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“Scientists have found the gene for shyness. They would have found it years ago, but it was hiding behind a couple of other genes.” – Jonathan Katz
Shyness is an issue that affects 40-60 percent of adults, yet it’s not often taken seriously. A lot of people take it as a minor inconvenience. But shyness can prevent people from creating deep connections with others. It can even affect career success.
How small, everyday rituals help in overcoming shyness
Many people who suffer from shyness avoid social situations where they might feel awkward. Who wants to go out just to get embarrassed, right? But in order to grow, we have to face our fears. Every time you pass up an event or gathering to escape discomfort and anxiety, the issue only gets reinforced.
Everything we do tells our subconscious “I’m this kind of person”. Overcoming shyness is no easy feat, but we start by creating new social rituals.
How to create social rituals in overcoming shyness
1.) Slowly build confidence through small, everyday rituals.
We all have ‘rituals’ in some form or another. Some are positive, while others can keep us from growing. Shy people usually have practices that can shrink confidence. To prime yourself for social success, it’s important to create a ritual which makes you feel confident. Think of it like an athletic warm-up where you’re getting ready for your best performance.
The sequence is important here as you need to take small steps that all work together. You’ll start with the easiest step first, then take increasingly difficult ones as you move forward.
Here are a couple of social warm up exercises you can use on essential events, such as speaking opportunities, parties, job interviews, or even romantic dates:
- Greetings – Start first thing in the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day. When walking past people, try saying ‘hi’ or ‘good morning’ as you pass. Make eye contact and smile when possible, too.
- Striking the flint – I call this part ‘striking the flint’ because you’ll be sparking up small talk or even a full conversation. This can be done anytime you run into people. Just pay attention, make an observation, then make a comment. You can remark on the weather, their dog, a clothing item, or something within the general vicinity. For example: while walking the same way as a nurse, I commented, “Finally got a break?” She was holding a muffin and coffee so it was obvious. That simple comment received a smile and started a friendly conversation.
- Give a compliment – Now you’re warmed up and can stretch your comfort zone a little farther. Compliment someone on something interesting you notice about them. The trick is to make sure your compliment is genuine. Maybe it’s a nice tie, their suit, nicely-done nails, or a fresh hair cut.
Doing these three things in sequence on a regular basis creates a habit that should put you in a friendly frame of mind. Eventually, it’ll be easier to tackle bigger social challenges, because you can always switch to a social mood instantly.
2.) Visualize social scenarios.
Before going out, visualize what you’re going to do and how it’s going to go. Imagine each aspect – right from introducing yourself, being introduced to others, and even exiting a conversation.
Picture the different possible outcomes and how you would handle them. I often do this as a form of meditation. I practice relaxing breathing techniques while mentally envisioning various social scenarios.
3.) Fill your calendar not, your thoughts.
Getting over shyness requires consistent effort. Just entertaining the thought of socializing is not enough. It needs to be scheduled on your calendar so that it becomes a commitment. Find different social events online and choose ones that suit you best. Go to events you enjoy to get the most out of them.
If you can’t find anything you like, then bite the bullet and experiment with things you’ve never tried before. You may find something new that you might benefit from.
4.) Get an accountability partner or mentor.
Let someone else know what you’re trying to accomplish. Have a friend or loved one go out with you to socialize. It’s harder to back out when you’ve already scheduled events with other people.
You can also get a coach or accountability partner to keep you on track. Just like a personal trainer, a good coach will help “keep you in the gym” so you don’t quit when progress seems slow. Overcoming shyness can be difficult on its own, so find someone who already has a solid plan you can follow.
5.) Do one social thing daily.
Whether it’s saying hello to people during your morning walk, chatting up a stranger at a cafe, or going to a networking event, make sure to stay consistent. By doing one thing daily you’ll condition your mind to feel social.
Consistency is vital – otherwise, your new habit won’t likely stick. A pattern that creates a new mindset needs to be established if this ritual is to be successful.
6.) Pay attention to your body language.
What do you do when you get nervous? For many folks, their hands will end up in their pockets, they’ll start to fidget, look at the ground, or experience shallow breathing.
This will give the control back to you and prevent emotions from getting out of hand. Overcoming shyness takes practice, but you’ll notice a difference right away.
Last Minute Tips
Stand up straight. You’ll know this by feeling where your weight is on your feet. If it’s in the heels, then you’re on track.
Keep your chin up. Doing so will force you to look straight ahead, not at the ground. Looking down is often a sign of insecurity or may make you seem unenthusiastic.
Hands out of your pockets – As Arnold Schwarzenegger put it, “You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets.”
Overcoming shyness isn’t all about changing your personality or who you are. Rather, think of it as a skill to help you on your way to success.