Shyness is a personality trait but also a way of behaving in society. Shy people are more withdrawn and find it difficult to express opinions. However, it is possible to cope with shyness by learning social skills and building self-esteem.
What is shyness?
Some people tend to think that introversion and shyness are two labels of one term. However, they are not the same at all. Introversion and shyness are generally confused because of a lack of knowledge.
Introversion is a dimension of personality, and it is general and stable. Introverts are people with a large “inner world,” and, although they have social relationships, they are less interested in them, preferring small encounters or solitary activities.
Shyness can be a trait of the person, related to introversion, or a way of behaving in society, more related to learning, social skills, self-esteem, self-concept, and anxiety. In the latter case, we are talking about socially withdrawn people who find it challenging to deepen their relationships, be assertive, or prefer to go unnoticed. They often desire more social contact but do not know how to do so, and at the same time, fear being rejected or judged by others. Hence the anxious reactions.
Can shyness be inherited?
There is some controversy about whether personality traits are inherited from birth or acquired throughout life. As with other aspects of personality and health, shyness is most likely the result of an interaction between genetics and the environment.
As a personality trait, shyness often reveals itself early in childhood. That is, as a characteristic of their temperament. But the environment’s reaction to displays of shyness and subsequent learning considerably influences its development and consolidation as an identifying trait of the person.
What are the causes of shyness?
Beyond a person’s temperament or personality traits, shyness can also be learned.
Parents act as role models that children observe and imitate, and in this way, they learn many behaviors, attitudes, skills. This is what cognitive-behavioral psychology calls vicarious learning, or learning by observation. That is why it is so important to be aware, as parents, of the enormous influence we have on our children:
If a shy child is reinforced when they engage in social interaction (people listen to them, laugh with them, etc.), it is easier to minimize the shyness little by little. Conversely, if a person who did not initially exhibit this trait gets unpleasant responses every time they are socialized, they may end up displaying shy behavior by learning.
Suppose the child observes parents or adult authority figures shying away from social contact, finding it difficult to make eye contact, conversations, etc., or witnessing their anxious reactions. In that case, they are more likely to learn to behave similarly when in social contexts.
How to deal with shyness
First of all, it is important to know that shyness does not have to be a problem or a psychological disorder. However, it can hinder social relationships or impede the full development of a child or an adult.
Is shyness a problem for you or someone around you? Putting into practice a series of recommendations and skills can help learn how to manage and reduce shyness. In general, it is important that what you do and say fits your own style.
10 ways to improve your social and communication skills
- Practice on your own, then practice at home with family and friends.
- Go gradually, and from less to more. Both in the number of social contacts or activities you make and the number of people you interact with each time. Start with safe and familiar environments, and gradually expand to others outside your comfort zone.
- Don’t force your progress, but don’t avoid it indefinitely either: avoidance behaviors provide security and control, but paradoxically, they reinforce shyness.
- Identify what happens to you in social situations: if you react with anxiety, anticipate rejection or mockery from others, etc. Anticipatory anxiety, which you feel at the prospect of something you fear, is widespread in these cases.
- Observe how others behave, what they say, how they handle space and other aspects, keep some clues and rehearse at home.
- Use “key” phrases, comments, or topics, those that help you to start a conversation, get out of an uncomfortable silence: comment on a sporting event, a series you have seen, a free essay writing service you have found, the last book you have read – anything you feel like.
- In your social relations, try to maintain eye contact (intermittent), respect each other’s space, and turn to speak.
- Express your preferences, opinions, or needs in a clear, natural, and direct way, but without verbally attacking the other person. Start with small things and with people close to you.
- Practice at least once a week with activities and social encounters. As you gain fluency, take up an activity or hobby (dancing, hiking, painting, etc.). This way, in addition to practicing, you will meet people with whom you will share things you enjoy.
- Be compassionate with yourself. If these skills are new to you, feared or long avoided, it is understandable that you may not get them right the first time, that in some cases, you may behave awkwardly or abruptly, etc. Nobody is born knowing: practice and confronting your fears will lead you to achieve your goals.