Come out of your shell

Come out of your shell

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by Nina

Nina is a wellness coach, student midwife, and writer at Shalom Mama, where she helps families simplify natural living. She and her husband live in central Oregon with their four kids on a school bus turned RV.

Being a painfully shy introvert has its bonuses. You get a lot of reading done. Sometimes, your quiet contemplativeness makes people think you’re mysterious and sexy. You never run out of themes for pity parties.

But that’s about it.

I’ve struggled with being shy most of my life. And did I mention that social awkwardness was a by-product?

I remember being at my husband’s holiday party and feeling super anxious. I said hi to people but stuck close to my husband, afraid to engage further, convinced they’d think I was boring. We left early because I was so miserable.

I was a total drag.

So I decided it was time to stop living in a state of fear. Life was no fun (they call it painfully shy for a reason) and I was done with missing out on connecting with people.

It’s been a few years since I’ve made that decision and I am so grateful I did. Now, when we attend a get-together, I enjoy talking to people. The relationships that have developed since making that decision are the best I’ve ever had.

There are still times that I have difficulty approaching people I don’t know, but I usually push myself to do it and end up very happy that I did.

But where do you start? Do you volunteer to be emcee at your best friend’s upcoming wedding? Probably not. Here are a few practical tips I followed to pull myself out my shell.

Don’t talk to strangers. Yet.

Don’t try to go from wallflower to life of the party overnight. The thought of that probably makes your heart race anyway – and not in a good way.

To start, make a point of talking to someone you’re acquainted with but don’t know very well. They’re familiar, but you still have to work to engage with them and build a relationship.

Get out of your environment

Home is cozy. It’s yours and you don’t have to talk unless you want to. But if you want to get out of your shell, you first have to get out of your environment and hang out with … other people. Scary, I know.

No really, I know.

But it’s the only way to meet people. Unless you want to start hosting dinners at your house, then go for it. But you can’t hide in the kitchen all night.

Get passionate

Would you rather talk with Emeril Lagasse about pork fat or Dave Ramsey about debt snowballs? That’s a trick question.

I would say both because of their passion about their respective topics, which draws people in (or repels them, which works out well for you in the end).

Sharing your passion with others, be it travel, cooking or simple living makes it easier for you to open up and more enjoyable for the person talking with you.

Tell a better story

One of my fears was that people would come say hi, then walk away because I was just so boring.

If you have a deep desire to come out of your shell, chances are your story might not be so hot. It’s ok. It’s never too late to change.

Life doesn’t have to be extraordinary all the time, but you should definitely start sprinkling in moments of awesomeness where you can.

Take dancing lessons, learn a new language, travel, volunteer, take up a new sport, move into a school bus. Sign up for something that sounds fun but scares your pants off.

Start living your life as the amazing story that it is. Once you feel truly alive, it’s hard to hide it. Relating to others is a natural by-product.

And really, what have you got to lose? Fear? Anxiety? Time with your cat?

Trust me, you’ll be better off with less of that.

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Comments

  1. I’m a HUGE introvert but I’m not shy. I’ll talk about pretty much anything with anyone. That said, while I’m not afraid to talk to people at parties, I do sometimes have to remind myself to make the effort (seeing as I’d just as soon people watch and keep to myself). Focusing on something I’m passionate about to discuss is a great tool for this…thanks!

    • I’m right there with you. Can talk at a party for hours but feel ibcredible anxiety with one on one friendships. Always afraid to look dumb. Silly huh?

      • I think this makes total sense. The stakes feel a lot lower talking to strangers – what have you got to loose? Those “friendly but not friends” situations can feel more intimidating because we get self conscious about wanting the other person to truly like us. Or we’re worried that someone we think of as a friend doesn’t think about us the same way.

      • This is me exactly. Possibly due to past hurts that ended close friendships… although I hate to overthink and analyze it all…

  2. Great post! While not quite painfully shy, I am not comfortable talking to new people. Luckily, my wife is. :-) Thanks for the tips. How did your husband get past your shyness when you first met? Sounds like that would god a good post too.

  3. My husband talks to anyone and everyone, and for years I was comfortable being in the background when we were together…then I would see someone we’ve met and they remembered me as “Mike’s wife”. After years of this I decided it was time to do some talking of my own, and it has made a world of difference. Easy? No. But the payoff is worth it.

  4. sounds familiar

  5. My mom was a heavy duty introvert like me. One if her best techniques for overcoming the natural tendency to hang back is to ask questions. Challenge yourself like a game to see how much you can draw the other person out. Almost without fail, the other person is DELIGHTED to encounter such a good listener and will eventually start asking questions in return. Voila a conversation!!

    • I have a friend who does this and I think it’s absolutely genius. As an extrovert, I’m happy to answer questions – haha. :-)

  6. I’m an introvert but I had to made the decision to be more outgoing for the same reasons. It’s much easier to stay home and read (and I LOVE to read) than to leave home and put myself out there. But we just moved to another state and I know I can’t sit home and expect people to be banging down my door to be my friend. It’s scary but oh so rewarding! Being a good listener is very nearly a lost art nowadays and if I’m encouraging the other person to talk, it takes some of the pressure off me. :-)

  7. I too have gotten a lot better at conversation over the years. I got a lot of practice when I worked at a nursing home-type setting and when our church was mostly full of older people–those folks are so easy to talk to, have so much wisdom, and rarely make me feel awkward :) They’re a great age group to start with if people your own age tend to intimidate you!

    And two tips on talking to strangers: 1. Ask questions– lots of people love to hear themselves talk :) (Pick up on a key word they say and ask another question about that to keep the conversation going.) 2. Develop a conversation starter. I always say, “Hi! I’m Diana. What’s your name?” After they tell me, I say, “Are you from around here?” And that usually gets the conversation going fairly well.

    Loved this, and it’s definitely great to not be so intimidated in social settings :)

  8. I agree about asking questions. That is a great way to talk to people at gatherings. People love to talk about their children or grandchildren, too–so I usually ask about them. Also, going into a gathering situation with three topics of conversation to use helps (example, summer vacations, local developments, and latest movie).

  9. I think just challenging yourself to not think about yourself or how you may come across to people or appear is key. Care more about seeing that others are comfortable and engaged, listening and possibly trying to seek out someone who seems more alone or uncomfortable than you do. You know, the person hanging by the chip and dip. If I put myself into “greeter” mode as I do at church and don’t focus on myself, it’s easy to come out of my shy shell.

  10. I had a similar moment and also decided to not be so shy. An acquaintance mentioned that she’s painfully shy and afraid of being boring, and all along I had thought her witty, friendly, and outgoing. Once you realize no one else is always comfortable and confident either, it makes putting yourself out there a lot easier.

    Oh, and compliments usually help a conversation flow too, especially if they are deeper than dress, shoe, or hair comments.

  11. An excellent post with tips also useful for the not so shy. I think spicing up my story is an excellent way to feel comfortable in awkward social situations especially when going to places that you have not experienced.

    I attended a huge Cathollic Media conference last year and hardly spoke to anyone because I am a home-life style blogger and not a “Catholic Mom ” blogger, I just happen to be Catholic. I so wish I would have read this prior, then maybe I could have spiced up my story, or started a mini Catholic Mom blog just to get my toe in the water.

    Thank you for the post,
    Pam

  12. Was your husband excited about this change? Love my husband to death but the truth is…he’s kind of a drag in social situations. We’ve been together a really long time and I still know that I’m going to have to carry the load for both of us at dinners, get-togethers, etc. Please know that I don’t expect him to be like me but it would be nice for him to make more effort. :-/

  13. Great post, I think that everyone is a bit shy at times, I love meeting new people but it also takes me awhile to warm up completely. I think the most important thing is practice! Keep putting yourself in uncomfortable positions, the more you do it, the easier it will become!

  14. It’s always good to hear a breakthrough story. Thanks for sharing your’s with us.

    Finding a sweet spot and treasure trove can really help draw a shy person out of their shell. A sweet spot is an activity or place you love. A treasure trove are people you love to hang out with. We usually stumble across them in life but a systematic deliberate search can uncover them as well.

    When I was a child I had a stammer and often avoided conversations due to anxiety and embarrassment. My parents took me to a ranch camp when I was 12. I remember sitting in the back seat of the car feeling a little anxious as I was going to spend a whole week with a group of people I didn’t know at a place I had never been to before.

    I loved it. The place and the people. Horse riding, archery, campfires, swimming in the lake and so many other activities. I went to every camp I could and a few years later I became a youth leader of young children there.

  15. I grew up painfully shy too, and I do mean painfully. There were early school years where I wouldn’t talk in front the class, only whisper to the teacher and she could relay it to everyone. I have learned to step out a bit, and with friends and the like I’m pretty chatty. But with people I’m still getting to know? WOW am I ever awkward…or are they? I don’t know. But I leave most conversations blown away by the awkwardness that ensued. Maybe I’ll just get used to it?!

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