Are you shy, or are you an introvert or a quiet person? Experts reveal what makes you “shy” and how to overcome shyness when it’s holding you back.
You wish you could talk more
Introverted or quiet people aren’t necessarily shy, and the difference comes down to comfort level. Introverts aren’t necessarily nervous in social situations; they just prefer smaller groups or quieter settings, says Bernardo J. Carducci, PhD, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast. And just because someone isn’t talking much doesn’t mean they’re shy, adds Debra Kissen, PhD, MHSA, clinical director of Light on Anxiety Treatment Center. Some people just choose their words more carefully. Shyness, on the other hand, is more closely related to social anxiety. “Shy people want to be social,” says Carducci. “The problem is, they go [to social outings] but they’re not sure what to do. They don’t know how to talk to people.” Shyness isn’t a character flaw, but if you don’t learn how to control your shyness, it will start to control you.
You feel totally alone
When you’re having trouble mingling, you might convince yourself you’re part of the out crowd. “Shy people think they’re alone, that nobody else is shy but them, and no one else in the room is miserable,” Carducci says. But take comfort: About 40 percent of people consider themselves shy, according to his research. No doubt the people around you are feeling just as awkward, so take charge. Start introducing other guests to each other, recommends Carducci. When you master the art of introductions—maybe two people you met work in similar industries or are from the same city—you’ll look like the charming “social facilitator” who brings people together. Don’t miss these other tips for making a great first impression.
You show up fashionably late
Showing up late to a party sounds like a good idea in theory; arriving after everyone else means you can blend into the background. But that strategy actually makes it harder for shy guests to get comfortable, says Carducci: “People are already talking and chatting and have formed these subgroups and bonds. It’s much harder to break into that kind of conversation.” Resist the urge to sneak in late and instead show up at the start time, he recommends. Introductions are easier with just a small handful of people, so you can get the conversation flowing by the time everyone else arrives.
You don’t know how to start a conversation
Shy people often don’t strike up conversations because they don’t know where to start. A good opening line doesn’t have to be dazzling, though. Commenting on something in your environment is an easy talking point because you can both relate, says Carducci. Chat about the movie you’re lining up to see or the floral arrangements at the wedding you’re attending. “The best opening line is, ‘Nice weather we’re having,’” says Carducci. “When you start simple like that, you make it simple for the other person to respond. It means ‘I’d like to talk to you. Would you like to talk to me?’” Starting simple opens the door to a deeper conversation. Try one of these 37 conversation starters that make you instantly more interesting.