Say Goodbye to Shy and Hello to GOMO!

Susan B. Wilson, MS, MBA, CSP, Trusted Coach (© 2007 Executive Strategies)
Prom King. Star basketball player. A popular high school senior well known for his kindness to all and for his sterling character. A leader by example. Would you associate any of the above descriptions with shy behavior? Well, these descriptions all belong to one young man. He also struggles with shyness. He’s a high potential guy whose shyness is holding him back from even greater richness in his personal relationships and goals. Think about shyness on a continuum of 1-100, with one representing least shy and one hundred representing most shy. Where do you land? Most of us have experienced the feeling of shyness, either in a particular setting or with a particular person. Shyness is a lack of confidence in social situations when approaching or being approached by others. So to cut to the quick, shyness occurs when I don’t feel comfortable being around you. Shyness often is rooted in fear of some kind. As I’ve worked with clients to overcome shyness, I’ve heard more specific reasons for fear. Insecurity about personal value, hypersensitivity to others’ comments, worrying about perceptions, falling short of expectations, and past failures can impact feeling of discomfort when interacting with others- whether one other person or one hundred! The fact is, most of us want to avoid pain. And a lack of confidence when interacting with others certainly can feel painful! Our shyness, an unwillingness to share ourselves with others, is an obstacle to healthy relationships and goal success. So whether your shyness is simply part of who you are today or emerges in certain circumstances, there are strategies that you can consider for getting over your bashful self and moving on to share more of your strengths. As a former painfully shy person (in my teens) and as a coach who has used these ideas with clients, I know that these ideas have high potential for enriching you! Specific Strategies to Overcome Shyness1. Instead of judging your shyness as a weakness, consider the strengths that you may have developed because of it. You may be a good listener, easy on the nerves, and you probably don’t hog attention. Most liabilities can be viewed through a lens of strength. How has your shyness


also been a blessing? Remember the shy guy mentioned above? He’s a keenly observant person- a strength that he’s developed over the years even though shy in social settings. 2. Do you want to be remembered as selfish or self absorbed? Interestingly, shyness could also be considered in that light. In our shyness, we hold back, not sharing the riches of our gifts, talents and skills with others. We become so consumed in thinking about our personal discomfort that we forget to take the initiative to help others feel more at ease. What you have to offer, matters. You are needed. Years ago, my beloved mom really zinged a comment my way to make her point. “Susan,” she said. “You are being selfish. Quit worrying so much about how you feel; and pay more attention to how others around you feel.” Her words, though they initially sounded harsh (yes, I remember whimpering!), were wise. I started taking the risk of reaching out more and discovered the truth of our next strategy. 3. We can decide to see each other as more alike than different. Most of us have fears. Some of us worry about or express them more than others, but accept that most of us have insecurities, awkward moments, and conditions where we feel either passing or lingering shyness. Something that I’ve learned as a speaker is this. Audiences want me to be successful. And your “audiences” want you to be successful. Most people are not waiting for you to make a mistake. Many are even hoping for your success. My work over the years reinforces my belief that most of us want connections, so others want to feel comfortable around you; and they want you to feel comfortable around them. 4. Shyness, the discomfort of interacting with others, sometimes has a link to qualities of being judgmental and critical. Recognize the power of your thinking. If you are often criticizing and judging others, even silently, then you will naturally wonder if others are criticizing and judging you. This is where a mental STOP! sign comes in handy. Train yourself to stop negative thinking, whether about yourself or others. Instead, focus on specific strengths, gratitude, and thanksgiving. Build the habit of “happy thoughts” so that your outlook is naturally more positive. A more positive outlook encourages risk taking and initiative. 5. Shyness can indicate that you don’t fully understand or appreciate your value. I often ask clients to develop their “Value Package.” It’s an exercise to explore the specific reasons that they add value when they interact with others. Once determined, clients are invited to find at least two ways to share “pieces of personal value” each time that they interact with others. When you know that you add value, you are more powerful. When you feel more powerful, there is less room for shyness. No matter how much potential you have, it won’t be realized if you’re not willing to share it to add value to others. How powerful are you right now? My mom kept a favorite quote on the refrigerator: “The classiest person in the room is the one who makes the least number of people uncomfortable.” What changes are you willing to make to get over your fear and move on to becoming one of the classiest people in the room?
Photo Credit to Lori Nordstrom