overcoming shyness

5 Super-Powered Ways to Hulk Smash Your Shyness and Win New Friends

Shyness is a villain.

It’s insidious, invisible, and it ruins lives.

It stops you from doing what you want and sabotages your efforts when you try to break free.

You can’t talk to the cute guy in the other department at work. You cling to people you know at parties. You find it hard to bond and actually make new friends.

It’s like an oppressive monster living inside you, holding you down while life passes by. Really, shyness is the worst type of villain because it makes YOU seem like the problem.

Shyness is an evil bastard (cue maniacal laughter).

What you need are “super powers” to smash your shyness so you CAN bond with new friends.  And who better to model than the Master of Smash himself (who doubles as a shy nerd), the Incredible Hulk?

 

What a Movie Bromance Can Teach You about Overcoming Shyness

If the title about super powers and the Hulk caught your eye, it’s likely you watched the blockbuster film, The Avengers. I for one loved it (and contributed twice to its record setting box-office take).

But for me, one particular part of the story stood out more than Robert Downey Jr.’s clever bantering, the Hulk succor punching Thor, or Scarlett Johansson tied up in lingerie…

That would be the friendship between Bruce Banner (Hulk) and Tony Stark (Iron Man). And I’m not the only one who was intrigued. A quick search of “Avengers Bromance” proves that.

Part of what made it appealing is the fact Bruce Banner is such a shy, retiring character. He’s quiet and soft-spoken. Yet he becomes friends with Tony Stark; the most brash and outgoing of the lot and the type of person who would intimidate most shy people.

So how did it happen?

I mean sure, it’s fiction and all, but are there some practical lessons to take on how you can get past your shy, quiet nature to build new friendships?

Yes I think there are. And they’re actually based on sound psychological principles many experts have proven to work time and again.

So sit back, put on your Hulk stretch pants and get ready to flex some confidence muscles.

 

(Spoiler Alert)

1. Follow your passions

Bruce Banner (Hulk) is a remarkable scientist. He obviously has a passion for his work. Not only has this gained him respect, it gains him the attention of Tony Stark (Iron Man). Stark is more of an engineer, but he’s also brilliant.

This brain-power and passion for science is part of what lets the two connect so well. That’s their common bond no other members of the Avengers can claim.

So be sure to take a cue and figure out what your passions in life are. Explore these and make them an active part of your days. Your enthusiasm will create attraction and respect all around. Plus, when you find someone else who shares your values and passions, it can form a friendship like no other.

2. Face your fears gradually

Despite being shy AND fearing he might tear an entire city apart, Bruce Banner leaves seclusion to share his unique strengths with the world. Throughout the movie, he gradually transforms from cautious and controlled to more empowered (and green).

Really, this is the foundation of overcoming shyness. You’ve got to get out into the world and face the social situations that cause you anxiety. You have to face your fears. There’s no other way.

But the key is to do it gradually. It might be too hard for you to talk to that beautiful girl in the bar tonight. But maybe you can look a woman in the eye as you pass her on the street. Maybe next time you make eye contact AND say hi. Keep upping the ante and eventually, talking to that hottie in the club won’t seem such a monster leap.

3. Show your weird side

Bruce Banner turns into a huge green freak that levels anything in sight. He’s also a nerd, through and through. Yet he was able to find someone who could relate to all that in Tony Stark. After all, Stark is pretty eccentric and has his own quirks too.

While it’s pretty hard for Banner to hide his weird side (because it’s 7 foot tall and green), many of us hide our quirks fearing they won’t be accepted. Yet these are usually the things that make us unique and stem from our passions and core values.

Maybe you :

  • Like comics or romance novels
  • Believe in healing crystals
  • Are prepared for the zombie apocalypse

Whatever it is for you, we all have our quirks and most of us tend to be self-conscious of them.

The thing is, there will always be someone who doesn’t approve of you, no matter what you hide or reveal to the world. So you might as well be straight forward about who you are. That way, you’ll weed out the haters and attract people more compatible to you. Believe me, that’s much more fulfilling in the end.

4. Accept your dark side

At one point in the movie, Tony Stark pokes Bruce Banner with a sharp object and leans in, waiting to see if the Hulk will pop out.

He doesn’t; Bruce has a tight leash on the beast. Yet Stark doesn’t stop there. As he and Banner grow closer, he encourages him to accept the Hulk and learn to control it so he can use its power to help others.

Psychologically speaking, this is great advice. I think the Hulk represents what legendary psychiatrist Carl Jung called the Shadow. The Shadow is the part of ourselves we repress because we think it’s socially unacceptable.

So things like our impatience or our darkest fantasies get repressed and hidden in the shadow. After all, we don’t want anyone to know about that stuff. In fact, we often don’t want to acknowledge that stuff about ourselves. The problem is, many times our greatest personal resources lie in our shadow. As Jung said, “In the shadow is the gold.”

For example, when Banner finally accepts the Hulk and works to control it, his strength is enough to turn the tide of the war. He helps his friends save the day – something he wouldn’t have been able to do as the carefully controlled Bruce Banner.

Likewise:

  • Maybe you’re an excellent writer but quit because someone criticized your work.
  • Maybe you’re the next great physicist, but you never pursued it because most of your family believes science is the devil’s work.
  • Maybe you have a limiting belief that says, “Out-shining others makes them feel inadequate and that’s not good.” But all this does is stop you realizing your potential.

Whatever it is for you, being aware of and accepting your dark side can empower you in ways you never imagined, socially and in your life in general.

 

5. To gain friends, first be a friend

Stark greeted Banner warmly on their first meeting by shaking his hand and saying he admired his work.  Later, he offered Banner value by suggesting he come work at Stark Industries to enjoy state of the art research equipment. He also displayed genuine caring by giving helpful advice on how to deal with the Hulk.

Often, you’ll have to take the initiative to build a new friendship. When you do, remember the rule of reciprocity from psychology. Put simply, it means if you act kindly toward someone, they’re much more likely to do the same. Likewise, if you’re cold or standoff-ish , they will be too.

Just don’t over-do the kindness thing, ok? You don’t want to seem needy and approval seeking.

So a good rule of thumb is to cultivate the attitude of giving without expecting anything in return. That way, when you give a compliment or offer your help, you do it from a place of abundance instead of neediness.

 

A bonus tip to help you overcome shyness and make friends is to learn how to improve your conversation skills. That way, you’ll have more confidence socially. In fact, Dean J is a former shy-guy who helps people overcome shyness and be more outgoing on his blog. Click Here to watch his free video series on how to beat shyness and be more interesting in conversations

Photo credit: ‘The Incredible Hulk’ by Big Stock

  • http://selfhelpmadesimple.com/ Jerome Ratliff

    Hi Dean,
    Ok you had me at Hulk. :) But all seriousness aside, shyness can be a BIG buzz kill  if we want new friends and relationships. This used to be me and it (pard0n the phrase) sucked. However, I was determined to not succumb to the myth that I was destined to remain shy. I decided to overcome this shyness by seeking out people I wanted to associate with and also those whom I could tell were shy too. Not only did it help me, I know it helped them as well. This simple approach to overcoming shyness was a huge help for me in my profession and I’m glad I took “action”. That action is essential – as you already know. Thanks for sharing these.

    Looking forward to more of your writing. This is the first time I visited your blog here and it won’t be the last. :)

    • http://conversation-skills-core.com/ Dean J

       Jerome,

      It’s hard to resist the Hulk! I wanted to point out a couple things you said 1. No one is doomed to remain shy. That’s SO true but unfortunately hard to believe sometimes when you’re “stuck” in shyness. Kudos to you for not accepting that fate. 2. You mentioned taking action. That’s the key! Just like you did, taking action to move in the direction you want is a necessary step.

      Thanks for the comment and glad you liked the post!

  • http://www.chiarasays.com Chiara Mazzucco

    Absolutely GREAT post!

    I know it’s weird but #3 and #4 are my usual go-to strategies. You’re scared of what others will think of your silly/dark sides, but you never realize how glorious the moment is when they actually embrace you for BEING YOU. 
    Those are the only type of people I consider worthy of the title ‘real friend’. 

    • http://conversation-skills-core.com/ Dean J

       Chiara,

      That’s a wonderful feeling isn’t it? When you’re finally being the YOU you’ve always wanted to be, but feared to be, yet people still accept you. I agree, in my definition of “Best Friend” you have to know some of each other’s “dark sides” otherwise the friendship probably isn’t all that deep.

      Thanks for the comment

  • http://www.fullestdisclosure.blogspot.com/ Jason

    I’ve heard some people point out that the anxiety we feel that makes us act shy can actually be looked at as something very beneficial because it prepares us to be alert deal with a potentially difficult social situation. Basically I guess they are saying its good to feel anxious before talking with someone new because when you do you will be at the top of your game.

    • http://conversation-skills-core.com/ Dean J

       Jason,

      I agree with you to a certain extent. You’re right (from what I’ve learned), anxiety is just our mind’s way of telling us to be alert. It’s just letting you know, “hey this situation is important or could be dangerous.” Without getting too detailed, this goes back to the days when we chilled out in tribes of about 100 or so. Basically, if you “messed up” socially back then and were kicked out of the tribe, you were pretty screwed.

      So anxiety isn’t necessarily bad and in fact, as you mentioned, in the right amounts it can be “re-framed” as excitement. It’s when that anxiety becomes paralyzing that it’s a problem. When you want to talk to someone but don’t  telling yourself they won’t be interested. Or when you mostly keep to yourself at work (and miss out on promotions) because you tell yourself you just don’t know as much as others do. In many cases it’s likely we’re making up these excuses to hide from the fact we’re afraid of failing socially.

      But of course, the problem is making a habit of playing it safe causes you to miss out on life. Hope I didn’t ramble on too much there and hope that makes sense. Thanks for the comment!

  • Michele

    I’m a huge fan of what you do. It has helped me quite a bit. This post like your emails are worth taking the time to read and delve into. This Shadow concept is new to me. Very interesting! Keep up the great work!

    • http://conversation-skills-core.com/ Dean J

      Michele,

      Glad you liked the post and found it helpful. The Shadow concept is from psychologist Carl Jung and is SO profound. Confusing and complex at times definitely, but worth delving into in my opinion. Best regards!

  • Bibi K.

    Such wonderful and practical advice! Thank you. 

    I moved here from Guyana back in 1988 and was so scared of being new to this country, I was far beyond shy. 

    To this day, I am afraid of expressing some of my struggles to others, because, well… why would they care? No one wants to know about me. I’m too scared about what they might think, or look down on me. 

    I have to work at not being shy every day. So,  I will use this advice to my advantage. 

    Thank you for the great work! 

    • http://conversation-skills-core.com/ Dean J

       Bibi thanks for the reply. Moving to another country is HUGE! I hope you’re proud of yourself to make such a big move…that’s pretty courageous. Many people would have trouble making that decision.

      Many of the people who read my blog are “transplants” from other countries to the U.S. and they seem to have a similar story of trouble with adjusting. That’s to be expected. You’re in a completely different culture and “not sure of the rules.” But you have the right idea. If you keep working at being a little more outgoing each day, you’ll get there. Best of luck!

  • http://www.thoughtful-self-improvement.com/Metaphors-for-Life.html Natalie

    Great article Dean. All good tips.  I too was shy and overcame it.  I haven’t yet seen ‘The Avengers’, but your description of Bruce Banner being so controlled made me think of myself.

    My problem was being overly concerned about appearing ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’. I was so focused on trying to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong that I was virtually paralyzed. My anxiety heightened my awareness of myself, not others.

    I had 2 points that gave me my break through. 1) There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m an introvert. I do well in small groups. Large groups are a real strain because of introversion, not shyness. 2) Once I started concentrating on others instead of myself my anxiety decreased.

    I was able to join conversations is small groups. Then I realized that people generally understand and accept mistakes. All that worry was for nothing (as I have subsequently found true of almost all worrying).

    • http://conversation-skills-core.com/ Dean J

      Natalie thanks for adding these tips!

      I think your story is one lots of shy/introverted people share. They don’t realize that they are introverted and just think something is wrong with them because they’re not as outgoing as “everybody else” is. It’s easy to feel that way sometimes (especially in the U.S.), when being extraverted seems to be praised so much.

      I think just like you had, a lot of us (because I had a similar story) have unrealistic expectations of what is required socially. It’s ok to not be the center of attention. It’s fine to make mistakes socially. Realizing these things is a great first step to overcoming shyness. Thanks again!

  • http://juliakristina.com/blog/ Julia Kristina

    I appreciate this blog post and what stood out for me was when you reminded us that no matter what we hide or reveal, there will always be someone who doesn’t approve… so we may as well just be ourselves!!

    • http://conversation-skills-core.com/ Dean J

      That really is a great lesson and one that took me a while to make a part of my life unfortunately. Things are much more enjoyable now tho. Glad you liked the post!

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