Research shows that shyness is maintained through a vicious cycle , where shy people approach the social situation, feel the excessive fear of negative evaluation, then avoid the situation, which initially provides relief, however, this often leads to feelings of shame and guilt. In order to deal with these feelings, negative emotions can turn into anger and guilt towards others, where others can be seen as insensitive or unbearable, which further reinforces the desire to avoid. Given that “social skills” , like any other skill set, is something that develops over time, the prevention of social situations can lead to being socially “out of shape.” 1
- Differences between Shyness and Social Phobia
- 6 Things Shy People Hate
- Shyness: Introversion, Advantages, Social Phobia and Avoidant Personality Disorder
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Below are some ways you can increase your social fitness:
1. Making successful plans
Shyness, unlike introversion , which is associated with being quiet and reserved, is characterized by a strong tendency to overestimate negative control. There is a tremendous fear that others will evaluate you in a negative way, and therefore a good deal of thinking in a social environment is spent on how not to do something wrong, rather than how to do something right.
A good way to reduce your anxiety is to spend more time thinking about what you could do to make your social situation a success. If you are concerned with making small conversations, ask some questions that help to generate some interesting topics – What are some current events that I could bring? What has happened recently in my life that I feel comfortable sharing? What do I have in common with the other people who will be there?
Exposing yourself to your fear is the best way to overcome it, however, it is also important to feel that you are in control. If you know you have an exit strategy for the worst case scenario, then you will not feel trapped.
2. Be curious about others
The first principle of Dale Carnegie’s legendary book, ” How to make friends and influence people “, is to become genuinely interested in other people . He bases this point on the writings of Alfred Adler , a colleague of Sigmund Freud and creator of Individual Psychology , who wrote: “It is the individual who is not interested in his companions who has the greatest difficulties in life.”
For shy people the focus in any social environment is often on itself. Try to take the focus off yourself and instead focus on being curious about others. Who are they and why are they there? What are your interests and hobbies? This gives you something different to focus on and helps to generate conversations. Everyone has a story to tell, find out what it is and then sit back and listen. People love to talk about you. The way to be the most interesting person in the room is to meet other interesting people.
3. Give yourself a role
Many of the socially shy people I have worked with are successful individuals, such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and business owners. They often comment on how confident they feel at work, but as soon as they get into a situation where their role is not defined by their work they lose their self-confidence.
Having a role gives you a sense of purpose and guidelines for how you should behave . Most people in any environment want to feel liked and accepted. As another strategy to take the focus off of myself, I ask my clients to give themselves the role of making other people feel the way they would like to feel. As part of your plan for the situation to be successful, choose a job for yourself, for example, “is it my job to help people feel interesting or loved, or“ is it my job to make people feel good- welcome ”.
4. Soften your internal dialogue.
Shy people are often highly critical of themselves and their inner dialogue is often very harsh. They say things to themselves that they would never dare to say to other people. When you judge yourself harshly, you are more likely to think that others will judge you in the same way. Your internal critic can cause a lot of emotional damage, it robs you of your peace of mind and self-esteem.
The best way to defeat the inner critic is to have an even stronger ally on your side. You need to grow an inner voice that acts like your own best friend. To do this, it is important to start realizing the good things about yourself and learn to talk to the inner critic. When your internal critic begins to blame you for being afraid, remember that there is not a single person on this planet who likes rejection, but somehow everyone can survive it, sometimes. When your inner critic begins to tell you that no one will ever like you, remember that liking yourself is what matters most. By learning to talk to yourself in a more gentle way, social situations will not have as much power to hurt you, because you will not be punishing yourself.
Shyness is something that doesn’t have to defeat you. Every social situation you put yourself in is a mini-workout of social skills. The more you do it, the better you will be. If your shyness is more severe, there are very effective treatments for social anxiety that include therapies and, in some cases, medication. So if you feel you can benefit, it may be in your best interest to consult with a psychologist or psychiatrist.