Overcoming Shyness Through Etiquette-ful Action


Shyness isn’t a personality trait, but it is often confused with introversion, which is a describable trait.  Shyness is learned behavior stemming from negative life experiences, low self-esteem, or overprotective or shy parents.  

Etiquette, while allowing for individual traits to remain intact, also discourages the behaviors associated with being shy.  To show kindness and consideration, human interaction must take place.  This is the reason that practicing etiquette skills can help you overcome your wallflower tendencies.

Find Your Why

When I was a child, my mother wrote in my baby book that I was very timid at my first birthday party.  I was evidently afraid to get off the sofa and play with the children who were invited to celebrate with me.  She specifically wrote that I was a “shy child” leading me to assume that this was not an isolated incident.  I can’t help but think she encouraged me to join in, knowing that people who are shy need encouragement to engage.

Timidity can lead to making choices that keep you from joining in, feeling included, and possibly even feeling successful.  If you recognize this is happening to you, or you recognize the potential for this to happen, understand that this is why you should begin adjusting your behaviors.

Overcoming Your Shyness

Acknowledging your shyness may help release some of the self-consciousness that stands in the way of trying new things or enjoying easy interactions.  It is a behavior that can be unlearned and practicing etiquette skills can help.  

  • Understand your role.  Unless you are attending a wedding, birthday party, or other milestone celebration, any gathering is simply that – a gathering of people.  The focus is not on one person. This fact should bring a level of comfort.

  • Practice introducing yourself.  You can do this by simply saying the words, or practice in front of a mirror.  Give yourself bonus points when you move on to introducing other people.

  • Make a list of conversation starters and questions and keep them handy.  Memorize them if you can so that you have an impromptu way to begin speaking with someone.
  • Take note of your posture.  Practice standing tall, raising your chest, and rolling your shoulders back. You will feel self-assured and energized.
  • When someone raises an issue or brings something to your attention, rather than saying, “I’m sorry,” preface your response with “Thank you.”  This removes from your brain any thought of negativity or criticism.  
    “Thank you for bringing this to my attention.”  
    “Thank you, that’s a great point and . . .”  
    “Thank you for telling me this.”

  • Before attending an event, try and find out who will be in attendance.  Learn a little about them ahead of time if you can to give yourself a level of comfort on interactions and conversation starters.
  • Smile!  

Another practice that I find helpful is to visualize yourself interacting easily and starting conversations with people.  As you imagine different scenarios, remember to keep them positive and to feel the confidence and enjoyment of spending time with others.

You might also attempt changing your thoughts around how you describe your behavior tendency.  Instead of describing yourself as shy, tell yourself that you prefer to get to know others slowly.  You can also try repeating a daily affirmation that describes what you intend to be: “I am calm, cool, and confident.”

The bottom line is, taking action that will help you break the shyness cycle will no doubt help you become more confident and comfortable in the company of other people.  When you take action that puts consideration of others as a top priority, the snowballing effect of feeling good about yourself is freeing.

You may also enjoy reading . . .