zen habits : breathe

Eight Essential Tips to Overcoming Shyness and Making a Good Impression

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Cyan Ta’eed, editor of FreelanceSwitch.

Many of us wish we were one of those people who walked into a room and had friends-to-be flock to them. Anyone would agree that those of us who make friends easily and are innately likable will probably have an easier and more pleasant time of things than those who are incredibly shy or find it very hard to make friends.

Little do many of us know that making a positive impression is far easier than we might think. But before I get started with that, let me let you in on a little secret:

Everyone is just as shy as you are.

Everyone… in the whole world. Some have learnt to hide it a little bit better or simply ignore it, but every one of us has the same fears and self-doubts.

I’ll qualify this by saying that I am regularly told that I am good with people and that I appear very confident in social situations. I don’t say this to brag, but because if you asked me I would tell you that I am very shy and insecure and overcome it by pure force of will.

This insight led me to ask some of the people I consider to be confident and very socially skilled. The uniform answer: I’m shy but I work at it.

It is incredibly liberating to realize that no matter how you shy you might be, the person you’re nervous to introduce yourself to is just as shy as you are. In fact, they’d be relieved if you took the first step. With this in mind, here are eight essential tips to overcoming shyness and making a good impression:

1) Introduce Yourself. This sounds so basic, but many people seem afraid to do it! Say you’re standing next to someone at a party, or you’ve run into someone with a friend and they’ve forgotten to introduce you. Our little shy alter-ego tells us at this point that no one wants to know our name and we should just keep quiet. I can guarantee that a big smile and a simple “my name’s blank, what’s yours” will be all you’ll need to get the ball rolling. Do it straight away because the longer you wait the harder it will be.

2) Don’t Feel the Need to Qualify Yourself. We’ve all been in a situation where a new acquaintance has gone to great pains to express just how great they are. Whether it’s how fantastic their job is, how much money they have or how hot their girlfriend is, it never leaves a good impression. However, when we’re in a stressful social situation ourselves, suddenly the temptation to prove that we’re socially worthy rears it’s ugly head. A humble but accurate description when asked is all that is needed, and if you make people feel good about themselves that’s the best social qualifier of all.

3) Ask More, Talk Less. People love to talk about themselves. It is the most interesting topic in the world. You know the best way to get people to enjoy your company? Ask the questions that let them talk about their lives. And then listen with interest. Simple as that. And if you’re worrying that you won’t have anything to ask, I heard a very socially savvy friend ask an acquaintance what fillings he liked most in his sandwiches. He was enamored with her. Trust me, you’ll think of something!

4) Be Generous. I’m not talking about buying drinks or a meal, but rather being generous in your opinion. It is all too easy to judge someone who says the wrong thing or acts a little differently from what we expect. However we have all had days when we make a terrible first impression by making an off joke or just saying the wrong thing because of nerves or a simple slip of the tongue. If you reserve judgement and spend time making that person comfortable you will not only spread some good karma around but will earn their eternal gratitude.

5) Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. I know a model. She’s absolutely stunning, yet appallingly shy. If a less attractive woman were to act as she does, she would be sympathized with, understood and efforts would be made to put her at her ease. My model friend is labeled stuck up and rude. Do not assume that if someone is cold it is because they think they are better than you or don’t have time for you. That may happen in high school, but thankfully that type of behavior is rare in the real world. If someone is cold it is most likely because they are very shy and insecure. Remember that and don’t be shaken if someone doesn’t respond as warmly as you would like.

6) Remember a Detail. Everyone wants to feel special, and we’re all looking for someone else to give us evidence that we are. If you’ve met someone before, remembering their name and a detail about them will be the greatest gift you can give them. This can be hard, but once you start getting control of social nerves it will become easier.

7) Compliment Others. I’m not suggesting you compliment someone for the sake of it, but if you genuinely like something then go ahead and tell them! Everyone loves a compliment, they start conversations and they give people confidence. I concede that women find it easier to compliment one another, but a genuine compliment from by either sex will never fail to create a generous atmosphere.

8) Think of Others. We hear this all the time, but it bears repeating. When in social situations, stop thinking about yourself and think about the other people there. If someone wants to join your conversation then make it easy for them. Help the host with serving or clearing away. Introduce people to one another. In short, get out of your own head and make sure others are having a good time. They will be truly grateful and you’ll be distracted from your own nerves!

Cyan Ta’eed is the editor of FreelanceSwitch. For more articles by her, see her blog or subscribe to its feed.

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