Full disclosure, shyness is by no means a negative trait. It's when shyness inhibits people from socializing entirely that it can become a problem. "Most people experience the feeling of being shy at one point or another, but for some, it can be debilitating enough that it prevents them from participating in social situations that are important to personal or professional goals," writes Jennice Vilhauer, Ph.D., a psychologist, professor, and author of Think Forward to Thrive.
Vilhauer explains how, at its worst, shyness can result in isolation, loneliness, or even depression or substance abuse. On the bright side, for those interested, she also offers up an actionable solution for overcoming shyness and thriving in any social situation: simply changing your mindset and planning for social gatherings to go well.
One good way to reduce your anxiety is to spend more time thinking about what you could do to make the social situation a success.
"Shyness, unlike introversion, which is associated with being quiet or reserved, is characterized by a strong tendency to overestimate negative scrutiny," she explains. "So a good deal of thought in a social setting is spent on how to not do something wrong, instead of on how to do something right. One good way to reduce your anxiety is to spend more time thinking about what you could do to make the social situation a success."
She recommends brainstorming topics for small talk ahead of time and coming up with an emergency exit strategy. "Exposing yourself to your fear is the best way to overcome it. However, it is also important to feel like you are in control," she concludes. "If you know you have a worst-case scenario exit strategy, then you won't feel trapped." And now, keep reading for some conversation starters to keep in mind.
Topics, Questions, and Exits
- Where are you from? Have you lived anywhere before this? How do they compare?
- What's your favorite thing to do around here?
- What do you like to do with your time?
- Do you have any pets?
- What brings you here? How do you know so-and-so?
- Do you have any book/restaurant/movie/TV show recommendations? Tell me more about them.
- I'm going to use the bathroom. I'll be right back.
- I didn't realize it was getting so late! I have to dip out soon, but it was great chatting with you.
How have you overcome shyness in your own life? Share your experience with us below.