Shy, Shy Go Away
You know, it’s not always true when someone says they fear nothing in the world.
Your friend could boldly claim that he or she isn’t afraid of spiders or snakes. However, that same friend could still be a victim of a certain, quite prevalent phobia. And no, we’re not talking about flying (!) cockroaches.
To a certain extent, most of us experience anxiety prior to, or simply at the thought of having to verbally communicate with any group. We also tend to avoid events which focus the unwanted attention of the group on particular individuals in attendance. The thing is, these traits are actually not that uncommon. In fact, they are consistent with symptoms of glossophobia.
Glossophobia or speech anxiety is the fear of public speaking. It is one of many social phobias or speech anxieties that plague our Malaysian society today.
Here’s another quirky fact for you. Around 75% of the world actually have glossophobia. According to most studies, this makes public speaking the number one fear for people. Number two is death. I repeat: death is number two. Does that sound right?
But of course, its severity may vary - from inducing anxiety to causing physical distress, nausea, or even mental breakdowns in some extreme cases. Not everyone suffers from the same degree of glossophobia.
But even in the best-case scenario, it still keeps us from speaking up in meetings when we have ideas and progress to share. It prevents us from expanding our network and building meaningful relationships. And it destroys confidence - bit by bit - as unfavourable scenarios go by day-by-day. It’s actually incredibly destructive and for most of us - keeps success out of reach.
But where does it all begin? Well, pretty early. As early as childhood, in fact.
Social phobias, regardless of which they are, begin with shyness at an early age. They can progress to more severe levels when not addressed. So, until you break it down, speaking anxiety will continue to fester – innocently disguised as shyness at first, but eventually manifesting itself as a form of glossophobia.
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Here are a few tips to combat shyness:
1. Explore New Things
May I present to you, the very definition of ‘stepping out of one’s comfort zone’.
If you’re in school - join a club, a sports team, or the drama society. Or if you’re working, pick up a new project, take on a difficult task at work, or learn a new skill. Or just make things up as you go.
See, it’s about the little, challenging things. These things make us scared and we may feel all bravado melting away before them. But this is exactly what needs to be done – something so way out of your comfort zone, something that you would have never thought you would do.
Part of overcoming shyness is about developing confidence in several areas of your life and not letting anxiety, fear of failure, fear of rejection, or fear of humiliation get in your way. By actively putting yourself in situations where you are challenged by new and scary things, you are confronting your fear of the unknown and in turn learning to handle that anxiety and shyness more effectively.
2. Be curious about others.
We’re a big fan of Dale Carnegie and his methods to effective communication. Such fans, in fact, that we know the very first principle in Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is: “to become genuinely interested in others”.
This was based off the work of psychologist Alfred Adler, who said: “It is the individual who is not interested in his fellow men who has the greatest difficulties in life.”
In any social situation, try moving yourself away from the centre of attention. Instead, focus on the people around you. Give them the gift of your genuine curiosity, and they will reciprocate in kind. Who are they and why are they there? What do they do in their free time? How do they like their school? Or maybe even ask about any teachers that drive them crazy with homework every day.
This gives you something different to focus on and helps you to generate conversations. And the great part is, you play a very minimal part in this. As the conversation flows, at some point it will turn to you. Get yourself involved in long meaningful conversations with this trick and watch as your shyness dissipates completely in no time.
3. A whole other language
Shy people are often misdiagnosed by others as being unfriendly, aloof, or 'stuck up'. Even though they’re not, shyness can make people look unapproachable.
And more often than not, people arrive to this conclusion without even hearing a single word being said!
That’s because there is another language at play. Research has found that we find people who smile and look directly at us more attractive. And people are 86% more likely to strike up conversations with strangers in the street if they are smiling. We also find people who gesture with their palms facing upward more open and friendly. People who look us in the eye while listening to us also make us feel like our words are important to them.
The common denominator here is easy to spot – that’s right, it’s body language. Our actions do speak a thousand words. Interestingly, we actually convey more messages across with our bodies then with our words - which only goes to show how important proper use of body language is. Just intentionally using body language that conveys friendliness and goodwill can hide your shy attributes, and makes you come across to others as sincere and confident with yourself.