Full disclosure – much of this content I’m “borrowing” from my mentor, Master Coach Instructor Brooke Castillo from the Life Coach School.  If you follow Brooke, I encourage you to listen to her podcast of the same name, episode #203.  If you don’t follow her, this is a great podcast with which to start.

Before we dive in, let’s define shyness.  Simply put, it is nervousness around people, particularly new people.

Would you be surprised to know that 40-45% of people describe themselves as shy?  Most people feel alone in their shyness but nearly half the population has the same experience.

The cause of shyness is excessive self-focus – usually some type of worrying thoughts like “She won’t like me”, “I don’t know what to say” or “I don’t belong”.

This is the result of your “primitive brain” sensing danger in the unfamiliarity of a new environment and new people.

Does it make sense now that you would feel nervous, anxious and worried in these situations?

So what’s a guy to do?

First, understand where YOUR shyness comes from.  When you’re expecting to be in a social situation, what thoughts are going through your mind?

Just knowing the thoughts that generate your negative emotions is a great first step.  Don’t try to change anything just yet – merely take notice of the mechanism driving these feelings.

Next, consider how you want to be in these situations.

Here’s an example – “I want to be engaged and friendly at this party”.

By setting your mindset on who you want to be, rather than what you fear, it forces your mind to shift to a new way of looking at a situation.

One of the best strategies to counteract shyness is to shift your focus to the other person – essentially giving your mind something else to focus on, rather than yourself.

Here’s one way to do that – ask questions – take an interest in the other person.

You can do this when breaking the ice – introduce yourself first then ask a question – “Hi, I’m Alan.  What’s your name?”

I know.  For some people this is totally obvious but if you feel shy at a party and don’t know how to engage with someone, this is one of the best ways to do that.

A key to asking questions is asking good questions (i.e open-ended questions).  These often begin with “what” or “how”.

Here’s an example.

Other person: “I grew up in the country.”

You: “Really?  I’m a city guy.  What was it like growing up in the country?”

Just being curious about the other person can generate a good open-ended question.  That makes it much easier for the other person to respond.

Remember, everyone wants to be liked.  If you take an interest in them by asking questions, they will more likely want to talk with you.

Another technique is to link questions after you answer someone else’s question.

Here’s an example.

Other person: “Where are you from?”

You: “Valley Stream.  I grew up in the suburbs but then we moved a couple of times.  It really gave me a sense early on of meeting new people and making friends.  Where are you from?”

You give some “color”, deepening the conversation then lob it back to them like a game of tennis.  This keeps the conversation going.

Last point – eye contact.  Most shy people have difficulty maintaining it.  Their eyes dart around and the other person gets distracted by it and feels uncomfortable.

If you find yourself doing this, a good technique is to count the number of times they blink.  This helps keep your eyes on them and will lead to a better connection.

Breaking the cycle of shyness comes down to improving social skills, which CAN be learned.  It just requires practice.  Hopefully some of these techniques help.

The biggest takeaway though is your mindset – shifting it away from your nervous thoughts and on to the other person, just by being curious about them.

If you can manage your mind to focus on the other person and acknowledging their need to be loved, it will take the pressure off your mind, which, if left unchecked, will revert back to yourself and your fears.

 

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