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Overcoming Shyness: Developing More Ease in Social Situations

by Stefan Gonick, Psychotherapist

The first thing to know if you are suffering from shyness is that you are not alone. In fact, the majority of people report feeling shy in social situations (even if it doesn't look that way to others). Shyness is a very internal experience and is not necessarily that visible to the outside world. In fact, shyness is often mistaken for coldness, aloofness or "snootiness" by other people.

You are probably surrounded by shy people all of the time without realizing it. Just knowing this can help reduce our feelings of isolation and shyness a bit.

So, let's say that you are at a party and would like to meet that cute guy or gal but are feeling very shy about taking action. Or maybe you would just like to be more friendly at this party in general. What can you do?


Ways to Reduce Shyness

One way to ease your general feelings of shyness at a party is to look around for someone who seems to be even more shy than you and go talk to that person. Approaching someone who seems more shy will help you feel more confident and less alone. You can talk about your common feelings of discomfort in social situations and feel support. After this successful experience you will probably feel ready to branch out and talk to more people. At the least you may have found a new friend.

Now, let's say that you want to approach someone that you find attractive. This is a more challenging situation. When we are feeling shy, our attention is turned inward. We are preoccupied with fears of being judged by other people. This is very inhibiting and makes us feel and act awkward.

One way to deal with this is to turn our attention outward. We do this by focusing on what we like about the other person. Imagine saying positive, appreciative things to that person, like "I like your smile" or "I like how alive you seem" or whatever it is that makes the person appealing to you. Then, feel and say these appreciations to the person in your head as you approach him or her.

You will be coming towards that person with the positive energy of appreciation rather than the energy of fear. This will help you feel more at ease and you will feel better to the other person. This technique can be quite helpful.

My last recommendation is practice. The more you try these techniques, the more comfortable you will become. Read the how-to guide called, "How to Overcome the Fear of Rejection: The Successful Rejection Experience" for an amusing story about intentionally getting rejected to reduce our fear of it. As with everything else, practice makes perfect.

Remember, you are not alone. Most of us feel shy in social situations. Practice these techniques, and you will meet more people in general and, hopefully, that special someone. Shy people of the world unite!


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