The first self-help book I ever read was called Psycho Cybernetics. I remember the author giving advice on how to overcome shyness.
And since I was descended from a long genealogical line of timid folk, I was pretty shy so I bought the book and devoured it. It didn’t help much though.
Back then, I worked as a waitress in a hotel and sometimes waited on famous people.
Naturally, I was much too shy to ever strike up a conversation with any of them. But I was amazed when one of the outgoing waitresses walked right up to Kurt Russell and struck up a conversation which ended in him asking her out on a date. This girl had not a shy bone in her body.
I, on the other hand, waited on him every day for the entire summer he stayed at the hotel and the most I ever said to him was, “would you like more coffee?” And the most he ever said to me was, “uh huh.”
But even if I would have had the nerve to strike up a conversation and get asked out on a date by Kurt Russell, I would have been much too shy to go!
I remember finding out they had actually discovered a “shyness gene”.
The ensuing joke went something like this: Scientists have finally discovered there is a gene that causes shyness. It took this long to discover it, however, because it was hiding behind all the other genes.
I also remember once seeing an ad in the newspaper advertising a support group for shy people. It said, if you’re shy, call this number.
Uh . . .Hello! Shy people don’t cold call phone numbers from out of the newspaper where they have to tell the strange person answering how shy they are — without an extremely strong incentive — like gunpoints and things of that nature.
And here’s another thing. If you’re shy, you find it quite embarrassing to be shy.
So you try to act like you’re not shy in shy-inducing situations for the sole purpose of avoiding these dreaded phrases: “You’re shy aren’t you?” or “How come you’re so shy?” Even when I go to the dentist I suspect he thinks I’m shy.
Of course, I’m not that shy anymore, thank goodness.
Life has worn off my sensitivity to new situations involving new people, I like to think. Still, traces of a once-shy personage do linger and come out in odd ways.
For instance, I find myself in a mild state of dread if I see an acquaintance in line at the checkout stand worried we’ll have to chat while other people stand there listening.
Or if I’m out on a walk, and I see someone coming in my direction, I have to stifle an urge to duck behind the nearest tree.
Here are some tricks, I’ve learned to hide shyness:
Get the Other Person Talking
This is a god-send. If you can get the other person talking, you never have to say a word. Of course, as the years go by, that other person may suddenly realize that while you know that their great, great grandfather on their mother’s side had red hair, they don’t know your last name — which could be a little awkward, but a small price to pay.
Bait and Switch
When starting a new job in a very quiet office where the only sounds you hear are the ratcheting of ears turning in your direction when you say something-; and some loudmouth comes up to you and tries to strike up a conversation by asking you a personal question — drop your pen under your desk, crawl under to pick it up and then simply stay there until they go away.
If you see someone you are acquainted with at the grocery store who you know talks really loud and is trying to get your attention, pretend you don’t see them by doing one of the following:
Drop that head of lettuce you’ve been examining onto the floor and then kick it around the produce isles pretending like you’re trying to pick it up but it keeps rolling away.
Stick your entire head into the freezer and pretend to be studying the ice cream ingredients.
And finally . . .
Don’t make the mistake of being overly friendly and warm to camouflage your shyness, this will only get you a job as a salesperson – or a date with Kurt Russell. And then where will you be?
Until next time . . . I love you