We all have our strengths and weaknesses. For example, you might be great at sport but are stumped when it comes to math. Unfortunately, we can’t all be good at everything, and that’s a fact of life!
As for me, I’m shy and introverted. As a result, my weakness is conversation. If I’m meeting someone new or if someone is unfamiliar to me, I feel anxious and frequently struggle to find the right words to say. And this often means that I say very little or nothing at all!
I know I’m not alone in this. Social anxiety is quite common, and it can cause issues in day-to-day life and when attempting to form relationships.
People struggle to get to know the real you, and write you off as quiet, cagey and sometimes, even perceive you as rude. Who can blame them, really? But it was never your intention and it can be frustrating as hell.
10 tips and tricks for introverts and shy people
People who struggle in social situations either accept that this is the way they are or hope that one day they will grow out of it.
But as I have come to learn, all it takes is learning the right techniques and a bit of practice. Just as those who struggle with math can learn and improve, you too can improve your social skills with a little bit of effort!
#1 Don’t replay past failures. Most people who have social anxieties know exactly how they come across to people, where their conversational abilities fall short, and they recognize when an interaction has failed.
And, if they are anything like me, they replay these failures in their minds several times after the event. There was an opportunity to make a good impression, but you failed.
Replaying and analyzing failures is anything but helpful. Don’t imprint these moments in your mind because they will haunt every other interaction you have with that person. This can only doom you to further failure.
Accept that you may have given that person the wrong impression of you, but forgive yourself. Despite what so many people tell you, first impressions aren’t always everything.
The damage is not done. View a less successful conversation or interaction as a challenge and a learning curve, rather than a failure. Challenge yourself to prove that person and yourself wrong, and display your true self if another opportunity arises.
#2 Present your best self. There are many ways in which we can use our appearances and our physical selves to send messages.
We can use clothing, make up and hairstyles to make ourselves feel more confident, as well as to put across our interests and beliefs. Body language and eye contact can be used to show our feelings and to aid in communication. But these are tools that introverts often forget to utilise.
Present the best version of yourself by picking an outfit that makes you feel great about yourself, and remind yourself to check your body language regularly. You might feel safer with your eyes pinned to the ground, slouched shoulders and your arms crossed, but you are inadvertently closing yourself off to people.
If you are struggling for inspiration, observe how confident people present themselves. Look at how they sit, their use of eye contact, and how they place their hands.
One tip you always hear to combat shyness is to feign confidence. It can be tricky at first, but once you take the dive, you really do begin to feel more confident as a result.
Don’t feel like you need to impress people by being something that you’re not. The aim is to allow people to get to know the real you. Never try to change who you are, simply present the best version of yourself.
#3 Choose to like people. When meeting new people, it is often natural to pick out traits about that person that intimidates you, especially when that person is more confident than yourself.
Choose to like every person you meet *unless they give you a real reason not to*, and immediately make them less intimidating to you by viewing them in a positive light. Get into the habit of mentally listing three to five things you like about people you meet.
If you associate that person with positivity, you are less likely to feel anxious when you interact with them.
It is important to remember, however, that you won’t always get on with everyone. Accept that fact, and know that your happiness does not depend on someone liking you. There are plenty of other people who will!
#4 Preserve the feelings of others. One thing that shy people tend to forget is that whilst wrapping yourself up in your fears of embarrassment and rejection, you are inadvertently rejecting people who attempt to interact with you.
If you are failing to reciprocate their efforts to make conversation with you, you are damaging the other person’s feelings and self-esteem.
Remember, that by giving conversations and interactions your best shot, you are saving others from the rejection and embarrassment that you fear yourself.
#5 Express kindness, gratitude and politeness. This seems like an obvious tip for anyone, no matter what their level of confidence may be. But, expressing kindness, gratitude and politeness wherever possible is a great way to develop your confidence and show others that you care.
It can be difficult for people with social anxieties, as with any display of feeling and emotion, especially when the person on the receiving end is new or unfamiliar to you. You may feel vulnerable and scared at the time, but you will feel great afterwards!
At least one act of kindness a day will do wonders for your self-esteem, and will allow others to warm up to you and see your true nature.
#6 Be a positive person. Introverted people often resort to negative statements and topics of conversation because they are often the easiest.
For example, your standard answer to the question “how was your day?” might be “boring” or “it dragged” because it is an easy answer. In my experience, negative comments send conversations to an early grave.
Try opting for positive replies as much as possible and attempt to elaborate. Try “my day was interesting because…” and return the question. People are more likely to want to enter into a conversation with you if you give positive and lively answers. Save your complaints for people you know well.
#7 Be prepared with topics of conversation. In many situations, shyness can cause your brain to stall. As much as you may try to get your brain into gear, you just cannot think of anything to say. Sometimes, it can be the strangest feeling, but surely there’s something interesting that you can say?
Remember, you aren’t boring and there’s plenty of things in your life that you can talk about! Try listing three to five things that you have done or have learnt each day on your phone. If you’re stuck for something to say, give the list a quick read to jog your memory.
Another trick is to make simple observations. Take a look around, and take a look at the other person. Make positive comments about your surroundings, or pay the person a compliment.
#8 Confide in someone you trust and ask for their help. Even if you are the most introverted person in the world, you probably have at least one person in your life that you feel you can confide in. Talk about your anxieties and concerns. They may be able to offer you advice or help you in some way.
Before an upcoming social event, perhaps ask a confident friend to ask you questions to include you in conversation with others. By doing this, you won’t be sat silently in the corner, but you are relieved of the pressure of starting a conversation yourself.
#9 Keep a conversation going by asking questions. Not only is it tricky to get a conversation started, but you may often find that any conversations you do have draw to a close after just a couple of turns.
The best way to keep a conversation going is to ask questions. Listen carefully to the other person and determine any questions that could be asked. Furthermore, if a question is asked of you, give a positive reply and where appropriate, return the same question.
#10 Plan, practice and initiate. If you know you are going to be interacting with someone at a party or on a date, plan your conversational approach beforehand. Decide something you would like to find out about that person and plan questions you could ask to achieve the response you are looking for.
You could even plan an event or gathering yourself, which would allow you to initiate conversations in an environment that is comfortable for you. More often than not, if you have initiated the meeting in the first place, you will feel more confident and more in control