Graham should have been looking forward to the party.
It was the first invitation he’d received since he started his new job last month and he knew it was just the opening he needed to really begin to get to know his new work colleagues.
Trouble was, he was simply dreading going.
It had always been like that for Graham. He’d been a painfully shy child. Things didn’t improve as he got older and now, in his mid-twenties, Graham was getting fed up with always feeling socially awkward.
‘What’s wrong with me?’ Graham pleaded when he arrived at my office. ‘Why can’t I be like other people? Everyone else seems so relaxed and confident. I’m sure the others are just looking forward to a great night out. It’s a new job and a new opportunity. But, if I’m not careful, I’ll just keep repeating the same old pattern. I’ve got to do something about this. For one thing, I’ve never even had a girlfriend!’
Towards or away from?
Graham sounded exasperated and he had my sympathies. As a young man trying to find his way in the world, he was certainly being confined and restricted by some on helpful internal beliefs.
We would have to do some work on in ensuring Graham had a ‘towards’ attitude rather than an ‘away from’ approach to life. (1)
If you find you are socially shy and awkward and start to avoid parties and get-togethers, you might be surprised to learn that you are being bullied by your shyness. You have developed an ‘away from’ attutude.
But, as I tell my clients, ‘There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You’re OK, it’s the shyness bully we have to deal with and we all stand up to bullies these days.’
So how is shyness stopping you from living the life you want to live?
Five these five tips for beating the shyness bully
Shy? Don’t be so selfish!
The trouble with shyness is it makes us focus on ourselves. A socially shy or awkward person who walks into a party will believe that everyone’s eyes is on them. They feel as though they are the focus of everyone’s attention.
In reality, people are largely absorbed in their own conversations. But many shy people, as they enter a room, feel nervous, and that nervousness transfers into anxious body language which others do pick up on.
As you walk into a room, make sure you say something helpful rather than unhelpful to your self such as ‘Looks like a lot of interesting people are here tonight. I’m going to be calm and confident and relaxed. I’ve made decision to just enjoy myself.’
Smile and the world smiles back
We are hardwired to make judgments about people within a few seconds of meeting them. As they say, ‘you don’t have a second chance at a first impression.’
You are perceived as eight times more attractive if you smile. So why wouldn’t you choose to smile as you enter a room or meet a new person. (2)
The activity of mirror neurons in brain circuitry mean a generous smile is likely to be reflected right back at you, making you feel comfortable and at ease. (3)
Focus out not in
Rather than think about yourself and how you are feeling, try focusing outward and try to put others at their ease.
A good listener is so rare in our society that, if you appear interested and ask questions of other people, and look interested in the answer, you are likely to be seen as someone who is good to be around.
Focus out, not in. Be genuinely interested in what other people are saying.
Learn to relax
A great way to manage anxiety is to slow your breathing down. Learning to breathe stress away and calm down to control anxiety is a key stress management technique.
If you calm your breathing and slow it down, allowing the out-breath to be longer than the in-breath, you will automatically appear more at ease. (4)
Use positive mental rehearsal (PMR)
Before you even go to an event, harness the enormous power of your imagination and positive visualization by closing your eyes, slowing your breathing and visualizing yourself walking into the room, calm, confident and relaxed.
The more you rehearse this positive visualization, the greater the impact on the on your neural chemistry. You are, quite literally rewiring your own brain for positivity.