How to Overcome Shyness and Embrace talking to People

To some people it is natural to interact with people or strike up conversation with strangers, however, to many other persons it is a big challenge. For a shy person, social interaction can be a stomach-churning, anxiety-filled experience. But with some work, you will be able to get it under control and become comfortable with talking to people.

Before, I find it difficult talking to strangers especially when I come into a new environment. Most times, it’s not because I don’t want to, but because I fear about how they will react; how they might judge or reject me.

You have to challenge shyness and kick it out of your life. You might be introverted at heart, but that doesn’t mean you have to be shy. Shyness is a habit that can be broken, knowing this is a big first step in understanding that you can develop social skills.

Know Why You’re Shy
Researchers at Indiana University Southeast also suggest learning why you’re shy. People might be shy for different reasons, they say:

For example, do you become shy when meeting new people, interacting at a social gathering, or speaking to someone to whom you find yourself attracted? Try to understand if your shyness manifests itself cognitively (e.g., excessive self-consciousness or self-deprecating statements), affectively (e.g., overriding feelings of anxiety), or behaviorally (e.g., failure to speak to others at social gatherings).

When you have a better understanding of your shyness, you can figure out the best route to overcome it.

It’s Not All About You
Shy people often overthink their behavior and responses. You’d end up obsessively mulling over everything you said or did, wondering what others think of you. Did I say something stupid? Did I say something that might seem offensive? When you hang out with new friends, do you often think about every tiny thing you said after the interaction? Do often fear you said something slightly embarrassing, or something that could be taken the wrong way?

Not all about me

You have to stop over thinking about what to say, how people will react to it. We all say stupid things occasionally, and most people realize that. You should definitely think before opening your mouth, but overthinking after the fact can drive you nuts.

Overall, You have to know this: you might be awkward, but no one is thinking about your awkwardness as much as you are. Obsessing over it only makes that feeling worse.

Accept it, Set up a task for yourself
A problem identified is half solved. When you recognize your shyness, you normally feel it coming. You have to focus your attention and tackle it head on. First, set up small tasks you must do daily. For example if you work in an office, you can decide to greet everyone every morning you come to the office, or ask everyone you meet during break time how their work is going on. The task has to be something you can easily do diligently.

There are many other small actions. Force yourself to ask for directions. Give someone a compliment. Ask for help. Offer to help someone. At first these actions will be awkward and daunting to you, but before you know it, it will seem like part of you.

Take a Public Speaking Class
This is not for everyone, but public speaking classes can be very helpful. You will learn how to be comfortable with your voice. You will have the chance to speak while others are forced to listen. Most importantly, it builds your confidence in speaking.
public-speaking-class

If you don’t have time to take a class, you can read the Art of Public Speaking by Stephen Lucas. It is a solid starting point for those looking to grasp public speaking. Although this book it all about learning how to public speaking, it clearly gives you practical steps to do this. If you learn how to be very good at public speaking, by extension you have overcome some of your shyness. He advises:

Concentrate on gaining control of the ideas; don’t try to learn the speech word for word.

When you want to communicate with others, don’t spending your time thinking of what to say word for word, as this will increase your fear. Just gain control of the idea as Stephen suggested, the words will flow.

Learn the Art of Small Talk
Small talk is an essential part of social interaction. For shy people, it can also be really helpful for getting used to that interaction – like practice for the real thing. Debra Fine in made very useful suggestions in The Fine Art of Small Talk. At gatherings, her Occasion-Location Rule comes very handy. If you’re at an event, and you don’t know how to initiate or maintain a conversation with a stranger, the occasion and location can help you come up with an opener. Fine writes:

The location and occasion of an event offer a wide variety of free information. At a wedding: I was the bride’s college roommate. How do you know the couple? At a seminar or convention, simply asking What brought you to this event? is an easy and unobtrusive way to start a conversation.

It may seem obvious, but when you’re intimidated at a party, remembering this rule can be grounding. She also suggests asking open-ended questions to get a conversation going. For example, if I really wanted to talk to a coworker in the break room, instead of saying “How’s it going?“, which is more of a pleasantry than anything, I could say, “What’d you do this weekend?

Make Friends with very Social persons
Whether we like it or not friends influences us in one way or the other. You should make a few friends who are very good in interacting with people, who are very social, overtime it will rub off on you. Try and observe how they do it and copy them. Go out with them time to time and try to imitate their pattern of striking up conversation, don’t be afraid to ask them to teach you.

With practice, you can overcome your shyness over time. Sometimes, you will still find yourself a little shy or recoiling back into your old self. However, bear in mind it is a gradual process, just like most habits, it doesn’t go away overnight.

Do you have other thoughts or experience on overcoming shyness, or have you tried any of the above techniques? Share your thoughts below.

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