How to Stop Being Shy and Awkward When You Meet People

Unleash Your Social Confidence: Embrace the Fun You in Every Setting!

Do you ever find yourself dazzling with wit and charm in the comfort of your own company, only to hit a stumbling block when you venture out into the world? The nagging thought, “Do I have anything interesting to say?” or the gnawing worry about whether people like you can leave you feeling like the odd one out.

It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re not captivating enough for others to engage with or that you lack the finesse for meaningful conversations. Perhaps you even battle with social anxiety. These are the recurring thoughts that can plague the minds of those dealing with shyness.

I’ve been there, right in your shoes, and I understand just how frustrating it can be. However, we’re not here to dwell on the challenges; we’re here to uncover solutions for this inhibiting behavior. Yes, shyness is nothing more than a learned behavior, and the good news is, it can be unlearned. To unravel it, we first need to delve into its roots.

The Source of Shyness

  • Overthinking: Shyness often stems from living too much in your head, where overthinking everything can lead to a state of paralysis.
  • Culture and upbringing: Some people grew up in environments, cultures, or families that encouraged/celebrated being reserved, quiet, and unopinionated; equating these traits with humility. And discouraged being outspoken and expressive mislabeling those as pride or arrogance.
  • Hyper isolation: Our increasingly isolated lives exacerbate the problem, making us feel like outsiders when we do venture out to meet others.
  • The “spotlight effect”: is another contributor, where the belief that everyone is scrutinizing and judging us arises from our hyper self-consciousness, self-evaluation. This isn’t the truth; in reality, most people are preoccupied with their own concerns.
  • Unpleasant past experiences: Sometimes a past experience is the reason why we feel shy when we meet people. Perhaps you had experienced rejection, embarrassment, criticism, or negative judgment. The memory of that can cause people to retreat into shyness.

Unlocking Solutions: How to Showcase Your Inner Fun Self in Public

  1. Shift your focus from yourself to your surroundings and the people around you. Turn your attention outwards, not inwards. Be present, not trapped in your thoughts. Engage with the people around you. For instance, if you enter a dinner party, start by appreciating the ambiance: “The lighting here is fantastic, and the decor is exquisite. Have you noticed the beautiful flowers?” This is a fantastic way to initiate a conversation with your fellow guest, and the sooner you do it, the smoother the interaction becomes. Avoid hesitating; because the longer you don’t start a conversation the more difficult it becomes to start one.
    • Pro tip: Approach others as if they’re old friends you’ve known for years and watch how quickly they become just that.
  2. Cultivate curiosity about the person you’re talking to. Ask unique and intriguing questions that prompt storytelling rather than one-word answers. Instead of the mundane “How are you?” or “How was your day?” try, “What’s the most fascinating thing that happened to you today?” or “What do you love about this city?” Notice that these questions are positive. Always lean on the positive when you meet people. Don’t complain or criticize or dislike. Dwell on what you like, what is positive and direct your curiosity towards such.
  3. Avoid responding to questions with brief, one-word replies, especially at the beginning of a conversation. Try to respond with narrative and storytelling. For instance, when asked, “How was your day?” try sharing what you did or came across “I had a rather low-key day, but it took a turn when I stumbled upon a song on YouTube that completely lifted my spirits. It was as though the lyrics were written just for me.”
    • Pro tip: Guide conversations toward shared passions and interests. Passion is infectious and invigorating. Even if you just start talking about your own passion, you’ll find that others will eagerly discuss theirs.
  4. Break free from self-censorship. Shy individuals tend to overanalyze their thoughts but refrain from expressing them due to fear of being uninteresting, offensive, or misunderstood. Remember that sharing your true self and thoughts is crucial. What if they don’t like it? Well, then they are not people you want to spend more time with anyways. Every conversation is an opportunity for you to risk revealing the real you.
  5. Create achievable social goals to set yourself up for success. Step out of your comfort zone and remember that you can only learn to swim by diving into the pool. Engage in real-time conversations, such as phone calls over text or voice notes, even if they’re just one to two minutes long. Join communities of like-minded individuals, take on responsibilities, and make an effort to immerse yourself in social situations. Your discomfort zone can become your comfort zone with regular exposure. Instead of going out alone or with other shy individuals, accompany people who are comfortable with socializing. Observe, emulate, and repeat.
  6. Stop labelling yourself a shy person. Perspective matters. Why not say “I’m a good listener” instead of “I never have something to talk about.” And if you are the listener type then keeping good questions you can ask is good wisdom. Don’t only just dress up and make up and consider yourself ready to go out, think in advance and pick a few questions that you can ask that will get someone talking. And whatever questions you ask, be ready to answer them as well because you are going to get “And you?”
  7. Embrace the notion that failure is a part of growth. Much like a baby taking its first steps, don’t be discouraged when you fall. Celebrate your progress, and know that every attempt, even those that don’t go as planned, is a step towards success.

Conclusion

When trying to build a new ability/skill, think of yourself as a baby learning to walk. When a baby makes his first step and fall, we don’t judge them and shame them for falling. We clap and celebrate and cheer them on. We pick them up and encourage them to do it again knowing fully well that they are going to fall again but also that they are learning to walk, and every fall is a step towards walking better and eventually running. In this journey, there’s you the adult, and you the baby. The adult version needs to encourage and celebrate the baby steps and falls with the same understanding that your failure is a step towards success.