I am naturally quite shy. Yes, it can quite hard to believe because I can be verbose when online. But I really am shy in real life. I find it very hard to go into groups of people or even to meet people one on one. But I force myself. I have taught myself over the years how to control my feelings of shyness, although it is still a natural tendency within me.

I noticed that one of my girls was very naturally ‘reserved’ as well. Different from shy in that she would talk to me a lot but was very reserved and never seemed to open up and just let herself have fun. She was always so serious. She still is, but she’s learning. I taught both my girls how to talk to people. I tried to teach them that it isn’t about themselves, but about others. Meeting the needs of others should be greater than serving our own needs. That young, reserved girl has now fully embraced that teaching and is now very sociable. She can be the life of the party and give speeches in front of large crowds, but she has learned that whilst she is capable fo doing so, it drains her and she needs some quiet time along in order to re energise.

Shyness as a Mask

Sometimes, shyness can be a mask of something else – sometimes it is talked about as low self esteem. And who I am to say any different? but I do know that shyness can also mask pride. Yes, pride. I don’t want to look silly or dumb. I don’t want anyone to think less of me. So rather than speak up and risk that, I keep quiet.

Shyness can also be selfishness. We can deny others knowledge, friendship, and the benefit of others knowing they’re not alone, but we need to go out of our comfort zone, to think of others and learn to live despite shyness. As a believer, I try to think ‘less of me, more about others‘.

Shyness can also mask fear, which shouldn’t be allowed to control me. With a good attitude, skills, practice and prayer I can learn to live with it.

There are probably more serious conditions that are related to mental illness and other serious disorders which all need to be considered, but those issues are beyond the scope of this post.

Four Keys to Training

Seeing an example can foster desire. Coupled with learning skills and practicing the art of communication are important keys when training our children to be social and effective communicators.

As parents, we can address the shyness by using all four keys. Be the example. Enjoy relating with people and let the children see us using relational skills. We can directly teach skills and have role play sessions in the safety of home, and then we can practice those skills and arts throughout the day with other people.

I found that having a few good friends and family members was beneficial. I spoke to them separately and solicited their help! I gave them cues or particular points of conversation so that they would be able to open a conversation with my children. This allowed my children to practice their skills in a safe and non threatening environment. I reciprocated with their kids as well.

Important Points:

  • eye contact
  • firm but gentle greeting
  • open ended questioning style of conversation
  • learn to read people- tone of voice, body language, etc
  • practice good body language (borrow a book from the library)
  • offer feedback to person’s responses (narration helps with understanding)
  • less of ‘me’ (or personal pronouns) and more about the other person
  • learn how to ask questions

I’ve found that the more general knowledge I have, the better conversationalist I can be. Even though I don’t know a lot about much I have learned how to ask questions. This in turn gets the other person talking about their interest, and I learn something, which in turns comes back full circle by making me a better communicator. So while it isn’t about being smart, it’s about the ‘other person’ and not myself.

I am not the only one who struggles with being shy. A lot of people do! And so I need to be gracious and accept others. If they’re not talking to me easily, it may not be because they hate me- they simply may not be great communicators themselves or having a bad day. This allows me to then focus on someone else other than myself.

Like any new skill or art, this needs practice. And room for failure. It’s to be expected. But in doing so, we learn more about ourselves and how we think, how we respond and how to improve.

I am still shy. I still need lots of quiet time so that I can be re-energised. But I have learned not to allow my shyness to control me or to rule me.

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.
~Proverbs 18:1