How to Conquer Shyness in Any Social Setting, According to Science
Full disclosure: Shyness is by no means a negative trait. It's when shyness inhibits people from socialising entirely that it can become a problem. "Most people experience the feeling of being shy at one point or another, but for some, it can be debilitating enough that it prevents them from participating in social situations that are important to personal or professional goals," writes Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, a psychologist, professor, and author of Think Forward to Thrive.
At its worst, Vilhauer explains how shyness can result in isolation, loneliness, or even depression or substance abuse. On the bright side, she also offers up an actionable solution for those who are looking to move past their shyness and thrive in any social situation: simply changing your mind-set and planning for social gatherings to go well.
"Shyness, unlike introversion, which is associated with being quiet or reserved, is characterised by a strong tendency to overestimate negative scrutiny," she explains. "So a good deal of thought in a social setting is spent on how to not do something wrong, instead of on how to do something right. One good way to reduce your anxiety is to spend more time thinking about what you could do to make the social situation a success."
She recommends brainstorming topics for small talk ahead of time and coming up with an emergency exit strategy. "Exposing yourself to your fear is the best way to overcome it, however, it is also important to feel like you are in control," she concludes. "If you know you have a worst case scenario exit strategy, then you won't feel trapped."
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