How many times did you want to say something but you chose to be silent? You have probably had this feeling when you wanted to say a lot but could only squeeze a few words that completely lost the context because the moment has gone and the awkward silence followed. You probably managed to get the desired attention, but it made you feel only worse.
How many times did you want to do something absolutely crazy, something that nobody would expect from you, something to have a lot of fun? However, you gave up that idea because you knew that people will probably label you for that. They may start making their opinions on your actions and overall it’s gonna be a bad experience.
For some reason, you can do anything you want with only one condition. If you were in another country where nobody knows your name and nobody knows who you are you can do everything. You can finally be who you want to be, and you don’t need to pretend or hide your face. You could open yourself to the new opportunities and feel free. Nobody would judge you, and if they dared, you wouldn’t care much because again nobody knows you here.
That’s a tough time you’re going through. I know what it feels like. The bad news is that you’ll face a lot of challenges on your way to overcoming shyness. The good news is that you can start today and next week you can become more confident in your words and actions.
When I was working as an English teacher in a private school, I had a pretty cool student. He was around 14 If I’m not mistaken. I had plenty of students who were insecure about different things just like most teenagers, but that guy was exceptional. Not only he knew he was insecure and very shy he was also willing to speak about it very openly. It’s not a contradiction, and here is why.
I think one of the reasons why he could speak so freely about his insecurities was that English was his second language just like mine. He could be “in another country” while sitting here talking to me. If you’ve ever tried learning another language, you might have noticed that when you use the new language you act and speak differently. You become a different person.
In this case, that student was an insecure guy when he used Russian (his native language) to communicate and a very confident bright boy when he used English. We had classes with him for 2 months only, and he spoke about his problem with his parents and how they press on him. He shared his story that he was forced to do what he didn’t like to do. For example, he wanted to play tennis, but his father sent him to Judo or Sambo.
He couldn’t stand his ground when they pressed on him. And when he tried to speak back, they would say that he is too young to make his own decisions and they know better what’s good for him.
That’s a very big problem when parents try to implement their unrealized dreams into their children. There is a massive collision of interests that’s happening in your kid’s brain. If you’re a parent don’t ever do that. I’ll write an article about it, so stay tuned.
So, back to the student. He could, however, stand up for himself when we started discussing things in English. It was just our topic, and we followed the program, so I’m very glad for that coincidence. A month later, he said that his parents agreed to his objections and allowed him to jump into tennis. He said that he was looking for a partner to play with. I’m sure he succeeded.
Speaking about the shyness that he had, he clearly said that he was afraid to speak about his interests because they were never met and he didn’t want somebody to think badly about him. With English, he could be whatever he wanted to be.
Usually, when you learn another language, it’s up to you what words to learn, what phrases to combine, what topics to discuss, and what problems to speak about. When you learn a language you set clear goals, milestones for yourself which you constantly try to reach. You also choose your partners to talk to who are interested in the topic. The learning process happens with natural interest and desire to learn things. To learn the language you must be willing to talk, listen, write and read. And you do all these activities regardless of your level.
From the first lesson, teachers say that you do not need to worry about your language proficiency because we are all equal here. Just be brave, have fun and enjoy the journey.
There is no social anxiety because you’re put in a group of newbies just like you and you start your journey together. You have at least one common interest by default.
As you learn the language, you also learn more about your group mates because you need to be constantly involved in different activities. Nobody forces you, you decide whether to join the discussion or not.
If only you could see how people change when they walk out of the school and jump into their native environment. After a few hours of excitement since the end of the lesson people deepen into their problems and insecurities again. The good news is that people are not always shy. The shyness comes from the already existing standards of your natural environment that you’ve been put into, and you think that this is how it should be.
Since there is no teacher at hand, you should be the one. You decide what your environment should look like. You’ll be surprised how easily you can involve different people in the conversation because you have created the conditions for the communication.
But that’s complicated as hell if you’re at the very start of dealing with your shyness and social anxiety. So, let’s look at some simple activities that can help you break the insecurity wall.
When you learn a language, you’re put into the perfect environment. If you try to speak to somebody in the park even knowing the new language, you’ll be even shyer than you’re now. That’s a story for another article. So, let’s get back to shyness in its origin.
Your perfect environment is already here. If you want to stop being shy and deal with social anxiety don’t try to invent the wheel. Instead, involve in daily small talks when you do everyday things.
For example, if you go to the store to buy some food rather than saying plain “thanks” to the cashier try to improve your interactions and wish the cashier a great day. For me, it has always been a challenge. When I started concentrating on such micro interactions, it became easier for me to talk to people.
You may find some recommendations on the web that you can easily come up to a stranger and start talking just follow “these simple steps.” Well, that’s not simple at all. Thinking about possible failure can make things even worse, and you’ll close up in your room for weeks to recover from such experience.
Instead, look for the groups of people that surround you. It’s difficult to speak to people if you don’t know what your common interests are, so you shouldn’t bother yourself with finding new people to talk to. Practice your skills with those whom you know. When you talk to your friend or somebody whom you know instead of letting the conversation flow uncontrolled, observe how your thoughts are generated in your head.
Try to control what you say. Think about thinking and think about saying, however strange that may sound. You can practice this exercise at home when nobody’s watching or hearing you. For example, try to play a game. Generate a model of a conversation. Ask yourself questions and respond to them. Also, ask questions your imaginary conversation partner.
It may look and sound stupid, and it probably will. But you’re here not to play a madman who is talking to himself but somebody who is watching his thoughts. You may feel unconfident when you speak. You can understand that you feel uncomfortable if you have thoughts such as “ah, well, nobody asks such questions”, “oh wow, this is stupid”, “I wouldn’t say it in a real situation”, “what the hell am I doing here?”
You can ask some silly questions and get crazy answers. Nevertheless, your goal is to watch how your thought is flowing. Set your communication goals and control what you say. Try to remember those cases where you felt the most uncomfortable during a conversation or in a situation. Now, you have a chance to work on it. Come up with some cool ideas how you could have responded or how you might have acted if you had another chance. Just like that sleepless night when you go to bed and you can’t fall asleep because you remembered that case 5 years ago when you needed to respond differently.
Creating an artificial environment to practice your conversations is a good way to increase your level of confidence when you speak. An important note is that you should be practicing your speech in front of a mirror so that you can look into your own eyes. Spend time having a nice talk with somebody who understands you the best, ya know.
I was very nervous during job interviews, and I trained in this exact way to overcome my shyness and anxiety. I learned how to answer the basic interview questions until I developed strong communication skills and was able to not prepare at all. This was one of the major skills that helped me to get the job that I wanted without any skills or knowledge.
Looking at yourself when you talk increases your confidence because you start liking yourself more. Remember that time when you recorded your own speaking? Horrible sound, right? It’s because you hear yourself for the first time and your brain rejects your own voice. It’s strange, unknown and probably unfriendly for you to hear your own voice which comes from the recorder and not from the inside. But as you keep listening, you’ll get used to your voice. Same with your appearance.
Look at how you act when you speak, and practice both skills until you like it. Spend 1 or 2 weeks doing that and then go freaking outside. Find the courage to talk to your friends or cashier or some random person on occasion. You’ll be surprised how easy it has become to speak and control what you’re saying. When you got used to how you look and you feel comfortable speaking, your shyness will naturally fade away.
Check out the video from Charisma on Command on how to get comfortable talking to people and destroy awkward silence:
If you liked the article give it a like and share with your shy friends! Also, feel free to comment on how you deal with shyness and social anxiety.