I am 28 and recently discovered I was shy. It may seem strange, but I
had never been aware of this fact. I only found out I when I began to
suspect I might be, and asked friends if they agreed. They told me I
wasn't simply shy, but that I was chronically shy. All I had ever
been aware of was there where some things I disliked doing, and so I
simply tried to avoid doing them. Things like:
- ordering drinks in a bar or food in a restaurant
- talking to people I didn't already know
- leaving messages on answering machines
- asking for assistance in shops
- phoning people up
I never sat down and thought why I disliked and tried to avoid doing
these things. Instead I just spent my time doing the things I
If it is true we learn the most when we make the biggest mistakes then
in the last six months I have learnt a lot. My shyness and poor
communication skills recently got me into a lot of trouble. I made a
very bad mistake. I don't ever want to make a mistake like this
again. It gave me the motivation to confront and I hope overcome my
Why I am shy
I looked back at my life to try and figure out why I am shy. Three
different factors have contributed to my shyness:
People that know me don't have any real problems understanding me,
but many people have some difficulty when they first meet me. I
have a less than 50% chance of being understood when I attempt to
order something in a restaurant.
I don't think there is any one cause for this, rather it is a
mixture of accent, diction, pronunciation, pitch, pace, and volume.
Here is a conversation I had today with someone I don't know, but
that lives in the same apartment complex as me while checking my
Her: Looks like I have got lots of
Me: : I didn't get very much ...
I guess that's good, no bills!
Her: You didn't get what?
Me: I didn't get any bills today.
Her: I didn't quite catch what you
said ... it is a little noisy in
I just said, I didn't get any
I don't owe anybody any money!
Her: Oh, yes ok.
This happens to me all the time.
It is embarrassing for a simple friendly comment to build up
like this. We both felt particularly embarrassed because what was
said wasn't even important. My efforts to try and be friendly
failed badly. I don't know, but I suspect next time she sees me
she will probably not attempt to make any small talk. Nor
will I, it is just too embarrassing.
I used to go out of my way to avoid meeting or talking with
unfamiliar people. I always knew I didn't like talking to people
I didn't already know well, but I had never stopped to think why,
to think that perhaps my discomfort was the result of the
difficulty people had understanding me.
It was embarrassing for both them and me. I subconsciously
learnt it was more comfortable to interact with people in the
Her: Looks like I have got lots of
Me: Yes, ok.
This is sad. I think people often think of me as cold or
unfriendly, but I care about people, and I just wish this wasn't
the impression I conveyed.
Some people build themselves up by knocking other people down. As
a child people would make fun of my accent and the way I spoke.
This made me dislike speaking, and want to speak to people as
little as possible. I retreated
into my shell. (Help, I'm a
snail! A snail!) Whenever I tried to come out of my shell people
would gain pleasure putting me down.
I withdrew into my own
little world within which I was safe.
I am a silly person. Silly
- practice things they are already good at
- avoid doing things they are bad at
I used to spend all my time practicing the things I was good at
(physics and computing) and avoiding the things I was bad at
(interacting with people). I was able to do very well at the
things I was good at, yet I would still spent all my time striving
to do better. This doesn't make any sense. But I was a very very
A common misunderstanding
Some people think of shy people as rude, unfriendly, or as snobs.
This is a very bad misunderstanding. Most shy people care a lot about
other people. In my case it is because I am often so worried about
saying something inappropriate, that might be misinterpreted, hurt
somebody, or that I don't genuinely mean, that it takes me a long time
to think precisely what I want to say and how to say it before
beginning to speak.
Taking time to think what to say is particularly a problem in group
conversations because by the time I have figured out what I want to
say, someone else has already started speaking, and the thought I had
is no longer is appropriate.
Overcoming my shyness
Communication skills are very important. My communication abilities
will probably greatly affect both my own life and the lives of people
around me. It is worth spending time trying to understand them and
get them right.
I have taken an interesting in understanding how well other people
understand me and what aspects of my speech they find difficult.
Once I understand this I will see if I can improve the way I
I would like to be able to make people feel less embarrassed when
they don't understand me and more comfortable telling me to speak
more clearly. I don't know how to do this because the problems I
have mainly occur with people I do not know.
Schools are extremely important to the way children grow up. It
saddens me how badly messed up schools are. Peoples lives are
constantly getting destroyed. Schools care very little about
personal growth, or creating a rewarding experience. For me it
was 12 years of competitive study.
Those of us that succeeded got to go on, those that fail were
I think school, and society generally, would be a much nicer place
if we were to include classes on subjects like compassion, caring,
trust, altruism, and group cooperation.
I never want to put other people down.
My (very late) New Year's resolution has been to try and listen to
other people in the hope of giving them the support and encouragement
they need to be open.
I especially want to try and find and listen to people that no one
else might otherwise listening to.
I have decided to spend less time practicing the things I am good
at and more time practicing the things I am bad at and haven't
done enough of. I find it more productive to talk about my
weaknesses and flaws rather than my strengths.
I have found several wonderful people that I trust and who are
willing to spend time listening to me. I no longer feel ashamed
to admit ignorance or ask other people for their advise or help.
Things about shyness I have learnt
I am not at all shy when I interact with people via email. I am able
to backspace, correct things, and take all the time I need to ensure I
say what I genuinely mean. People that know both on and offline get
to see two different sides of me. This is helpful because it gives
them a better sense of who I really am.
Part of the reason it is important to engage in small talk with people
is to let them know that you are friendly, approachable, or interested
in doing things. There are other ways in which it is possible to do
- I sometimes try and buy t-shirts, tickets, or other small gifts
- At work I sometimes took the initiative in trying to organize
parties or other fun events.
- You can use email to let people know you are friendly. (I once
got upset because my manager told me to take the smileys out of an
email message I was sending.).
- One of the best things I did was one day simply buy a box of
ice-creams and walk around knocking on doors of people I didn't
know giving them out. Not only was I armed with a good reason to
introduce myself to people, but they also perceived me as being
very friendly, and I had a starting point for a conversation. Try
it, it is very effective.
It is often easier to practice overcoming your shyness with people
whose opinions you don't care about. Have a look at:
Every time someone sends me some junk mail I phone them up ask them
not to. This has been a good opportunity for me to practice talking
with people I don't know on the phone. Junk mail annoys me, so it has
also helped burn off some angst, and cut down on the amount of junk
mail we receive. Since it didn't matter at all what the people at the
other end thought of me, I was far less conscious of what I said.
If you tell people you are shy they are likely to be sympathetic.
They are often prepared to go an extra yard, or seize the initiative
Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are one of the best ways
Try not to worry what other people think of you. Don't worry whether
other people like you. Instead simply enjoy yourself. Enjoy finding
out about other people.
http://members.aol.com/cybernettr/shyness.html is a sympathetic
environment for shy people. I found it interesting to read it for
a while, but then I started to find it a little depressing.
Stories exist of people overcoming shyness, but new people keep
appearing all the time and retelling the same old stories.
Many of the messages posted might be better headed
http://members.aol.com/cybernettr/shyness.html which is a topic
I can't offer you very much helpful advise on.
Writing and talking about my shyness and its causes was very helpful
to me in trying to understand and overcome it. Also very helpful was
finding people I was comfortable talking with about it and that were
willing to listen (thanks dudes!)
Supposedly a gene had been identified that is characterstic to
shyness. At a purely rational level -- we are who we are, and so it
shouldn't make any difference. But knowing this gave me a sort of
wonderful warm happy feeling! A kind of feel that being shy in some
sense wasn't my own fault.
Becoming aware of my shyness and having a strong reason to want to
change may have allowed me to overcome my shyness. I don't know if
I am still shy. I probably won't know for some time.
I don't think of myself as shy, but I never really did. (The reason
for this is probably because of a different aspect of my personality -
I have never felt any pressure to behave like other people). My
shyness was simply a desire to avoid interacting with other people
that resulted from my finding it so difficult to do so. Now it might
still be difficult, but I do have a strong desire to interacting with
I continue to have some difficulty in making small talk, but this
could just be a lack of experience in knowing what to say rather than
a fear of saying things. People also still have difficulty understanding
me, but I no longer feel embarrassed. I am actually seeking out
opportunities to talk with people because I am interested in finding out
if they understand me. Once I have gathered enough data on this topic
I will consider and attempt to change the way I communicate and see
what effect this has on peoples responses.
"...shyness is nice,
shyness can stop you,
all the thing you want to ...",