-confidence. As a result, the children realised the potential of role play, were able to develop an alternative persona, and change their body language, clothing, appearance and personality in line with this alter-ego. Elton John is known for his outrageous on-stage performance, but admits to playing ‘a part’ in order to separate himself from his inclination towards shyness. 

Some shy individuals will prefer to maintain their natural preferences, and adapt the situation to suit themselves, for example: texting rather than phoning, writing a report rather than giving a presentation, and maintain a wealth of strategies they can use to circumnavigate awkward situations. 

The most common advice seems to be ‘Fake it until you make it.’ You’ll probably find everyone else is doing exactly the same.

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