How to Overcome Shyness

Almost fifty percent of people describe themselves as shy. If it didn’t have such dire consequences on ones life, shyness would almost be a fashionable thing. However, it does have bad effects and this is why knowing how to overcome shyness is important.

Finding the Needle in the Haystack

5564080702 cbfee00e9e How to Overcome ShynessDo a search on the web for ‘how to overcome shyness’ and you’ll discover thousands of articles and ten times more tips on this topic. Try to put them into practice and sadly, you’ll also discover that much of the advice on how to overcome shyness is vague, impractical or just plain wrong.

Doing social confidence coaching with people with shyness, I’ve realized that there’re only a handful of ideas and techniques which provide consistent and powerful results in overcoming shyness. I want to share the most effective ones with you.

Overcoming Shyness Starts with Stretching

No, not physical stretching, but emotional. Here’s the thing: it is common for us human beings to stick to doing what is easy and comfortable for us. Thus, many shy people, because they don’t feel comfortable around other people, will tend to isolate themselves.

They will spend many hours alone, watching TV, playing computer games and secretly fantasizing about a better social life. This only works against them because it reinforces their shyness and makes the people skills they may have atrophy.

Learning how to overcome shyness starts with doing the opposite: gradually getting more out of the house, exposing yourself more to social situations and interacting more with people. Since this may feel uncomfortable at first, it’s a form of emotional stretching.

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Stretching yourself and interacting more with people works great because it gets you used to social situations and the social anxiety starts to drop. Also, your people skills steadily improve and that’s how to gain confidence.

Get Some Accurate Feedback

Working with shy people or people with an inferiority complex, I often notice that they have a hugely distorted image of themselves and how they come across to others. They usually think they are weird and that other people realize this in the very first seconds of talking with them.

If you are somewhat shy, getting some accurate feedback about your social persona from other people will be highly valuable for you in overcoming shyness. It will help you get your feet on the ground by realizing you’re an OK person.

What you basically do is ask a number of people who know you and trust about the way they see you. You can ask them a few questions about the qualities and the flaws they see in you, about the first impression you create and so on.

You can ask them all of this in a relaxed conversation, or you can request them to give you feedback using an anonymous feedback form. Feel free to test various methods.

Cut Down Mind-Reading

Mind-reading is the process of trying to figure out what a person thinks or how they feel by reading subtle cues in their behavior, words, voice tone or body language.

However, since these signals are hard to interpret accurately and shy people often exaggerate in their interpretations, this process is a lot like trying to read other peoples’ minds and it provides grossly inaccurate results.

If you want to overcome shyness, you’ve got to realize that you can’t read other peoples’ minds and that whatever interpretations you’re making of each small gesture are probably wrong. As you do so, you can move on to consciously reducing your mind-reading and thus overcoming your shyness.

Learn To Let Go Of Perfectionism

The final part of the answer to the question “How to overcome shyness?” has to do with changing your self-imposed standards.

Make sure to check out my free conversation confidence guide for more details on solving this issues, as well as as how to transform into an authentic and  confident person in social settings. Get it here.

Shy people tend to be insanely perfectionist. They ask of themselves to come across as ideal and they have a low tolerance for people not liking them or not approving of them. If you want to enjoy social interactions more, abandoning such absurd standards is a must.

Now, notice that I didn’t say “let go of perfectionism”, I said “learn to let go”. This is because it’s a process. It will call for identifying your perfectionist social expectations as they manifest in your habitual thinking, then addressing them by changing your thinking in a conscious manner.

By the way, I have a free social confidence guide for you that will teach you how to do this and overcome shyness.

A Systemic Approach

Overall, overcoming shyness effectively takes not only the right pieces of advice and techniques, but also applying them in a systemic style. This implies:

  • Setting gradual personal development goals for yourself;
  • Working on them daily and rewarding yourself;
  • Persisting and getting back on track if you quit;
  • Mixing the internal cognitive change with the external behavioral change.

As you do so, you will see gradual progress and the occasional leaps forward. You will rewrite your map of the world and your social habits. As a result, you will experience more social freedom and a richer social life. That’s how to overcome shyness the successful way.

Image courtesy of fanfan2145

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Comments

  1. I find that sometimes you gotta have some emotional intelligence if you want to overcome shyness. Learn to understand that most ppl don’t really care if you screw up, or make a fool of yourself. Because they aren’t thinking about u, they’re thinking about themselves. Every minute of their lives is spent on worrying about their career, their relationship, their kids, their health… but NOT you.

    • I think emotional intelligence is a big component of overcoming shyness. People who have a high EQ have a knack for spotting the real effects their social behaviors have, which helps them to be expressive and also well calibrated socially.

  2. Hello Eduard,
    This is so true. I love what you said about mind reading – we never know what other people are thinking – no matter how much we think we do, we are often wrong!
    I think starting small is imperative – even if the start is just having a two line chat with a cashier about the weather, that can lead to new discussions being much easier.

    • That two line chat you mention Kate is actually an exercise I give some of my clients who want to overcome shyness. It’s a simple step forward and in the long run small steps like this one create big results.

  3. Another quote of the day:
    “The art of living lies less in eliminating our troubles than in growing with them.” – Bernard Baruch
    and: “Be bold. If you’re going to make an error, make a doozey, and don’t be afraid to hit the ball.” – Billie Jean King

    I know that: “many shy people, because they don’t feel comfortable around other people, will tend to isolate themselves”. This is the worst thing to do, because a shy person usually has a distorted image not only of himself, but also of what the others are thinking about him.

  4. You have some great tips here, Eduard. Perfectionism leads to diminished self confidence; and its difficult to let go around others when you have very little confidence in yourself.

  5. That’s fab Eduard, I think it’s ok to vocalise it too. To tell people you’re shy. Have you ever seen that film hitch with Will Smith where he’s the dating coach? He you can’t use what you don’t have…so if you’re shy, be shy, etc…

    • Hitch. I did see it. A bit corny from my perspective, but an enjoyable movie nonetheless with a couple of smart soundbites from Will Smith.

      I believe a bit of shyness can be kind of cute, so if it doesn’t stop you from talking with people, you can make it work for you. However, keep in mind I’m talking about a small, tiny bit.

  6. i use to have problems talking to people over the phone. Which is weird since i never have problems talking to people in person. It’s seems as though me not being able to have eye contact affects my train of thought and have tendencies of being really nervous and anxious.

    • It is a bit weird. I think it’s probably the lack of visual cues that makes you anxious. The feedback, you receive via phone is truncated so you feel you don’t really know how the other person is really reacting to what you’re saying. Uncertainty is a serial killer ;)

  7. Hi Eduard!

    Great advice!

    I guess accountability could be part of this process as well. For example, when you plan your steps to get out of shyness, you should be accountable to someone, so that you actually implement those steps.

    • Solid point Timo. Sticking to the actual change process is probably the most important aspect and accountability plays a big role in this. That’s how to overcome shyness effectively. Personally, I find coaching to be a very good tool for helping others stay accountable for their personal development. That’s one of the reasons why I like it so much.

  8. Hi, I really enjoyed reading this from you Eduard. I am a very very shy person indeed, but what it is im so shy about is blushing! I blush alot, sometimes just thinking about blushing in social situations makes me blush! As a young child i was shy but as i reached around 8years old i started to over come this and was a very happy energetic child with lots of friends. But as i reached about 12-13 i found myself blushing towards everything. All my class friends started to notice this and they found it very amusing and funny. I then started to get such social anxiety id have full blown panic attacks. I now 22 and its still the same. somedays i find it a real struggle just leaving the house to go to work. I am thinking about taking up Cognetive Behavioural Therapy would this be of much help?

    • Hi Shanie,

      Blushing a lot in social situations is just a particular symptom of shyness. Some people have it, some don’t. My advice is to not focus especially on this and to focus on overcoming shyness instead. As you become more comfortable dealing with people, the blushing will go away as well.

  9. I feel like I ought to chime in here since my personal experience is highly relevant to Shanie.

    I have a long-running problem with blushing and social anxiety. Over the years, I became less shy and more confident as a person, and most people thought I was doing better. But in certain situations the blushing and anxiety persisted, and I was constantly on medication to control the resulting depression. It limited everything from my ability to have intimate relationships through to the jobs that I could do.

    A doctor recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and refered me to a good clinical psychologist. It was hard work and not cheap, but it was one of the best things I have ever done. I’m not completely cured, but I don’t blush too much anymore and don’t worry about it too much if I do. I am not exaggerating when I say it changed my life.

    For my situation, CBT was the best thing for me. Shanie, I don’t know your exact circumstances, but the situation you describe sounds like CBT would be appropriate. While expensive, CBT is most unlikely to be harmful. I’d say give it a go.

    Sorry to disagree with you on your blog Eduard – I agree with most of what you said and found it a useful prompt for me as I’m heading out to face a social situation right now. But I’ve been where Shanie is and I needed professional help.

    • Hey Bess,

      I think CBT simply rules! I use mostly CBT techniques when I work with people who want to gain more confidence. (including shy people). Like you said: it’s hard work for the client, not cheap, but a great decision overall.

  10. Hey eddy , its all right with what u say man … but the real problem starts when a shy person actually tries following the above tips since saying something and then trying to do it are two different things, right ?

    i feel that to overcome the above problem a person needs to accept that he is shy and he must confide his shyness to any person he trusts[friends , parents ]. this will not only help the person on focussing to overcome his shyness , but it will also remove the loneliness that a shy person experiences . confiding in someone not only helps the shy guy relieve some of his self critical burden … . in such cases the person [on whom the shy person confides] may also give the shy person the courage , will power and determination to change himself . hope you agree with my insights and looking forward to all of you pplz comments …..

    • Hey Ashkin,

      Yeah, like most attitude transformation, overcoming shyness is easier said than done. It’s one thing to know the blueprint conceptually, it’s another to apply it effectively and consistently. That’s what I’m here for ;)

  11. Good post,

    Awkwardness around people can be overcome. It does takes motivation.

    I believe a key component of mastering people skills is learning how to more easily make conversation.

    Difficulty thinking of things to talk about is one reason shy people are anxious around other people. Fortunately there are ways that you can improve your conversational skills.

    An important way is to keep up with the news. It also helps to think up topics of conversation before entering the social situation, such as a party. And, of course, showing interest in others is also important. It helps to truly listen to what the other person is saying.

    • Hi Tim,

      Practice makes perfect I always say. Get it wrong at first, but keep practicing and keep improving. That’s how you overcome shyness and improve conversation skills.

  12. Waddup Eduard! Im a 15 year old in high school right now so life is full of changes. Each day at school, i see all of these people in the hallways, the commons and they are having loads of fun. Then i am too afraid to go up and talk to them. Also, i often view myself as someone who really needs to improve social skills. Like on stories for example. This makes me jealous of people who seem to “get it” so easily. One last thing. Some people like to pick on me and call me names. How do i take care of these haterz. By the way im not some shrimp. I weight train and am strong. Like the gentle giant

    • Hey Colin,

      I think you may need to improve your social confidence more than your social skills. There’s not much to making conversation if you learn to relax is social settings, to be outgoing and some fundamental conversational skills.

      As for people picking on you: they’re probably sensing your insecurity and they prey on it. For now, try not to make a big deal out of it and focus on boosting your social confidence.

  13. Maryln says:

    OMG THIS IS SOOOOO ME. I find it a bit ironic how every sentence in this article directly applies to me. How odd, i feel like this could be a widespread disease that hasn’t been discovered just yet. Who knows…

  14. I used to be very shy.This has rubbed me of many good things of life.But i got over when I invested my time and money on improving my communication skills.Today,I can talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

  15. This makes sense, all of these apply to me me…. I will try it then give feedback. Thankyou so much :D

  16. Ever since i first started geting acne in the 9th grade, i started avoiding social contact, I still had girls that wanted me but i was so ashamed of myself that i would come off as if i really didnt want to talk to anyone which is not what i wanted, after that i got dug into a bigger hole and its just now in my senior year im trying to fix this, my forhead tenses up in social situations when i meet new people and causes me to feel like my face is red and ashamed. I am ashamed of myself to my own parents, the depression of all this put me in a hole and i gave up on everything, and it would make me even more depressed knowing i was ruining my life. I can talk to girls easier than guys but i always just have 1 month relationships and idk if its cause i talk to them too much or what, i have never really had that “feeling” for girls for like 3 years, ive just been using them to fill the void

  17. You talk about interacting with people more. But that is exactly my problem. How do you do that? I simply don’t know how. I try to get out more, and going to events where there may be opportunities to interact, but I end up sitting alone in a corner. I have no idea how to approach people and start a conversation.

    I need practical advice, but I have never found anything useful

    • I have the same problem and it is really bothering me and holding me back with making conversations with friends that i already have! ask my husband and he will say i come across as the most confident person he knows but put me in a one to one conversation and i kind of freeze and wonder what the hell to say! i may start with small talk but cant seem to take it beyond that and i panic so much as i am trying to talk that i struggle with eye contact and i get paranoid so much of what the other person is thinking as i am speaking that i am constantly holding myself back and worrying what others think. It is probably so obvious to them that i am shy and have nothing to say! i what others talk so freely and confidently and i envey them so much! i just sem to surface talk and never allow myself to get into a meaningful conversation.

      I am a happily married lady with a gorgeous house, lovely kids and a great life but i am so fed up with myself for not being able to speak with people!!!!

  18. Your tips are useful.i have been having this shyness problem and it has prevented me much in my life.i just want to say thanks for ur tips.i will put it in practice.

  19. Recently read a great concept I really liked: “Shyness is pride”

    It’s the idea that you’re shy because you care what people think, and you’re proud because you care.

    A lot of us are just born with the likelihood of being shy and suffer from low self esteem but that doesn’t mean we don’t have pride as well which contributes.

  20. Hi all, read everything and it’s all great advice i would like to implement. However, i just don’t know what to make of it. Im half asian and half british, and i feel more comfortable when im in asia than being in england or foreign places and the people there (europeans for the most part). Im shy but not excessively shy. I stutter a lot when i speak and not very clear. I get nervous and anxious. I think i am to self conscious of what others perceive me as and think to much in social situations.
    When im alone i sometimes talk to myself and point out what my problems are but i never get round to fixing them. I feel great for correcting myself when im alone, but when im in another social situation, i go back being shy to interactions and stutter in my reactions and feel like a total dick…
    Conversation is my worst nightmare… I think i need to work on that the most as I think its causing most of the problems.

    Help?

    • MichaelC says:

      I read your comment, and almost felt like you were talking about me. I’m half Japanese, half American, I stutter, and I have lots of trouble with conversation. I’m not sure if I would be more comfortable socially in Japan since I have not been there in eight years, but I have a feeling that I might, especially considering that I feel so much more comfortable talking to Japanese people (in Japanese of course). Maybe that’s just because Asian cultures value introversion over extroversion, so I feel less set apart from the social ideal. There have been many times where I’ve resolutely declared, “today is the day I’ll begin to work on my speaking skills,” but those resolutions were solely mental, as they are at this moment while I peruse the articles on this site. Every time I go out with some kind of goal for self-improvement, like starting one conversation with someone, regardless of how simple, I end up feeling paralyzed and kept from action. Just like you, I find the information in this article practicable, but based on these past experiences, I’m not sure if I can really carry it out. Maybe the same question asked twice will prompt someone to respond. I wish I could offer some help, but I’m just in the same boat as you right now.

    • Tomas, I recommend you join my Social Confidence Newsletter, where I share more detailed advice on how to implement this stuff: http://socialconfidencesecrets.com

      You can overcome your shyness. Your race and your context are not an obstacle. You just need the proper guidance and to apply it consistently.

  21. hie this was quite an interesting piece that got me thinking, well ive discovered that being shy would just do me no good but i will lose out on too many opportunities that come my way and thereby i declare myself as ”confidence” from today onwards no more shyness. thank you so much for the article and it has helped me help other people who could not overcome their shyness.
    thanks

    Liara

  22. I dont feel comfortable around many people I m very shy n like to be alone most of the time .
    whenever I try to socialize im left nothing to talk within few mins.
    I never had a gf every girl ignores me most of d time

  23. I became a computer programmer bcos of shyness. im always alone with my computer. i don’t go to Parties, Church or any place where there is a lot of people. i need to get rid of these shyness bcos i cant meet my goals. just like every body here i always feel dizzy as if my head is spinning any time im in a party, im always kind and i try not to hurt people infact i prefer people to hurt me instead, i am tall and people say im handsome, so my whole life ive never stopped a girl on the road and ask for her number. every time i read a solution i feel better but once i go out there its always the same. not even alcohol can save my situation. if i take too much alcohol i fall asleep, if i take enough to stay awake, the alcohol effect completely wares off once im in a meeting or business conference. the same thing goes for marijuana etc. i always run away from relationship for no reason. Im 30.

    There is something ive noticed, it seems like every other person i know with the same problem as me have one form of acne or bacteria infection probably from birth. i would love for every one to post their health status while commenting, maybe we can find our own cure.

    I have Geographical Tongue i started noticing it from 14 yrs and i have tried all kind of anti fungi and anti bacterias on it. it is hardly noticable.

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