Shyness has long been a great concern for many people. What to do about shyness? The article below provides us with ways to overcome shyness. Read it and see whether these ways are effective.
The 43-year-old woman lived in constant fear of strangers, whether at parties with her husband or at school functions1 with her three children. “I endured these events,” she says, “by keeping as quiet as possible, not looking any one just in the eye, and just waiting for the hour when I could go home. I felt others saw how uncomfortable I was.”
Today this woman has learned to overcome her shyness, using techniques found to be successful in countless cases. She has a circle of friends and she participates in activities at her kids' school. And she now realizes that she wasn't alone in her problem.
Often mistakenly regarded as a childhood stage that people outgrow, shyness is surprisingly widespread. Philip Zimbardo, a Stanford University psychologist, co-director of the Shyness Institute and author of Shyness: What It Is, What to Do About It, surveyed more than 10 000 people during the 1970s and ‘80s and found that approximately 40 percent of this sample described themselves as shy.
Another study of 1 600 people, conducted by psychologist Bernardo Carducci, places the figure at 48 percent. According to Zimbardo, an additional 15 percent are “situationally shy, experiencing shyness in certain stressful circumstances, such as speaking in public.” The research indicates that males and females are equally shy.
There may be no “cures” for shyness. However, research is uncovering ways shy people can overcome their problem so it doesn't take such a toll2 on their happiness. Here's the best of the experts' advice:
1. Use a journal to get to the root of your fears. “A written record is a cheap, effective therapist,” says psychotherapist Christopher McCullough, author of Always at Ease: Overcoming Anxiety and Shyness in Every Situation. “We know more about ourselves than we think we know, and it's often surprising what comes out when we write down our thoughts and fears.”
One of McCullough's former patients, a single woman in her mid-30s, suffered severe shyness about dating. “She wrote down everything that happened surrounding a date: getting the phone call, making arrangements to go out, what was said during the date, what was said about future plans,” McCullough says, “as well as what she was thinking while all this was going on.” The woman noticed a recurrent theme. “She was afraid that a man might like her, but she might not like him － and then she wouldn't know how to get out of the relationship.”
McCullough explains that they talked about things she could say to men she didn't want to see any more. “Once she had those tools, dating became much less stressful.”
Though the woman was situationally shy － only one aspect of her life, dating, was problematic － a journal can be a helpful tool for the temperamentally shy as well. According to psychologist Jonathan Cheek, author of Conquering Shyness: A Personalized Approach, two-thirds of shy people can identify specific events in their lives that contributed to their shyness. Once the causes are identified, says Cheek, “you can deal with them in a constructive way.”
2. Create a “character” － an unshy version of yourself － and rehearse your own scenes. Zimbardo tells the story of a 50-year-old woman who found acting to be a solution to her shyness. “I discovered that my embarrassment vanished when I assumed a role in a play,” she wrote him. “It wasn't me on the stage. It was a character.”
This division of the self into “the real you and the role you,” says Zimbardo, is also common among “shy extroverts” － people who appear outgoing in public yet are shy in private. “Approximately 15 percent of those who are shy fit this description.”
Many popular entertainers, including American TV show hosts Johnny Carson and David Letterman, are shy but feel more at ease when they're on stage or on camera, Zimbardo says. Such successes are why some shy people get involved in community theater, debating societies or Toastmasters. During these activities they can temporarily “be” the unshy person.
Cynthia Finch, director of the Reticence Program at a Pennsylvania university, helped a shy student prepare to tell his father that he was leaving the school's Reserve Officers' Training Corps program. “He wrote a ‘script' of the conversation he was fearful of, including what he wanted to say, what his father might say, and how to answer,” Finch says. Afterward, she adds, the young man was less hesitant to talk to his father about other subjects that were important to him.
Scripting can be used with role-playing to rehearse for any scene in your life, whether it's asking your boss for a raise or meeting your child's teacher. When you rehearse these encounters, you've prepared what you're going to say, and you will be more confident going into the conversation.
“Shy people are often too concerned with whether or not their actions reflect their real selves,” Zimbardo explains. “Like an actor, you must learn to dissolve the boundary between the so-called real you and the role you play. Let your actions speak for themselves and eventually they'll be speaking for you.”
3. Do your homework. Bernardo Carducci calls this technique “social reconnaissance.” “If you're going to a party,” he suggests, “find out who will be there, what they do, what their interests are.” If you're making a business presentation to people you haven't met, find out something about their backgrounds. “You'll feel more in control when it comes time to make conversation,” he adds.
Another type of homework: look for a group that shares some interest of yours. Marjorie Coburn, director of a phobia and anxiety treatment center in California, helped the 43-year-old woman who was uncomfortable about strangers. Coburn learned that the woman had always wanted to learn to quilt. So at Coburn's suggestion, the woman signed up for a quilting class. There, she was able to talk with others about something she was interested in, even though these people were strangers. Her in-class conversations led to some friendships and socializing outside class. “For the first time,” Coburn says, “she actually enjoyed being with people. Moreover, she became less shy in other situations.”
4. Change your body language. “Shy people send out signals of coolness or withdrawal, often without realizing it,” says psychologist Arthur Wassmer, author of Making Contact: A Guide to Overcoming Shyness. “What they're constantly telegraphing is: ‘I'm scared, I'm afraid, I'm intimidated.' “Unfortunately, other people don't get those messages. They interpret this body language as aloofness or conceit and stay away, making the shy person feel even more insecure.
“Of all the techniques,” Wassmer adds, “simple changes in body language are the most surprising in terms of immediate results. Patients would say to me, ‘I had more conversations with people in the last week than I had in the last year!'”
Wassmer uses a one-word reminder to list all the body-language signals that project warmth and likability: SOFTEN. “S” stands for “smile,” “O” for “open posture” (legs and arms uncrossed), “F” for “forward lean,” “T “ for “touch” or friendly physical contact (shaking hands, for example), “E” for “eye contact” and “N” for “nod” (affirming you're listening and understanding). “By softening the image you send out to the world, you'll earn the friendliness and positive responses that make strangers seem less intimidating,” Wassmer claims.
沃斯默用一个单词来代表所有可以表现出热情讨喜的身体语言信号：SOFTEN（放松）。S代表smile (微笑)；O代表open posture(敞开的体态)，即双腿和双臂不交叉；F代表forward lean(向前倾)；T代表touch（触摸）或友好的身体接触，例如握手；Ｅ代表eye contact(眼睛的接触)；N代表 nod（点头）证实你正在听并且理解。“通过向外传递一个放松的形象，你会获得友谊和积极的回应，陌生人就不会给你胁迫感，”沃斯默声称。
Shy people find conversation difficult; they hardly ever speak up because they're too busy worrying about the impression they're making. Researchers have found that to keep a conversation moving along, unshy people instinctively use conversational feedback such as “Yes, I agree” or “How interesting.”
When conversation lags, ask open-ended questions such as “How did you get into your line of work?” “Open-ended questions are a signal that you're friendly,” says Jonathan Berent, a psychotherapist and author of Beyond Shyness: How to Conquer Social Anxieties. “Such questions also keep the focus on the other person － not you.”
5. Let others in on your secret. Christopher McCullough once counseled a man who liked his job but dreaded monthly meetings in which he had to participate. He was afraid he'd say something stupid or even panic and run out of the room － and lose his job if he did. Finally he confided his fears to his boss, who told him that he could leave the room if he needed to, that his job was not at risk. “Eventually this calmed the worker down,” McCullough says, “and he was able to get through meetings and even participate.”
５. 让别人知悉你的秘密。克里斯托弗·麦克洛夫曾经做过一个人的顾问，他喜欢自己的工作，却惧怕每月必须参加的例会。他害怕自己会说些愚蠢的话或者恐慌得夺门而逃，因而失去工作。最后他把自己的恐惧向老板倾诉，老板告诉他 ，如果他认为必要就可以离开房间，没有丢工作的危险。麦克洛夫讲：“这样终于使他平静下来，能够开完会，甚至参与会议。”
A major complaint of shy people is that their families, friends and even doctors don't take their problem seriously. Marjorie Coburn advises a shy person to find “safe people” who accept their shyness － not those who tell them to come out of their shell. “You want people who'll listen to your fears without making judgments,” she emphasizes.
6. Envision the worst-case scenario. Dr. Paul Bohn, former director of the Social and Performance Anxiety Clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles, asks patients to discuss their greatest fears in front of fellow shyness-sufferers. For instance, if someone is afraid of giving a speech, he might be asked by the group: What's the evidence for your fear? “People laughed at me when I was a kid.” What's the evidence against it? “No one has laughed at me for years.” What's the worst that could happen? “They'll laugh at me!” And what'll happen then? “Either I'll laugh with them, or I'll never come back to speak to the group again.” So even the worst-case scenario is hardly the catastrophe that the person had imagined.
One common fear that often does come true is the onset of physical symptoms that sometimes accompany shyness: perspiration, a shaking voice, blushing. Yet research shows that these symptoms aren't nearly as noticeable to others
7. Take small steps. Marjorie Coburn used this technique to help a 35-year-old bookkeeper. The woman wanted to earn an accounting degree but was too shy to take classes. “She was afraid that she would be called on to speak,” she says. “We worked up to her goal gradually.”
First, she just walked around a university campus. Next, she signed up for a seminar, sat in the back and didn't speak to anyone. At another seminar, she talked to the person next to her. “Eventually,” says Coburn, “she enrolled for a bookkeeping course.” If she was called on, she could respond easily, thanks to her own authority on the subject.
Finally the woman enrolled in the accounting program and did so well she was asked to tutor students. “When she took on the role of teacher, her shyness went away,” Coburn notes. If shy people work at it, says Jonathan Cheek, most are able to cope with their problem. “It is work,” he adds, “but it's a battle they can win.”“You're not going to wake up one morning transformed into the life of the party,” Cheek continues. “In fact, you may always feel shy inside. But you'll forge ahead anyway and connect with others. And in doing so, you'll be refusing to stand on the sidelines of life. That's the real victory.”