Managing and Understanding Shyness



Most people who know me are surprised to find that I’m shy.  I’m always proud when I hear that because I feel it means that I have learned to successfully manage my shyness.

What I have finally learned is why I am shy.  I’ve learned from StrengthsFinders is that I am a Relator, and that Relators tend to be shy.   Relators enjoy, and are good at, diving deep and forming intimate relationships with others.  What we are not good at, necessarily, is meeting and getting to know (initially) people.  That’s the domain of the Woo, which I am definitely not.

Shyness is often confused with extroversion.  Extroversion merely describes where you get your energy.  For example, I am an extrovert so I am energized by being with people.  A great party and I can be buzzing with energy into the wee hours, even if I went there exhausted.  So it is not uncommon for me to dread a  party due to my shyness/Relator, but then to have a blast because I’m energized by being with others.  An understandable paradox in the end, yes?  Introverts, on the other hand, gain energy by being alone.  I don’t have any statistics, though while Woos are probably less likely to be introverted, the pairing probably does occur.  Those folks will be talented at meeting people but it will tire them to do so.  They will have to recharge their batteries after a social event by having some alone time.

Now that we understand what causes/does not cause shyness, the question becomes how to manage it.  In the end, shyness is managed simply by making yourself, in incremental steps, do the thing that makes you uncomfortable.  Those things might be raising your hand in class, making eye contact with strangers or even people you know, meeting new people at a party or event, or even talking to people you don’t know well.   You can start small and work your way up.  Just say hi when passing strangers.  Once you’re comfortable with that, add a benign comment, “Nice day isn’t it?”  Then graduate to, “You’d think they’d open another cash register line, wouldn’t you?”  Pretty soon you’ll be making new friends all over town!

I was so shy that I did not even realize you’re supposed to make eye contact with people as you pass them.  Those of you who did not know that either:  now you know and now you have to think about making a change.  Evil, aren’t I?

You can also be strategic about how you approach your incremental assault on your shyness.  I’ve always found parties and events to be intimidating and would make a beeline toward people I know.  Now, I approach such events with an interest in getting to know new people.  It’s actually easier than it sounds.  My secret is to find the person in the room who looks like he wishes the earth would swallow him whole.  In other words: find the shyest person in the room and go “rescue” them from having to introduce themselves to strangers.  Not only will they be willing to talk to you, but they’ll be forever grateful you saved them.  If that’s not a great way to start to get to know someone, I don’t know what is.

I won’t pretend that the latter always works.  Some people are alone at a party because they want to be alone.  I don’t take that personally.  After all, not everyone will be drawn to my charming, engaging self!  I just move on to the next wallflower.  We’re really kindred spirits, after all.   And my Relator self will kick in if there’s any chemistry and I will have a new buddy who can rescue me at the next party that lacks wallflowers.  How awesome is that?