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The other day, my friend,
[info]silverton, posted an entry about her first week of classes and how her shyness made it difficult to join in with class discussion. 
Shyness can have a profound effect on our interactions with others. I think most folks suffer from it to some extent. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my own struggle with this problem, and how I finally managed to overcome it.
I remember the day I decided to conquer my shyness. I was in my early twenties, married (not to Senior Management) and a house-owner. I stood at a coach stop for over an hour in the pouring rain, during which time I let coach after coach pull up and leave – many of which I later learned would have taken me to where I wanted to go – all because I was too shy to ask the drivers for information. 
The only reason I ever made it to my destination was because of some other strangers who came to that stop. They asked the driver of the next coach and I overheard his answer.
Don’t get me wrong.   I could answer a phone or speak to people if they spoke to me first (or in the case of my ten month stint as a pub disc jockey, if I had a microphone to talk to), I just couldn’t initiate a simple conversation with someone I didn’t know.
I got so mad at myself that day (not to mention more than a little damp). I decided I'd had enough of being afraid of other people. I didn’t have any plan, but I made myself a promise that I wasn't going to be shy anymore. 
I vowed to start a conversation with at least one new person every day – I worked in London back then, so finding a stranger wouldn’t be a problem.
I wish I could say things changed overnight, but they didn’t. It took me a week to sum up the courage to say ‘Hi’ to someone new, but I kept at it.  I’m so glad I did. One of the first things I discovered was that if you go halfway to strike up a friendly conversation, most folks will gladly go the other half.
In the years since then, I’ve gotten so good at forcing myself to confront my shyness, people actually think I’m confident (sometimes a little too confident). But you know something? I’m fine with that.   
I’ve met hundreds, possibly thousands of new people since that wet, windy day at the coach stop, some of whom I’m proud to call my good friends. If I hadn’t got so mad at myself back then, I’d probably still be the shy wallflower in the corner of the room, and where would be the fun in that? 

How about you? 

Has shyness had an impact on your life?

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( 66 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jan. 25th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
I've never been overly shy -- I was an exchange student to Germany at age 16 for a year, and that's not something you can do if you're too shy. But I have had one area of significant improvement over the years, and that's speaking in front of groups. Hated it in middle school and high school. Seriously disliked it in college. Then got to first grad program and every single class required at least one formal presentation. It was either get better at it or be miserable.

Same with the second grad degree (library) at which point I was beginning to enjoy it. Ended up conducting lots of trainings for my day job in front of groups, and became a teacher for Princeton Review (test prep company). Now I do lots of classroom teaching as a librarian, and when it goes well (as it does most of the time), it's a real high. I'm so glad I got over my fear of public speaking!
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:13 pm (UTC)
I imagine public speaking is high on a lot of people's 'Not even with a gun to my head' lists, but I've learned to enjoy it :)
Jan. 25th, 2010 07:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah--I find it hard to believe you battle shyness, even though you've said as much before. To me, you seem to be a very confident, competent (if peculiar) man.

I was shy only as a very small child. I think I transformed mostly because I wanted to be like Pippi Longstocking. ;)
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
I think I've been acting confident so long now, it's become a habit.

Thanks for sharing, Pippi :)
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 25th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - bogwitch64 - Jan. 25th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 26th, 2010 01:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Jan. 26th, 2010 01:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
The Smiths have a song about that...

Shyness is nice, but shyness can stop you
From doing all the things in life that you'd like to
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC)
Sad, but very true.
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I have always been about as shy, quiet, peaceful and retiring as a Mongol Khan, but under there, there's alwys a tiny part of me that is delighted when someone else comes up to me and starts the conversation. So I can confidently tell you that the way you went about curing your shyness probably made a lot of complete strangers' day a little better!
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
Lol, especially when I said 'Goodbye' ;)
(no subject) - bondo_ba - Jan. 25th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 25th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
I never was a shy person to start with, but I became shy over time. I was bullied for a couple of years in junior high school and I learned not to speak to people I didn't know or trust, not to speak up because it might make the wrong impression. My tendency to put my foot in my mouth added to that effect and I became shy. I have been trying to shed this acquired shyness for a couple of years now, and though it's hard, it helps that I still have my more impulsive nature. I've learned just recently that I can strike up conversation with any of my colleagues, no matter how high up they are, and tell them what I need from them. No I couldn't do this for a long time, and my boss was not very happy about that. It turned me into a bit of a hypocrit, smiling and agreeing with the "important" people while not always doing what they wanted me to. Now that I'm slowly learning that I am allowed to say no to them, that's luckily changing.
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
That's interesting, especially about how bullying changed you.

Sadly, there are plenty of 'grown-up' bullies too, people who shout and rant rather than discuss, or those who try to make themselves look smart and 'in charge' by making other folks look stupid or mocking/dismissing their opinions.

Still, as my old gran you say, "Better to be upset by people like that than to be people like that, right?
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
I'm a total introvert. Shy as the day is long. I have some abilty to flip the switch and give an appearance of being outgoing. But in any given situation, if I had my way, I'd sit inside my head and never venture out. (I wonder if that comes as a surprise, or if you would guess that of me.)

And that translates even into online interactions. Many is the time I start to respond to someone's post, then think better of it, and just delete everything I was going to say. In some ways, online can be a bit more dangerous in that I have the ability to self censor even after the words have left my brain. In actual conversation, that's no option, and once I start to talk, I kind of have to finish the thought or it feels worse than not saying a thing.

I don't get Star Struck mind you. The fact that someone is BIG NAME PERSONALITY doesn't mean much to me. (Well, except for Bernadette Peters, but that's a whole long tangent.) The fact that I don't know them, and they have no idea who the heck I am does.
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:38 pm (UTC)
'I don't get Star Struck mind you.'

If that's the case, why do you drop to one knee every time GSHW president, Neal Levin, walks past? ;)

Actually, I've always found you to be friendly, and though, as you said yourself, you're not the most outgoing fellow, you have what I like to call a 'welcoming face', which makes you easy to approach and talk to.
(no subject) - temporus - Jan. 25th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 25th, 2010 08:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:35 pm (UTC)
This will sound very pathetic, but the interwebs give me a nice outlet to talk to people. When faced with actually meeting people in person, I completely freeze up. It's not that I hate being around people, I just feel very self-conscious. So, sometimes folks might think I'm rude or blowing them off, when really I'm probably at home, pacing back and forth, trying not to climb the walls. It gets worse the older I get too. Eventually, I'll be walking around the house with kleenex boxes on my feet, and keeping my finger nails in specimen jars.

"Quarantine. Q-U-A-R-A-N-T-I..." (Obscure "The Aviator" reference)
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
If and when you turn into 'Wendigo Hughes', I hope you don't get the boxes and jars mixed up ;)

I agree with you about the interwebs. It's fun to meet folks online.

Thanks for sharing :)
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC)
::raises hand::

I'm shy.

Okay, you'd probably not guess this watching me on the net or interacting with a group of people I know, but yeah, I qualify. Part of my reluctance to go to cons and whatnot with my fellow geeks is my shyness. I remember how uncomfortable it feels being the kid who stands out in a crowd; having a voice that carries and carrot top hair (which has since mellowed into a reddish gold) is the equivalent of jumping up and down while yelling "look at me!" Particularly so when as a teen you just want to blend in.

Among people I know I'm not shy, but that's to be expected; you're comfortable with them.

I've gradually improved over time -needing a job will help you break out of that- but I still get that slight bit of terror pulsing through my veins when we go out to a party where I only know only a couple of people. I went to a friend's wedding a couple of years ago and I survived, but it wasn't easy: he was the only person I knew aside from another guy in the wedding party, and the reception was h-u-g-e.
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:51 pm (UTC)
The sad thing is, I bet there were plenty of people at that wedding who felt out of place and awkward too.

The more I think about it, the more I think shyness is one of those 800lb gorillas in the room. We've all got it to some extent or other.

Thanks for sharing :)
(no subject) - mtlawson - Jan. 25th, 2010 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 25th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mtlawson - Jan. 25th, 2010 10:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 25th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
I was an Army Brat, moved all the time as a kid, so if I was ever shy I don't remember it. I talk to everyone - waiting in line next to me is somewhat less dull (though perhaps more scary... ~.^).
Jan. 25th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
And a lot more fun, I'm sure :)
Jan. 25th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
I'm very shy. And it has impacted my life a great deal. I use to play a little War craft and I got to level 40 without ever joining a group or a guild. Even my Avatar was shy.:)
Jan. 25th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
War craft? Is that what they play on The Big Bang Theory?
(no subject) - maryjdal - Jan. 26th, 2010 12:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 25th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
Husband was painfully shy. Took him a year and a half to say hi to me, and I saw him three times a week!

He's since gotten over it, but for a while I couldn't get him to say much, now he won't shut up. :P
Jan. 25th, 2010 09:50 pm (UTC)
well, he has a lot of lost time to make up for :)
Jan. 25th, 2010 10:31 pm (UTC)
I recognise that young man. I may have studied him in the mirror, which is probably why I had long hair, a full beard and dark glasses when I was young. I never had a Damascus Road experience, or a wet bus stop moment, but I guess I realised I didn't have to be shy any more when I realised I had ceased to be in love with one beautiful woman and was, in fact, in love with another beautiful woman and she was in love with me.
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:22 pm (UTC)
I think shyness is a mixture of a kind phobia and habit. I certainly found it easier to talk to new people as time went on.

As for that 'Damascus Road' experience, aren't you a Newcastle fan? :)
(no subject) - martyn44 - Jan. 26th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 26th, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - martyn44 - Jan. 26th, 2010 02:27 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 25th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC)
I'm not too shy, either online or in person, but I'm more reserved in person than online. Maybe it's a kind of shyness... I like to just be quiet and get a sense of the situation and the scene.
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
'I like to just be quiet and get a sense of the situation and the scene.'

I do that at first, When I'm somewhere new and not sure if I'll fit in, but after that I'm fine.
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
Lol, good for you :)
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - jongibbs - Jan. 26th, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 26th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
I was quiet as a child, owing to bullying, but only in certain situations. Then as a 7 year old I got the teacher from hell, who, when called on her unreasonable actions (punishing a class of Grade three children for not being able to complete maths tasks that brother, a maths genius, hadn't yet encountered in hihgh school) she retaliated by locking me into a cupboard. For about three hours.

So, some situations, where I'm really hurt, I close right down. But I refused to let her beat me, even the bullies in high school. It helped that we moved to the farm when I was 9, and a little country school where I was simply accepted. These days, I know most of the cleaning staff, and trolley people at my usual shopping centre, enough to stop and say hello to and ask about their family, I pretty much talk to everyone. *g*
Jan. 26th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
'I pretty much talk to everyone.'

Me too. It's fun, isn't it? :)
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