How Not to Be Shy
As a college freshman, I decided to join a sorority. I was shy girl, a bookworm, and no one I knew from my hometown was attending this school.
I saw college as a chance for a new start. I wanted to meet people and make friends, and joining a social-activity-centered group like this small sorority seemed like the simplest and fastest way to do it.
I had a lot of fun as a pledge, learning the Greek alphabet and undergoing midnight “kidnappings” to IHOP. But the life-changing lesson came the next fall.
Our sorority sisters told we former pledges this: “You do not get to be shy.”
As full-fledged members, it was our job to meet the freshmen so we could make informed decisions on who we’d like to add to our group. The freshmen get to be shy.
It had never before occurred to me that shyness could be a choice. Some people, I know, suffer from shyness that is so extreme it isn’t really a choice. But for those of us who just feel shy on social occasions or in unfamiliar situations, it is possible to change.
I have been so successful at changing my outward behavior that when I tell people I am shy — because I still feel shy — they react with disbelief.
Here are a few things I’ve learned since those sorority days about handling social situations:
Find Something Useful To Do
If you’re at a party held by a friend or colleague, find your host or hostess and ask if there is something you could do to help. Often there will be, whether it’s helping get drinks iced or putting food out. Helping them will help you break the ice. You are automatically part of the party.
Look for Someone Who Looks Shy
You know you have a problem with shyness, but you also know you can overcome it. A great method is to look for someone who looks more shy than you feel, someone standing alone, propping up a wall, a little stiff. Walk up to them, smile and say “Hi.” Introduce yourself and ask them about themselves. How do they come to be there? How do they know the hosts?
Usually, people will warm up once you are talking with them. If, however, it gets awkward, just say, “Nice meeting you,” and excuse yourself.
Don’t Forget to Have a Good Time
Once you have helped out and circulated enough to be comfortable, make some memories. Try new things. If it’s a costume party, wear one. If there’s dancing, dance. If there’s karaoke, sing. Remember, the kind of people you want to be friends with will be participating, not judging.
And if you didn’t want to have fun, why would you want to hang out with people at all? As a bookworm, I am perfectly comfortable at home reading with my dogs at my feet. But that is not all I want out of life.
So smile and say “Hi” next time you feel shy.