“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People (1936).
That’s what you tell yourself when you’re approaching the front door to a dreaded party.
Sure, you look calm on the outside, but on the inside you’re full of questions: “What am I going to say?” or “What if I don’t know anybody?”
If placed in a crowd of unfamiliar people, you seize up and over-eat.
You spend your time on hobbies like films, stargazing, and reading. You probably find them fun and interesting, but they all have one thing in common: You do them all by yourself.
They’re solo efforts. No social engagement whatsoever, unless you trip over somebody.
I confess I’m shy too. I feel uneasy and nervous with unfamiliar people and situations.
This uneasiness stokes the fear about what others think about me when in fact, nobody is thinking about me at all.
It’s Time to End the Self-fulfilling Prophecy
Fearing what people think will seize you up and silence you. People will find it difficult to interact with you.
This magnifies your shyness and the whole thing gets worse until it sucks.
Let’s make a decision to end this right now.
Like every journey, we need to start with a first step: an action plan.
Oh no, not an action plan!
I’m afraid so, but the easy part is already done for you, here below.
The 15 actions don’t have to be implemented all at once.
This isn’t a checklist to memorise before you run out into the world.
However, start applying them and you will become less shy, more confident and panic-free.
Let’s conquer these feelings once and for all.
How to Calm the Mind and Beat the Nerves
1. Dump your image – The very first thing you need to do (after not panicking) is to stop affirming your shyness. Stop telling yourself that you are shy or that you find gatherings awful.
If we keep telling ourselves we are this or that, we will never overcome our feeling of fear or insecurity. And feelings can be overcome.
Forget you have ever been shy.
2. Talk to yourself – Now this is not something to do in public, even in this age of hands-free phone calls.
Before entering a situation where you will talk to strangers, practice meditating on positive words.
When falling asleep or during other quiet moments, recite something positive, like “I am whole, perfect, strong and powerful, loving, harmonious and happy.”
This omits the word “shy” and helps to reinforce positive feelings of self. Remember, you are great!
3. Forget about visualisation – Contrary to popular advice, don’t visualise yourself in the situation. Keep that for job interviews.
It’s simply exhausting to picture various scenarios, discussions or people. Whether it be a social setting or a meeting at work, no conversation can ever be pre-imagined, so don’t try.
Experience life in the present moment and react to people and conversations in real time.
4. Prepare for every encounter – Keep a few conversation starters up your sleeve.
You don’t want your mind to go blank, so to avoid struggling on the spot, have a few general questions ready to pop.
Avoid controversial topics and ask about hobbies, holidays or work.
Speaking of work, if you’re going to a meeting and want to ensure that your voice is heard, prepare well and read any material associated with the agenda. Jot down your key thoughts.
5. Don’t fight your feelings – Accept your nervousness. The more you try to resist or eliminate it, the stronger it becomes.
So accept that you will feel nervous, but that it will pass. Now you have immediately changed your relationship with your feelings.
Your nerves will diminish because you no longer fear or fight them.
How to Involve Others Even When You Don’t Want To
6. Feel for other people – Feelings of shyness or lack of self-confidence creates a focus on ourselves.
We place ourselves in the spotlight. How do I look? What do they think of me? What should I say?
Turn that spotlight around onto the people with whom you are chatting. Where are they from? Do they have any holidays planned? Are they enjoying the food? Be genuinely interested in others.
You can learn to feel for other people simply by listening to what concerns them.
7. Partner up – Occasions are less daunting when you have a friend by your side.
If you’ve been invited to an event, ask if you can bring a friend. If you’re attending a training event for work, ask another colleague to accompany you.
This will not make you immune from nerves, but having a companion will help you to settle in. Just don’t cling to him all the time.
8. Forget about trying to make friends – Don’t create a “To Do” list in your mind.
Forget about trying to make a good first impression. Forget about trying to keep a conversation going ad infinitum.
These things will come more naturally when you stop trying. Forget that you don’t know the people around you. Be assured that many others feel the same as you do.
9. Remember names – You will build a good rapport with people if you remember and use their name.
This can be a weakness for many people. If you need to, recite a new name over and over until it sinks in.
People respond to the sound of their own name and, when you use it often, they are more likely to remember yours too.
10. Mix and Mingle – Remember that no matter how nice some people are, never cling to the same few. You’ve got to mingle.
Conversations can be a bit hit and miss, so if you’re moving around in a crowd, at least you’ll not be forced to come up with question after question.
Instead, you’ll be able to repeat things without worry. Besides, it’ll be fun getting to know what makes so many people tick.
11. Practice – Nothing beats familiarity.
If you keep avoiding situations, you’ll never get the experience you need to feel comfortable and have relaxed conversations.
Bite the bullet and take the next opportunity that comes along. Once you start, it will get easier.
How to Look and Feel Like You Could Talk to Anyone
12. Watch your body language – It’s not just what you say. The non-verbal signals you emit can affect how others perceive you, a well as how you feel.
Facial expressions, bodily posture, gestures, eye movement, touch, and proximity to other people all convey messages.
Keep it simple and think “hands.” Keep them out of your pockets; don’t fold arms or fidget. These all give off unwelcoming signals. And of course, don’t forget to smile.
13. Dress up – How you feel can be affected by how you dress.
At work, depending on the environment, dressing smartly can convey confidence. Even if you don’t feel it on the inside, if you appear ready to talk business, it will help win your coworkers’ acceptance.
In social situations, dressing comfortably will help put you at ease. Nothing is worse than striking up a new conversation while being conscious of that uncomfortable dress or shirt.
14. Breathe – Nervousness can make our breathing shallow. Be conscious of your breath.
Breathe deeply, but not so much that people notice. Breathing can relax you and help reduce tension in the shoulders.
15. Notice the absence of physical pain – Remember whatever the circumstances, social interaction will not cause physical pain.
Shyness is a purely mental condition and one that can be dissolved if you think differently.
Think highly of yourself, be aware that others probably feel the same way, but above all, be conscious of how you are beginning to relax using these steps, and enjoy yourself.
The truth is most things in life require effort, and shyness will not simply vanish unless we do something about it.
If we let it get the better of us, we’ll limit friendships, enjoy fewer social occasions and stifle career opportunities through perceived lack of confidence. It doesn’t have to be like that.
Shyness is not you.
Decide today to let your true self shine. You are a valuable person. Enjoy yourself, meet new people and relax.
Alan Marsden presents simple and effective tips on achieving confidence, health and happiness. Join Alan on the journey of discovery at mindbodyandtech.com