When I was shy, I didn’t talk very much in conversations, especially with people I didn’t know well. So I often received comments and questions like: “You don’t talk much” or “Why don’t you participate in the conversation?”
I remember that these kinds of remarks and questions made feel very uncomfortable and I didn’t know how to react to them. I didn’t like being shy, and I liked it even less when people realized that I was shy.
Then, coaching shy people for a living, I discovered that almost every shy person deals with such situations and they don’t know how to handle them effectively. So I’d like to share some practical idea with you and clarify what you can do when people say you don’t talk very much.
Do Not Get Defensive or Try To Be Witty
Usually, when a person gets told they don’t talk very much, their first impulse is to justify themselves. They will go into this elaborate and often phony explanation designed to prevent them from appearing shy because they don’t talk much.
Unfortunately, others typically see right through such explanations. And the very fact that you’re trying to defend yourself so hard is the first indication that the comment bothered you, which is a sign of insecurity in itself.
Other times they will try to be witty and deliver some sort of clever comeback. This is typically doomed to fail as well. As you may have experienced yourself, it is seldom that you manage to be witty when you’re put on the spot by somebody and you feel emotional pressure.
Defending yourself and trying to be witty are both anxiety-generated, approval-seeking reactions, and believe me, they do very little for you. Here is a much better alternative.
Just Provide a Basic Answer
I found that when someone tells you that you don’t talk much, the best answer is a short, simple one. Something like “Yeah, sometimes I’m not in the mood to talk” or “I just don’t have anything to say right now” is enough.
You’re still explaining yourself, but you’re not over-explaining yourself so it doesn’t come off as needy or defensive. Most importantly, by giving just a basic answer, you’re not making a big deal out of this whole thing. You give a basic reply to a basic question, and you move on.
In my experience, this is by far the best approach. The other person will take the answer you provided, be satisfied with it, and continue participating in the social interaction.
It’s even okay to admit that you’re a bit shy. Other people actually have a lot of understanding towards shy people. Not pity, as many shy persons assume; understanding.
And even if they may not seem like it, they are shy to some extend as well. Or they may have been in the past. Understanding that you’re shy typically encourages them to be supportive towards you, which is the best response to help you get out of your shell in social situations.
Focus On Overcoming Your Shyness Not On Hiding It
Overall, I feel that focusing on making others think you are social when you really aren’t is counterproductive. Your priority should be to learn to be more outgoing socially (which you can do), rather than managing how others see you.
Interestingly enough, the moment when you stop caring too much about comments like “you don’t talk much” is when you start to be more talkative and so you get less of these comments. It means you’ve begun to not fear disapproval, a fear that’s at the root of shyness and social anxiety.
So, focus on learning to see yourself in a better light, on overcoming your limiting beliefs and on building social skills. This is what will make you more confident socially and more talkative.
This approach helps you deal with the primary issue, which is the fact you’re shy, not the secondary one, which is the fact people see you as shy.
Shyness is not a disease; it’s not even a defect necessarily. But it is a thorny behavioral and emotional habit that can make it very hard to relate to others and make you miss out on a lot in life. And thus it’s the core issue to deal with.
Work on dealing with your shyness, using proven psychological tools, and the multiple problems derived from shyness (such as pesky remarks from other people) will naturally disappear.
Image courtesy of jontintinjordan