Twenty years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do – Mark Twain
Have you found yourself in the middle of a party, quiet, in a wallflower mode, uncomfortable about it and yet could not say anything out of fear of getting on the spot? How about having to be in front of those who seemed to you as better and felt so ashamed that you could not even look at them in the eyes?
In 1975, Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo, Ph.D., wrote an article in Psychology Today entitled “The Social Disease Called Shyness.” It mentioned that in a survey conducted at several American colleges: An astonishing 40 percent of the 800 questioned currently considered themselves to be shy. It also revealed that there was an effort for the “shy” to conceal this by pretending to do something else.
Could you identify with this? How does this affect us as an individual and as a person in a community or the society at large?
This pill of shyness is probably stopping us from blooming into full-grown swans in the corporate world, brilliant social catalysts, courageous leaders of change or successful independent entrepreneurs.
Are you one of us?
There is hope. You can change yourself. You can overturn your fortune and make a difference. Start conquering your fears and your shadows. Here are 7 tips that will surely help you trick shyness out of your life.
Before you can set anything to change, you need to change your outlook. You need to see the world differently. You need to see the world like open arms willing to take in and understand your humanity.
Open your mind about real possibilities. There are many things you are good at. Those are your strengths. Build your courage on them.
#1 Think about the difference you can make for yourself
Start asking yourself where you are good at. Expressing yourself through writing? Listening to a grieving friend? Speaking with compassion to a child who needs understanding? A sensitive heart who understands the needs of others?
Listen to your heart. Listen to what others say good about you. Search for your true purpose. You have a part to play in this world in the place where you are – in your family, neighborhood, school or at work.
#2 Forget about what others will say
A shy person’s common mouthful is “I’m afraid of what others will say”. Are you going to do anything wrong? If not, then there is nothing to worry about what others will say or think of you.
Instead, start doing something that will make a difference whether for yourself or for others. Do what matters to you.
Go turn cold turkey. Just stop getting into the web of what ifs. Get enough thinking about what potential you can do and move on!
Before you get into any confidence-challenging situation or event, be prepared by doing your own homework. There’s some work required to overcome shyness. You need to make the effort, make a step, make things happen to facilitate the condition where you will put yourself into.
#3 Ask for support
Collaboration is an important part of getting some confidence work done. Talk to people you trust- family or friends- and ask them to support you in your endeavor to improve your self-esteem.
When we say ‘collaborate’, we mean serious attention to help you. It can be in the form of doing some role-playing so you could practice; or in the form of receiving coaching from someone with better experience or in the form of hands on, by your side support while confronting a situation.
#4 Create a comfortable environment
It is not just about having the courage to speak up, show up or stand up for something. It is also about preparing yourself, your surroundings and the other people involved. You need to reach a certain level of comfort in doing this. You also need to prep up in order for the other stakeholders to reach a sense of ease. As such, the overall environment has to be conducive enough.
If you want to speak up in a group meeting or class, which you have been finding difficult to do so, you need to create the environment. Start going around and get to know people. This way you start feeling less tension. More so, it will help you feel at ease and hence more relaxed when you get on the spot.
This also helps to remove fears of what others will say or think because you have been able to create rapport with the others and so the inhibitions can while away faster.
#5 Develop relationships
Apart from creating a short term rapport, you also need to look at the long term by developing a better relationship with those in the environment you want to deal with. This is important to apply especially to people whom you see are vital support or components to your personal life, career or community.
Find ways to know more about these people, in a deeper way. Learn about their personality, personal background, likes and dislikes – pretty much like opening their slum book of sorts. Find some common ground where eventually you can further develop as a common interest. Build on that.
And don’t stop there! Make follow-ups. Choose who you want to develop these long term relationships and go for them, one step at a time. Take advantage of the warm-up you have already created.
The fun way of facing this challenge is by experimenting on new things like using some do-it-yourself tools that can help you be better.
#6 Use scripts
Shy people like us are often short for words. Maybe because we were not used to it or we simply are not spontaneous.
Then that is where scripts and spiels work well. Never mind if that extrovert guy can speak naturally. He’s not the same as you and there’s no point pretending to be another person.
It is alright to prepare what you have to say. Think of how you are going to start a conversation with someone you always wanted to talk to. Think of the appropriate words to say when making a constructive feedback. Prepare potential questions in a meeting and so you can be ready with the answers.
The essence is preparation. And this does not necessarily mean that you should only do this when you are prepared long before hand. Get used to thinking of the right words to say in every difficult situation you get into. Get used to practicing the words to say. Sooner, the preparation can be fast – getting ready a day ahead will soon be an hour ahead or simply in a few seconds.
#7 Use breathing exercises
Tension is one of the biggest excuses shy people like you and me use so as not to pursue overcoming our shyness. We are simply nervous and we will never get away with it.
Just like our emotions, our body prepares when it senses the need to confront or avoid danger. Harvard’s Health Family Guide published that when we are trained or prepared for the right way to stress response, we are better off to rise to the challenges. The problem comes and often is the case for many of us, when this response is constantly provoked by less momentous day-to-day events which we have taken for granted and as such never prepared for.
The publication suggests practicing breathing focus. It helps concentrate on slow deep breathing and aids in disengaging from distracting thoughts and sensations. By spending time to practice this regularly like 10-15 minutes a day, you develop a habit that you can use momentarily when a stressful event comes.
Place one hand on chest and the other on your belly. Take a slow, deep breath, sucking in as much air as you can. As you’re doing this, you’re doing this, your belly should push against your hand. Hold your breath and then slowly exhale – Relaxation Techniques, University of Maryland Medical Center.
Get this habit and you will know how to manage yourself as this is one of the most handy tool to keep your cool and confidence.
Overcome Shyness Over and Over
The battle to over grow your shyness is not going to happen overnight. It is a constant fight. Before you know it, it is a constant practice of confidence.
Keep your attitude positive and open up your mind. It is the door to confidence. Do your homework, one step at a time. To conquer shyness, it takes one little bit of confidence- which you have inside you. Use that.
And remember to use your strategic tools and the basic ones are breathing exercises and scripts. By practicing this often, you will be off to a good start. In the next few weeks, I will talk about more useful tools to combat shyness.
But don’t wait to learn everything in order to start making that war against shyness. Start now with one step!
How do you intend to combat shyness? Are you doing anything currently to fight against this? Is there anything you want to add on to the list above? Start the conversation and you gain yourself ‘confidence points’ and at step away from shyness!
photo credit: Fayez CA