Shake off shyness

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 March, 2009, 12:00am

Rebecca looks forward to a party. She enjoys socialising and meeting new people. She will often be the first to introduce herself and will jump into a conversation easily. It is like that for some people. Others are more like Rebecca's friend, John. Ever since John started school, he thought of himself as quiet and shy. John takes a while to warm up to new people and situations.

Shyness is an emotion that affects how a person feels and behaves around others. Shyness can mean feeling self-conscious, nervous, timid or just uncomfortable. People who are shy may blush, and feel breathless or shaky.

If you're trying to become less shy, these are steps you can try:

Practise by taking small, steady steps
It isn't any wonder that people who avoid socialising don't feel as confident as people who are outgoing - they have less practice!
Practise social skills like eye contact and body language. Train yourself to do introductions, make small talk and ask questions. You can invite the people you feel most comfortable with to join you in your practice. Then you can try it with new friends.

Just for starters

Often, the hardest part of talking to someone new is getting started. Think of conversation openers, like introducing yourself ('Hi, I'm Sarah, we're in the same maths class'), giving a compliment ('That jacket looks great on you'), or asking a question ('Do you know when our assignment is due?'). Being ready with a conversation starter makes it easier to approach someone.

Rehearsals can make a difference

When you're ready to try something you've been avoiding because of shyness - like a phone call or a conversation - write down what you want to say beforehand. Rehearse it out loud, maybe even in front of a mirror. Then just do it. Don't worry if it's not perfect. Be proud that you gave it a go. Next time it'll be even better because it will be easier.

Give yourself a chance

Find activities where you can be with people who share your interests. Give yourself a chance to practise socialising with these new people, and get to know them slowly. People who are shy often worry about failing or how others will judge them. Encourage yourself instead of expecting to fail.

You can speak up for yourself

Because shy people can be overly concerned about how others react, they don't want to make anyone unhappy. Being assertive means speaking up for yourself, asking for what you want or need, and telling others when they've upset you.

Most of all, be yourself. It's okay to try out different conversational approaches you see others using. But be mindful of what fits your style. Being the real you - and daring to let yourself be noticed - is what attracts friends.