Overcome Shyness and Passivity by Taking Small, Easy Steps

If you are a bit shy or more socially challenged than you’d like to be, there are simple yet effective steps you can take to solve the problem and conduct more enjoyable relationships. This brief article will show you how to become more assertive and daring socially, provide stronger leadership and come out of your shell, one step at a time, increasing your happiness.

First of all, realize you can change your behavior. All behavior is learned and can be unlearned. New behaviors can be acquired. We do it all the time, without thinking.

It helps to make small changes first – changes that will be easy to make and lead to bigger changes later on. Often the trick to get yourself doing that which is uncomfortable, such as acting in a more outgoing way, is to start small. Once you get used to the new way of interacting with others, successive changes will seem easier.

Case Example

Recently I was working with a woman who had been very shy as a child, but thought she had grown out of her shyness. Unfortunately, in several social situations she had been acting like the withdrawn child she had once been. She asked me for help.

Here’s what we did. I asked Louise to go to a coffee shop and sit where she would like to sit and enjoy a beverage in her usual manner. And, I gave her a new task: to simply observe her way of doing this. Then we analyzed her choices and behaviors.

She chose to sit in a corner, away from people and off to herself. She buried her head in the newspaper and seldom came out for air. She tended to keep her eyes to herself. She rarely smiled or spoke to anyone.

Her next assignment was to go back to the coffee shop and make a few small changes in her behavior. This time she was to sit in a more open area, closer to other people. Other than that, she was to enjoy herself in the usual way — by drinking a favorite elixir and reading the paper, listening to the music, enjoying the ambiance, etc.

She did this and was able to have a good time without being afraid. A step in the right direction.

Next, I asked her to go back to the same coffee shop and . . . sit at a table which was right in the middle of the action, plus she was to smile at three people.

She did this and enjoyed herself, although the smiling part was a little anxiety-provoking, as she kind of worried about what people would think. I helped her to stop worrying and get that smile going.

On the next visit, she was to say hello to three people. And the one after that she was to smile at everyone she saw. Eventually, she was to say “hello” to anyone she wished.

She excelled at each of these tasks, and she concentrated on the task of the moment, and not on changing her behavior in a drastic way or worrying about being the way she wanted. Each week she grew stronger, became more outgoing and felt happier.

Then I asked her to engage in conversations with the employees, whom she was getting to know and, later on, to start a conversation with a stranger. Then another stranger.

Occasionally, Louise would balk at the assignment, but I gave plenty of encouragement and kept her moving in a positive direction. She supplied the willingness and nerve to keep on.

Soon, she was going into the coffeehouse and acting like a different person — a self-confident, outgoing person who loved making new friends and feeling totally comfortable in this social setting.

The next step involved going to another coffee shop. Later, she would go to other restaurants and establishments. In a matter of weeks, she had what she wanted: a more outgoing and assertive person who looked forward to making more friends and enjoying her social life more! And she felt happier than ever.

What Can You Do?

Anyone can do what Louise did. Just remember to start with baby steps. Select a task that is a bit scary, but one you can do without trying too hard. After you get that success under your belt, move on to another task that is a little more daring, but keep it “do-able.”

Keep advancing, one step at a time, until you can graduate to more difficult and challenging tasks. Don’t push it. Just go at your own pace. Remember, it took you years to develop your current habits, so it may take some time to form new ones.

But you can do it.

The Benefits

People who are comfortable socially tend to be better adjusted individuals, who are more successful than those who fear or avoid social situations and demands. Greater comfort in social areas translates into greater happiness, too.

They experience less stress and undergo less wear and tear emotionally than shy or withdrawn types.

And they win more friends and influence more people!