Communication is something that comes naturally. Everything in this world communicates with one another. Some forms of communication are simple, consisting of sounds, movements and gestures. Animals, birds and insects communicate in a similar fashion. Other forms of communication are complex and detailed that include languages, rules and unlimited variations. We as humans communicated in that manner. Complex forms of communication coupled with a wide array of emotions can create problems when to people communicated, or in inter-personal communication. This paper addresses one of those problems that I face while communication interpersonally – shyness. The aim is self-improvement but before coming up with a plan to deal with this issue, the concept of shyness will be discussed and analyzed in the light of my research on the subject.
What is shyness?
Shyness may be defined experientially as discomfort and/or inhibition in interpersonal situations that interferes with pursuing one’s interpersonal or professional goals. It is a form of excessive self-focus, a preoccupation with one’s thoughts, feelings and physical reactions. (Lynne Henderson) the definition tells us how shyness can be a hindrance in a person’s life. Shyness is usually caused by lack of self-confidence or when a person is too self-conscious. It can also be based on an ‘irrational fear’ of being embarrassed. (Jorgensen) The concept is better understood through examples; in school, I had always wanted to participate in school plays. But I was always hesitant and avoided auditioning. I always thought that I would ‘mess up’ my act by forgetting my lines, tripping over or stammering while speaking or singing. It was stage-fright and I was afraid I might embarrass myself in front of the audience.
I would say it is quite clear as to why there is a need to change this behavior. Generally, a shy person tends to stay behind the scenes in any social situation; be it in class, at work, in extra-curricular activities or even something as simple as approaching a person you’re unfamiliar with and might want to address. As mentioned earlier, this can cause hindrance. Personally, as a shy person I find myself not participating actively in social events and situations. In school, it was sports, stage dramas, presentations, class participation or even speaking up during formal discussions. In an educational environment, this usually creates a perception that a person not participating is not interested or informed about the topic of discussion. Broadly speaking, overcoming is problem would improve my inter-personal communication skills, overall. As compared to my current shy-self, I would be much more enthusiastic about participating and would no longer prefer to be behind the scenes or play the role of a bystander even in the things and social situations that I’m interested in, as is the case currently. For this, I would need to follow a proper plan to ‘self-treat’ this problem and overcome shyness. (Lynne Henderson)
My plan to overcome shyness
In order to come up with a proper sequential plan to overcome shyness, I conducted research and found many different approaches. Many approaches are psychological based and require practice, training or therapy. That is an extreme case. After my research, I believe that an approach that is simple and easy to understand and follow is the best way to overcome certain problems willingly. The process is divided into several systematic steps that are explained in the following paragraphs.
The first step is to identify the cause of the problem, since the problem has already been identified. What situations cause shyness? It can be new people, new surroundings, the people you admire or like or big audiences. It can be lack of self esteem or self confidence. Once you know what causes the shyness, you can focus on that (or those) situations and try to handle them through the rest of these steps.
The next step is to build that self confidence that is lacking. Everyone has something to be proud of and they should uncover that and be confident about it. No one is perfect at everything. Everyone has problems and fears but that is not supposed to cause shyness and hold people back. The key is to be around people you are comfortable with and make you feel good; that will translate in to newer surroundings as well. When the shyness starts taking over, breathe, close your eyes and visualize your confidence. Again, the key here is to try to feel good about yourself.
The next step is to look affable. Make yourself look approachable and friendly through everything you do from the way you look to the way you behave in public. Smile, make eye contact when communicating, speak clearly and maintain good posture, laugh at funny things and try not to look preoccupied or uninterested. That is something people tend to do when they are shy.
Another step that will help is setting goals and making objectives. Make a list of things that cause the anxiety and shyness. The objective here is to deal with them and confront them one by one, starting from the easiest ones. These could include talking to a certain person, speaking up in class and so on. This exercise will help building confidence gradually and finally enabling the person to tackle more daring situations. Also, try to get to know a new person each day. That builds up the confidence to break the ice and converse comfortably. (DeVito, 1-50, 20-200, 300-400)
Now comes the part most people, including me, are shy about; making new friends. This exercise could be started off with someone who a person has always wanted to talk to or get to know. We all have someone we would like to get to know but hesitate. Some people remain that way, others eventually summon up enough courage to break the ice. Try doing that by complimenting their outfit or accessories that they are carrying. That is a simple harmless way to initiate a conversation.
Finally, try something you have never tried before like sky diving or going on an adventure. That might seem crazy but it can have a number of positive outcomes; doing daring activities gives people a rush and release hormones such as endorphins that make a person active. Also, doing something daring will become just another topic of conversation with your friends or someone new and then eventually, when you have performed this daring act, talking to someone or speaking up during a discussion will not remain much of an issue. (How to overcome shyness)
How will all this help?
All the steps and activities described above constitute to a systematic and gradual practice for building self-confidence. That is the primary cause of shyness in most individuals. Practicing those steps will slowly push a person’s limits and enable a person like me to try things I have not tried before. By subjecting myself to simpler things, starting off with believing in myself and discovering the traits that I am proud of, I will be confident about standing up and speaking up without feeling self-conscious. Things I have tried avoiding in the past, and still do, will finally not be that much of a hassle. Being able to talk to new people and behaving in a way that makes me feel affable will help me in my professional life and help me be a friendly ‘people-person’. Good communication skills can take a person a long way. Good communication is the key to convince people, conveying your ideas, thoughts and feelings. That is an important aspect of life. (DeVito, Interpersonal Messages: Communication and Relationship Skills, 20-100, 150-300)
DeVito, Joseph A. Interpersonal Messages: Communication and Relationship Skills. Allyn & Bacon; 1 edition, 2007.
—. The Interpersonal Communication Book, 10th Edition. Allyn & Bacon; 10 edition, 2003.
“How to overcome shyness.” WikiHow.
Jorgensen, John. “Overcoming shyness.” 2007. Pick The Brain.
Lynne Henderson, Philip Zimbardo. “Encyclopedia – Encyclopedia of Mental Health (in press).” 2008. Web.