ASK THE SEXPERTS
By Martha and Howard Lewis
Quick Fixes for Shyness
QUESTION: I'm almost 30, single, and very shy. Can you suggest some quick tips for overcoming shyness that I can put into practice right away, like for a party I'm going to Friday night?
ANSWER: Dr. Stuart Margulies, a New York City psychologist who leads workshops in overcoming shyness and achieving social success, has these practical suggestions for you:
Stop Thinking of Yourself as Shy
Shy people can change their way of thinking about themselves. You can stop telling yourself, "I'm a shy person." Instead, you can realize, "I can change habits that make me act shy."
Picture an Observer
To pinpoint what needs fixing, get a sense of how you actually behave. You'll probably find it helpful to imagine an objective observer -- an anthropologist from Mars -- observing you at a social gathering.
Imagine this objective observer noting: How you enter the room. What you seem to be feeling. How you introduce yourself. What you do when you want to get into a conversation.
Small gains can lead to big relief. Just one or two strategies can make you feel a lot better. For example, to get in on conversations, practice just listening for a while.
Make little comments -- you don't have to overwhelm people with brilliance. All that's needed at the outset are banal comments to show you're not a threat. Be sure to smile. Relax your shoulders. Look as if you'd welcome conversation.
Grab What's at Hand
A good way of starting a conversation is to reflect on something at hand -- e.g., "Have you had any of the stuffed grape leaves?" Another way is to pick up on something the other person has said: "I don't know if you saw the Times article on...." "What you said reminds me of...." Minor self-revealing statements are a great help.
Don't Be Discouraged
Don't expect to connect with everyone. It's great to find areas of common interest. But you can run into a number of people in a row who have an entirely different range of interests from you.
Don't feel inadequate with such people. There are many others whom you can relate with.
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