Monday, October 17, 2005

Are you shy because you think you know?

One of the things that people who consider themselves shy seem to have in common is that they think they know certain things, such as what others are thinking (about them) and what's going to happen.

For example, "If I speak up, they're going to think I'm stupid."

Or, "If I ask for more money, they'll think I'm greedy and I'll never get the job."

Or, "If I make a mistake, they'll get mad and it'll be over."

Is this true?


Blogger uncrucial said...

What's the alternative?

The only way we can describe ourselves is with words we know.

Or else it would be "mouth-to-mouth reciprifocation."

4:01 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

That was pretty much me all over. The little routine in my head went something like, “Hmmm ... the folks at this table seem pretty successful and are probably very sharp. If I open my mouth, I’ll likely put my foot in it. Best to lay low and stay safe.” So, I’d keep quiet or make a move to get out of the situation.

After I had some mileage on this Road of Life, I began to realize this kind of thinking was awfully lofty. Here I was passing judgment someone’s status because of the kind of clothes, watch or jewelry they wore. For all I really knew, they had cardboard boxes for furniture at home. Plus, I realized that I was defining success solely on a material basis. There’s a recipe for disaster. Also, apparently, I thought I was clairvoyant because here I was reading their minds – and I could predict the future to boot.

Once I started to think about it, I realized that I tended to live by projecting myself into the future and creating [often self-fulfilling] expectations. I’d end up getting getting myself so anxious that I would put my foot in my mouth or do something stupid. Fortunately, I’ve learned to be the first one to laugh about it.

As a member of the Shy Club, for me, it was simply easier to think myself out of doing things, speaking my mind and maybe even taking a few risks here and there.

I believe this kind of [shy] thinking is directly related to self confidence. And therein lies the rub. To be confident, you usually need to do some things right a few times. The Catch-22 is that this requires taking a risk. One needs to be ready to fall on their face a few times until they get it right. For the shy/unconfident personality, that can be monumental.

1:25 PM  
Anonymous Nigel Gordijk said...

I used to be reticent to engage people at networking events or client meetings until I realised that speaking to clients or prospects is just a conversation.

The first time I speak to someone new I always ask as many questions as I can. That way, I don't feel like I'm going to say the wrong thing. On the contarary, this can make the other person feel that I have an interest in what they have to say.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Jeff Fisher LogoMotives said...

Although I do consider myself a shy person, throughout my early education years I found myself often being the kid in the classroom with his hand up (Pick me! Pick me!) when the teacher asked if anyone had the answer. And I usually did know the answer - because being a shy kid I retreated into studying and reading everything I could. However, I soon realized (after picking myself up from the playground and dusting the dirt off my clothes a few times) that other kids don't like the one in the classroom with all the answers. So, I learned to hold back a bit.

I find myself still using that tactic today. I don't want to be considered a know-it-all so I will hold back in many conversational situations. Like Nigel, I find myself asking a lot of questions of others before diving into a discussion with how I feel or what I know.

Recently, a friend made an observation about me after we'd been at a rather large party. She said, "You don't talk about yourself at all. Everyone else was talking about themselves and it was as if you were interviewing them." Yesterday, after lunch with another long-time friend I realized that I knew just about everything that had happened to her in the past six months since we had last been together, but she hadn't asked much about what I'd been up to - and I hadn't put it out there. I'd spent a couple hours asking her questions.

The two situations made me realize that I have very little trouble "tooting my horn" via the media or Internet, but I'm not necessarily aggressive in promoting myself in a "real world" situation. However, if I am in a social situation and someone asks me a question they may not be able to shut me up...

9:07 AM  
Blogger Lisa J. Lehr said...

Wow, this is an interesting discussion. Now, as a horribly shy kid in school, I found that the one place I did have confidence was in the classroom...because I was smart and did know the answers. That was my identity, my source of self-esteem. And I was both respected and well-liked by my peers.

Things began to change around sixth grade, and I realized that wasn't going to cut it anymore--I had to "be somebody" on some sort of abstract social basis, and it was time for a new identity.

I have to say, it has never again been as easy as it was in elementary school.

But people here have brought up some interesting points. I've always been told I'm a good listener, and I've always believed that people who talk about themselves too much are self-centered and boring. So then...why do people sometimes tell me that they don't know me very well because I never talk about myself? Why would I want to? I'm still a little confused on this point.

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree very much with Neil - I often don't talk because I've found that folks respond to me as a "know it all". I have overcome my shyness (none of my real friends would ever call me shy) but I don't do well in Networking situations. I find it hard to talk with folks when I go somewhere to attend a conference. I'm okay if they talk to me, but I find it hard to take that first step.

6:04 AM  

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