Overcoming shyness: how to get in touch with strangers

First of all, let’s face it: by avoiding talking to strangers, you limit your freedom of self-expression and your opportunities to make friends with interesting people. What is more, shyness can drastically affect your performance both as a student and as a professional later on. Now, let’s accept another sad fact: shyness is the result of all or one of these reasons:

  • You are too obsessed with yourself and overestimate what other people think of you. Sorry to say, but you are not unique in this. Everybody cares about themselves and a small amount of them care about you.
  • You have low self-esteem and you’re sure no one likes you, which is impossible according to probability theory, as there are 7.6 billion people on the planet and several of them definitely like you.
  • The initial critic in your head emphasizes your weaknesses, making them the only thing you can think of while talking to people. You put too much effort into trying to conceal your “weaknesses” instead of developing your strong points.

How to overcome shynessPhoto by Syarafina Yusof on Unsplash

Congratulations! We have already made the first step to overcome the problem of shyness: we have stated it and its initial reasons. Is there a DIY way to deal with it without professional help? Let’s try together.

If it’s about language

  • Speak in simple words and sentences. If your language skills are not that good yet, you will have to avoid puns and jokes based on word choice. But, we promise you will compensate it later and demonstrate your brilliant sense of humor when your vocabulary will become a bit bigger.
  • Use body language if you forget a word. Describe words you don’t know with other notions you are familiar with.
  • Ask questions. By doing so, you will find out more about a person. And, as a bonus, you will be able to speak less but still interact actively in the conversation.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It is better to make a statement in simple words and sentences when it is appropriate rather than making it perfect in your head but have it unspoken.

Don’t expect too much from your language. You will make mistakes and it is totally okay. Only those who do nothing don’t make mistakes. Plus, remember everyone worries about themselves, their own mistakes, and the effect they have on others. This means that most people are too concentrated on their own life and don’t pay attention to your flaws.

What to do right now?

There is a belief that when you speak a foreign language, your personality changes. So, if English is not your mother tongue, it can be a great basis to create your new English alter-ego. Pretend you’re an actor and mimic someone you like. Many students from China, by the way, use an English pseudonym when they go to Eastern countries. Try to create a more confident and less shy personality for the new name you take.

There are also some recommendations that will help you to improve immediately. Try them on.

  • Visit acting courses. This will help those who have poor communication skills due to psychological barriers.
  • Remember that people will judge you anyhow. So, show them who you really are to let them judge the real you instead of a mask. Being open, though, makes you more vulnerable. So, if you are extremely shy, show your true self only to those people you trust.
  • Be more expressive to find new friends. Tell people about yourself when they ask you questions. Think and talk positive. Show your strong points and try to see the beauty in others.
  • Stop avoiding and restricting your freedom, because this is exactly what you do when you don’t allow yourself to speak out loud.
  • Try new things that make you uncomfortable: dance classes, drawing, guitar lessons, etc. Do what you always wanted but never was daring enough to try. And, remember that you never fail until you learn.
  • Don’t label yourself. Maybe it’s just you who see your shyness. Don’t start a conversation with listing all your insecurities.
  • Practice the body language of confident people: head high, open posture, broad smile.

And remember that people like you much more than you think. Most of them are willing to give you a helping hand if you need one. And those who treat you bad and point out all your mistakes are just unhappy people that try to make themselves feel better by making you feel bad.

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Mei Lien Wang
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Mei Lien moved to the USA from Hong Kong in 2016. She admires American culture and wants to share her experience of adapting to this new environment with other students from abroad. Mei Lien is fond of traveling, drawing, reading, cooking, swimming, and art. She even dreams of opening a gallery in the future.