Shy People - Learn to Speak Up

Published: 18th August 2010
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People who are very shy, and people who are afraid of public speaking often have a lot in common.

I spent many years teaching people the techniques of public speaking. A lot of my students were very terrified of speaking in public.

I found out that shy people often share similar terrors as the people who are afraid of speaking in public. Their shyness makes them react with great anxiety whenever they are confronted with having to make conversation with someone they don't know, or with someone who intimidates them.

Instead of talking freely, they freeze up. Their breathing becomes shallow. They avoid eye contact. Their mind goes completely blank. Internally, these shy people often judge themselves very harshly, often flinging a stream of mental abuse at themselves.

Like they people who were afraid of speaking in public, the shy people wanted to be perfect when they are speaking and they criticized themselves harshly if they fall short. Instead of speaking brilliantly like they wished they could do, they were often awkward and tongue tied. Their voice would come out in a little squeak, and they made eye contact with the ground instead of with their audience. Instead of being relaxed about their speaking, they criticized themselves mercilessly. Then the next time they had to speak, they were even more afraid.

I discovered that some of the techniques I used to use to help people become better public speakers could also be used to help shy people improve their conversation skills.

One factor that seems to be shared by both shy people and people who are afraid of public speaking is that they often have a very critical voice that seems to run non-stop inside their heads. This inner critical voice jumps on every tiny error in the conversation whether it is real or perceived. Because many people who are shy and awkward are terrorized by this critical inner voice, it's helpful to learn some ways to overcome it and talk back to it.

Here is one way that you can get your inner voice to stop criticizing you while you are making conversation with other people.

First, tell yourself before you go to a social event that you are just there to practice your social skills. Remind yourself that practicing means that you have a right to explore new behaviours and you have a right to make mistakes and be less than perfect.

If you do make anything that you think is a mistake, don't tell yourself that you are stupid or that the other person is laughing at you. Instead, tell yourself that it's just practice. Tell yourself that because it was just a practice session, it doesn't really count.

When I used to train people to give presentations and do public speaking, I discovered that if I told a person too many of the things they were doing wrong, they became overwhelmed and discouraged. It was much more effective to tell people specifically what they were already doing well so they could keep focused on doing the positive things. Then I would choose only one negative thing at a time that they could improve in the future.

The other factor that is extremely helpful in improving both the public speaker and the person who is shy, is to practice the desired skill at every opportunity.

Because these people feel so much anxiety when speaking, they often have a tendency to run away from occasions when they are supposed to speak to others. This is the wrong thing to do.

Instead, people who feel a lot of anxiety about speaking to others can benefit by taking every opportunity to practice more. There is a reason why the phrase "practice makes perfect" has become a cliché. Over the centuries, many people have noticed that it is true. When you do make a commitment to practice, your performance will improve and your nervousness will decrease.

With more practice and exposure to the feared event, your brain will eventually stop overproducing the chemicals that tell your body you are in danger, and you can relax.

You will notice that you are getting better at the desired skill, and you may even come to truly enjoy it.

Royane Real is the author of the popular special report "Your Guide to Making Friendly Conversation" Learn ways to overcome your shyness and have the courage to speak to others. Learn many ways you can improve your conversation skills. Download it today at http://www.lulu.com/real

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