When you’re shy, socialising can seem more like a trial than a pleasure: but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some ways to survive social occasions – even when you’re super-shy…
I’d always assumed my shyness was obvious to other people – until one day a colleague confided that, until she’d really gotten to know me, she’d assumed I was “snobby” and unapproachable. I was, of course, horrified by this, but when I really thought about it, I had to admit that it wasn’t the first time I’d heard myself described using those particular words. Since then, I’ve noticed the same thing in other people: people I’ve thought were incredibly rude when I first met them, only to completely reverse that opinion a few weeks later, when I’d gotten to know them and realised they’re actually just very shy. Unfortunately for us shy girls, shyness CAN come across as rudeness or stand-offishness – and once you’ve given people that first impression, it can be really hard to change it.
One easy way around this is to smile: not in a manic, gritted-teeth kind of way, I hasten to add – that won’t work either. But if you can smile in a genuine way, it will make you look more approachable and friendly – even if you don’t really feel it. Whatever you do, don’t just stand scowling in a corner: I know quite a few shy people who do this without even realising they’re doing it (I’m prone to doing it myself, in fact, due to my chronic case of Resting Bitchface…) – all it does it make other people reluctant to speak to them, which makes the shy person feel even more isolated and awkward. A smile goes a long way!
02. GET INTO THE CONVERSATION EARLY
As a shy girl amongst extroverts, I often find it quite difficult to get a foothold in group conversations, and will often end up standing silently at the edge of the group, feeling more and more awkward as time goes on, and I’ve still failed to make a single comment. What I’ve found, however, is that the best way to avoid this is to get into the conversation as early as possible: it doesn’t really matter what you say, just as long as you speak up, and do it quickly: the longer you wait, the harder it’ll be. Not sure what to say, though? Don’t worry…
03. ASK QUESTIONS
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that most people love talking about themselves – and if you ask the right questions, they’ll walk away from the conversation thinking you’ve just had an amazing chat: without realising that, actually, they did all the talking, while you just listened. Go for open questions here, like, “What have you been up to lately?” or the tried and tested, “What do you do?” (Follow up: “Do you enjoy it?” or “What’s that like?”) Avoid questions which will elicit a yes/no answer, and just effectively pass the conversational baton right back to you: your goal is to give the person you’re talking to something to talk ABOUT.
04. BE PREPARED
In following the tip above, it’s a good idea to come prepared: both in the sense of having some questions in mind to ask other people, and in preparing some anecdotes of your own, should someone turn the question back on YOU. I don’t mean by this that you should learn these questions/anecdotes off by heart, obviously, because that’ll just make things even more awkward than you could ever have imagined. It can be a good idea, however, to have a quick think about things you’ve done lately that might be of interest, or to work out what you’ll say to those commonly-asked questions – especially ones you might find difficult. I, for instance, always find it a bit awkward when people ask me what I do for a living, because not many people in “real” life know what blogging is – and those who do will often have a rather negative opinion of it, which will make the ensuing conversation feel difficult to me. If I know I’m likely to be asked that question, then, I’ll try to work out how to answer it in advance (“I run a few fashion and lifestyle websites…”), in a way that makes my job seem more “normal”. (On the other hand, if you do have an unusual job, and you’re happy to talk about it, it can be a GREAT conversation starter!)
05. DON’T RELY ON ALCOHOL
I’ve always been exceptionally shy – until I’ve had a few glasses of wine, at which point I’ll become the life and soul of the party. As tempting as it is to see this as an easy route to social self-confidence, however, it’s a really bad idea: and normally means I’ll wake up the next morning feeling a) hungover and b) absolutely mortified by the memory of the stupid things I said while I was tipsy. These days, while I still enjoy a glass of wine or two, I make sure I don’t drink enough to feel drunk, or to make a fool of myself – and I feel all the better for it.
Any other shy girls out there? How do you cope with social events?[image]