Changing From Shy to Outgoing


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Business, Things I've Learned, Thought | Posted on 09-24-2015

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[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]

Can Shyness Be Changed?

Is it possible to change shyness?

This past May, while attending the Innate Wellbeing Retreat in the UK, I had an epiphany about shyness–my own and that of being shy, in general.

As I was watching how people interacted, I noticed a few different personality types:

  • Those who were outgoing.
  • Those who were quiet and mostly stuck to themselves.
  • Those who were quiet but still open to interaction with others.

During the retreat, I would say I was part of the latter group. While I didn’t initiate many conversations, if someone struck one up with me, I was open to it. I may have even unknowingly started a few by making a silly/funny/snarky remark (as I’m prone to do!).

While I was there, I realized I’ve had a lot of thinking about one-on-one conversations through the years. For most of my life I wasn’t the kind of person with whom others were drawn to having a spontaneous chat. I’m guessing there was something about my body language and or facial expression that said “don’t talk to me!” And honestly, I was fine with that. I liked being on an airplane or in a store and not having to figure out how to make small talk. I was there to do whatever it was I was there to do–not make friends.

As far as I was concerned, the fewer people I had to talk to, the better!

I would often feel awkward and shy when in the midst of conversations with strangers, especially if the other person was also an introvert. (We can spot each other immediately!) This made conferences and networking events seem kind of scary for me when I didn’t know anyone.

What saved me at these events was that most of the time I was a speaker. There were always people who knew me from my online newsletter or forum or as a client. And they would often approach me directly. I loved that because it gave me people to talk to with no real anxiety on my part. Plus, those who dared to approach me were usually extroverts–my preferred conversation partners.

I would often end up hanging out by myself when at conferences where I wasn’t a speaker. And that was fine. But every now and then my ego would flair up. I’d look at the others who seemed to be making new friends and wish I was better at networking.

Everything is not as it seems.

When pondering this further, I realized that it wasn’t that I sucked at networking and didn’t know how to talk with people. It was just the thoughts I carried around in my head related to those things. Because I had labeled myself as a shy person–which was reinforced for me throughout my life–then I was (of course) a shy person. With thoughts such as “Initiating chats is not me,” “I’m not like that,” “I don’t do stuff like that” why would I even try?

I had “made up” the story of my shyness.

I could just as easily go to a networking event and work the room like a pro if I so desired. I had observed enough “good networkers” and extroverts over the years to have a decent idea of what that looked like. So if I decided I wanted to be that way, there’s no reason I couldn’t do it. The worst that might happen is I’d feel a little uncomfortable.

Or maybe not.

I’ve noticed lately that I’ve been having spontaneous conversations with strangers. It’s not something I’m purposely doing, they’re just cropping up. Where before I would have been anxious, shy and embarrassed, I now find it fun and interesting. Perhaps networking at conferences wouldn’t be a big deal for me anymore, after all.

The big question is: Do I really care?

Soon after realizing that I could do this and survive, I also realized that I didn’t need to.  I kind of like hanging back and observing what others are doing. I’m okay whether or not I appear outgoing or shy. I’m fine whether I meet others to hang out with or not. It’s only my ego that sometimes gets in my way.

I now believe that while it is possible to change shyness, (because it’s just a label we place on ourselves), there’s really no need to. It may or may not change on its own, but either way I’m cool with it.

How about you? Are you shy and find it debilitating? Or are you able to see it as merely a label? Leave a reply below and let me know! – Jill

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CONTACT JILL WHALEN to learn how she may help you be the best you can be.

Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.

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