I don’t like meeting new people. I just don’t. The truth is I am shy, and meeting new people makes me nervous. Unfortunately, I have chosen a career that demands I meet new people all the time. I am constantly working with new teams, new vendors, and being the trainer for a class filled with people I don’t know. If I wanted to succeed in my careers, then I needed to overcome my shyness. I needed to be able to network without the nervousness.
Maybe you don’t feel it to the degree I do, but most likely you have felt shy at least a couple of times in the past. In fact, research has shown that 98% of people have felt admitted that they have felt shy at one point or another. That means almost everyone you know feels shy in certain times and situations. And that also means that people are being hindered personally or professionally because they feel nervous and uncomfortable. Imagine what you could do with your social life or your career if you didn’t let shyness slow you down.
Analyzing your Shyness
The first step to improving something is to truly understand what it is, and this means you need to understand what is at the root of your shyness. Thankfully the Mindgym have built a good questionnaire to understand the root of your shyness.
At each question there will be four options (A-D), and you will need to rate each of the four options using a 1-5 scale (1= never true, 2 = rarely true, 3 = sometimes true, 4 = mostly true, and 5 = always true).
I am at ease when:
A) ____ = I know what is expected of me
B) ____ = I’m just having a casual chat
C) ____ = I am with someone who is happy to dominate the conversation
D) ____ = No one is looking
At a dinner party I am likely to:
A) ____ = Ask the host how I can help and spend most of the night in
B) ____ = Deflect the conversation on others by asking a lot of
C) ____ = Rely on everyone else to keep the conversation going
D) ____ = Worry about whether I am making a good impression
I am unnerved by:
A) ____ = Having to think on my feet
B) ____ = Being asked questions that are too personal
C) ____ = Witty banter
D) ____ = An audience
When in conversations with others I tend to:
A) ____ = Stick to topics I know
B) ____ = Keep the conversations light
C) ____ = Not know what to say
D) ____ = Wonder what they are thinking about me
My great strengths are:
A) ____ = Being fully prepared
B) ____ = Independence
C) ____ = Modesty
D) ____ = Spotting when something is wrong
The trait that I least like in others is
A) ____ = Inconsistency
B) ____ = Being intrusive
C) ____ = Impatience
D) ____ = Judging people
Others probably don’t know that I:
A) ____ = Am not as confident as I appear
B) ____ = Feel nervous about letting people get too close to me
C) ____ = Want to be outgoing, but find it hard to express myself
D) ____ = Am always worried about making a fool of myself
I am likely to think:
A) ____ = I need to get a grip on this situation
B) ____ = Don’t stand so close to me
C) ____ = Still waters run deep
D) ____ = If only….
Others are likely to describe me as:
A) ____ = Controlling
B) ____ = Guarded
C) ____ = Timid
D) ____ = Distracted
What keeps me awake at night?
A) ____ = Not feeling ready for tomorrow
B) ____ = Having spoken too freely earlier today
C) ____ = All of the things I should have said but didn’t
D) ____ = Something I did that was really embarrassing
Now Sum up the totals for the 4 options
A = ____ B = _____ C = _____ D = _____
The 4 root causes of being shy
If A is greater than 35 points = Needing Control
- Definition – People with high A scores have a well defined comfort zone. Within that comfort zone the person may appear confident, strong willed, and engaging with everyone. But as soon as you take that person out of their comfort zone, they feel shy and withdrawn. Usually the comfort zone is structured around a specific role, like being the “teacher” or the “boss”. For example, I have type A shyness. When I am facilitating a training session or leading a meeting I connect with everyone, and have a very strong presence. But when I am at a party or even at a business networking event, I can pull back from meeting new people and feel uncomfortable.
- What to do about it – Type A shyness revolves around comfort zones, and this means improving Type A shyness requires you to expand your comfort zones. Before you start expanding your comfort zones, you need to understand them. Think about where you most feel comfortable, and in what role. What situations make it easier for you to interact with others, and what situations make it harder? Once you know where you feel comfortable, find some situations that are on the border of your comfort zone, and spend some time there. Spending time at the edge of your comfort zone will slowly start expanding it, and eventually you will need to find the new edge of your comfort zone. Baby step by baby step you can overcome your situational shyness.
If B is greater than 35 points = Lacking Trust
- Definition – Type B shyness stems from a lack of trust in other people. They are afraid they are going to get hurt by other people if they get too close to them. In essence, they think its better to limit all relationships just so they can avoid the bad ones. Most often this comes from past experiences of bullying, rejection, or neglect. They have been hurt in the past, and that is the reason they want to avoid being hurt now.
- What to do about it – In order to overcome Type B shyness, you need to let others in. But this doesn’t mean that you need to share all of your secrets with everyone you meet. Letting others in can be done step by step. Start by opening yourself up more to your close friends. Share some of the aspects of your life that they don’t know yet. Use these experiences as momentum towards opening yourself up to your broader network. When talking with colleagues, or newer friends, share a personal secret or a time you made a mistake. This will help you overcome Type B shyness, and, in addition, research has shown that people feel closer to people who share personal foibles as opposed to people who do not share anything. At a basic level we love our friends because of both their strengths and their flaws.
If C is greater than 35 points = Inhibition
- Definition – At the root of type C shyness is a fear of judgement. These people are afraid of what others are going to think about them, and that causes them to pull
back. Sometimes the fear of judgement is because we are trying to hide something, like a different sexual preference, a different social up bringing, or even different hobbies (a man preferring dancing ballet over playing sports). Sometimes the fear comes from labels of our past (in high school I was labeled a nerd), or our desires to create a new persona that is different from our ‘real’ (I want my colleagues to see me as casual and care free, but really I am nervous most of the time). People with type C shyness usually have a close circle of friends where they are uninhibited, and free to be who they are. The shyness starts when they interact with people outside that circle.
- What to do about it – The first thing to do to overcome this type of shyness is to always remember that judgements say more about the other person then they do about you. The second thing to remember is that not everyone will like you. No one is 100% loved by everyone. Even Mother Theresa had her detractors, and people who thought she was selfish and using poverty as way to grow an empire. The final thing to remember is that there will be a lot more people who will accept you without judgements, and those are the people you should be focusing on. Fear of being judged by some jerks is preventing you from building relationships with the rest of us.
If D is greater than 35 points = Self-Criticism
- Definition – Self criticism is the main reason behind type D shyness. These people have a constant inner monologue running through their heads judging their own clothes, their words, and how they are interacting with others. And when they aren’t obsessing about what embarrassing things they have done wrong, they are obsessing about how they can avoid embarrassing themselves in the future. They fear that other people are seeing all these horrible things, and are judging them. But in reality, most of these ’embarrassing’ things are just in the person’s head, and everyone else really hasn’t noticed.
- What to do about it – People with type D shyness have to quiet the inner critic. There is no way you will think other people will like you, if you are constantly telling yourself how dislikable you are. One of the easier ways to quiet your inner voice is to focus on external things. In essence you need to distract yourself from yourself. For example, instead of obsessing about the next thing you will say, ask the other person a question and try and 100% focus on their answer. Mentally it is almost impossible to have an inner monologue while you are 100% focused on listening to the other person.
Overcoming shyness so you can be a better
The majority of people have felt shy in one situation or another, but for some people their shyness can hinder their success. Shyness hinders your ability to form new relationships, and its very few people in the world that don’t need to be constantly building relationships with their customers, their colleagues, their vendors, or their regulators. That doesn’t that you have to be an extrovert to be successful. It just means that you cannot let shyness stop you from succeeding.
I would also like to give credit to the company who is the inspiration source of research for this series on conflict. I have had the pleasure to work with the international training company Mind Gym, which specializes in integrating best in class practices, science, and energetic activities into 90 minute training modules. You might not think you can learn a lot in 90 minutes, but you would be wrong. Mind Gym has created some of the best material I have ever worked with, and that is based on my experience leading the training and development for 2 Fortune 500 companies. Their website in http://us.themindgym.com/home/