Dealing With Shyness

2011/07/05 in Health, Relationships

If your shyness is keeping you from having as many friends or as much fun as you’d like, we’re glad you called us.


We’ll talk about some things you can do to get over being shy. You see, even if it’s making your life miserable right now, shyness is nor incurable. You can do something about it. If you want.

Being shy does not mean that you’re some sort of freak. It does mean that you react more sensitively than most people to certain situations that make everyone a bit uptight. If you want to overcome your shyness, you’re going to have to do two things at the same time. One is to start feeling differently about yourself and the way you relate to people. The other is to start doing some practical things to help you handle situations that make you shy.

Let’s first look at learning to feel differently about yourself and the way you relate to people. Right now, you’re probably very hard on yourself when you meet new people. go to a party, or find yourself in any one of those situations that get you uptight. You may feel that people judge every single word you say and everything you do. That puts pressure on you to say and do the right things all the time. That makes you feel really uncomfortable, and you probably start blushing or get tongue-tied if a weird or dumb comment slips out.

If this description fits you, remember this: you may demand social perfection of yourself, but others don’t. Next time you’re in a group, listen and watch very carefully. You won’t be hearing or seeing a lot of wise, interesting, and funny things said and done. You’ll notice that the fear of saying or doing dumb or embarrassing things doesn’t stop other people from having fun. Then why should you be so afraid that what you say or do will mess up your life? Let yourself go and make a few mistakes like everyone else. Be realistic — work on improvement, not perfection. Once you’re easier on yourself, you’ll enjoy being with others — and they’ll enjoy being with you.

Being less critical of yourself is one way to start changing the way you feel about relating to others. It will help you overcome your shyness. At the same time, you’re also going to have to start doing some things to help you handle situations that usually are awkward for you. For starters, try to be more outgoing. This may sound impossible. But when you think of it as going out of your way to be more interested in other people, it’s not that hard. Let’s say you’re in a group and can’t think of a way to get into the conversation. Try focusing your attention on them, not on how you’re feeling. Really listen to what they’re saying. Ask one of the group why he thinks that, or why she feels the way she does. Every time you drift back to thinking about yourself again, stop, and concentrate on the others. You’ll find that when you show an interest in people, they’ll be interested in you.

If you know that you’re going to be facing a situation that’s always been a tough one for you, like a first date or a job interview, practice it ahead of time. Stand in front of a mirror and go through the hello’s and how-are-you, the introductions, the possible opening questions. Or practice ahead of time with a friend. The better prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel about handling the situation.

If you have trouble starting or keeping a conversation going with someone, try these three things: One — talk about things that really say something about you, like how you feel about something you recently did. Two — try to sound up about things. Nobody, except maybe your best friend, likes to hear about the bumper of a day you’re having. If you let others know you’re feeling good, they’ll feel better about you. Three — avoid questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Try to give the person you’re talking with a handle he can use to come back with a remark.

Another typical approach you can use to overcome your shyness is to not act shy. It’s a fact, most shy people act shy. They don’t speak at all, or speak very softly. They stare into space or down at their feet when they do speak. These habits make others uncomfortable, the shy person picks up on this, and then feels even shyer. Break this cycle by speaking up, looking people in the eye when you do speak, and smiling more often. This will make others more comfortable, and they’ll respond more positively to you. That will make you more self-confident. Try it, it does work.

If some of these suggestions sound too tough for you, maybe you’ll be more comfortable with the one step at a time approach. This means talking to one stranger today, calling one friend on the phone, or asking one girl out. Increase your contact with other people one step at a time. Then start working on the other suggestions we’ve made.

If you want to work on your shyness, start by being less critical of yourself. Don’t think that you have to say and do the right thing all the time. Some practical steps are to be more actively interested in other people, and to practice your reactions to sticky situations ahead of time. In conversations, reveal something about yourself to others in an up tone of voice, and make sure your remarks can be answered with more than a “yes” or a “no.” Try hard not to act shy. Look directly at the person you’re talking to, and speak up. If you can act at ease, people will react positively to you — which will make you feel at ease. Try the one step at a time approach. Start today — you can overcome your shyness. Thank you.

For additional support and resources please call our 24-hour Teen Hotline by dialing 2-1-1 or 954-567-8336 (TEEN.)

Teen Tapes is produced by the University of Wisconsin, Madison.