How to Be Social, Overcome Shyness, and Make Friends
You can meet more people, get more dates, and make more friends when you do not behave shy. Here’s a way you can easily do that.
Shyness is a kind of self-abuse
Shy people are shy because they are trying to protect themselves from how they imagine others will react to them. Shyness is a kind of shell that make them feel safe, but actually blocks their own happiness. Because even people who would like to be closer to them are shut out. For instance, if someone says “hello” to a really shy person, they are likely either not to reply or to reply in a way that appears unfriendly (no eye contact, looking nervous, no animation, looking uncomfortable).
You may be shy and not even know it
Before you start saying you are not shy, consider whether you feel comfortable talking to both men and women, one on one and in groups, to attractive people and less attractive people, to introverts and extroverts. There is a high likelihood that you are shy with at least some kinds of people. While you may not have a solid shell around you, you may have a kind of “screen” that keeps too many people shut out. We want to screen out weirdos of course, but everyone else deserves at least a little human contact. Everyone has something to offer, and, you have something to offer everyone.
Start by Reframing rejection
When someone doesn’t really know you, they can’t reject you. They may reject who they think you are. They may reject the person that they see. The only people who can really reject you are friends and family who know you well. This means that strangers and acquaintances are actually emotionally safer than them! Until someone knows you, they only have an idea of you, and their feelings are based on their experiences with other people, not you. Approach someone at a bar and they will react to you as if you are like most people who approach them at bars. In a grocery store, you would get a different reaction.
Focus on what you have to offer
Another way to look at rejection is as the other person’s loss and not yours. They are cutting themselves off from the chance to have a good relationship with you, to exchange a smile or a friendly word. When you offer the hand of friendship and they avoid it, you can know it is their problem. If an acquaintance greeted you or asked you how you are and you didn’t answer, who would be the weird one, them or you?
Don’t take big risks
Working up the nerve to do something really risky is generally not a good idea. If you take a really big risk and it doesn’t work out, then you will be all the more reluctant to try next time. People who have difficulty making friends often get into a downward spiral of forcing themselves to make a big effort to make friends, followed by failure, and an even more difficult time “forcing” themselves to try again. It won’t be long before they stop trying altogether.
Do take small risks, regularly and often
Taking small risks leads to an upward spiral. Small risks are more likely to lead to success and to be less discouraging when they don’t work out. Fail at even one big thing and you may never try again. Fail at five of 10 little risks, and you will feel encouraged. Shy people need to gradually crack open their shell, not explode out of it. The key to successfully leaving your shell is in taking small risks that you will be able to handle without begin crushed.
Use the social circle method of increasing social relationships
All of us have circles of social relationships. You can imagine a bulls eye target with yourself at the center. The ring closest to you represents your most intimate relationships. The rings further out are more and more distant relationships. If you go out enough rings, it would include everyone in the world! With the social circle method, the goal is to bring each person one circle closer. Instead of trying to make strangers into close friends (a big jump, and a big risk), you make strangers into acquaintances, and acquaintances into potential friends.
- Step 1. If you would normally say “Hi” to someone, perhaps an acquaintance, then say a little more such as, “Hi George,” (using the person’s name).
- Step 2. If you would normally say “Hi” and use the person’s name, add a simple question or comment such as “Hi George, nice weather today.” Or, “Hi George, how are you?”.
- Step 3. If you would normally greet them with their name and a “how are you?,” add a little compliment. “I really like your sweater,” for example. (Don’t make it too personal or detailed).
- Step 4. If you normally would avoid eye contact with someone (perhaps a cashier), try making brief eye contact. If you already do that, then add a little smile. If you already do that, then say, “Hi” (and start at #1 above).
Make it a lifestyle
The basic idea is to initiate just a little more with each person. Everyone is not treated the same in this method. Because they are only small increases, they don’t arouse concern in others and the approach is natural. For some, this will sound too simple, but to the shy and lonely, this can open up entire new worlds. Many people stop long before other people resist their approach. It’s important to reach the resistance level for their sake as well as yours.
What about other people’s resistance, shells, and filters?
You will meet a level of resistance, at some point, with everyone. If not, then by following this method everyone would become your intimate friend! That’s not going to happen. But, by using this method with everyone until you hit a wall of resistance; you will reach a deeper level of relationship with some people than you ever would have before. Methods that go too far, too soon are aggressive and risky. This method is natural and non-aggressive. It is best for people you see regularly.
You have already been doing this at an unconscious level
Every interaction you have with other people exerts either a “push” away from you, or a “pull” toward you. Sometimes the push or pull is so slight, that it has no effect--like trying to push a large tree. At other times, your other actions may send people sailing away from you. Only a few people are really good at pulling people in strongly. Shyness pushes people away. Working with a relationship coach will help you to learn skills for drawing people in. That’s true whether the person is your partner now, your future partner, or even an estranged family member.