No More Shyness!
Sample Excerpt

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Absolutely everyone has to communicate all the time. There's no way to avoid it forever. No matter what walk of life you find yourself in, talking to other people is a necessity.

In order to succeed in business and in interpersonal relationships, you must be able to speak with others. Some have no trouble giving presentations at work, yet have great difficulty making small talk at parties. Different situations require different reactions; this is what keeps the shy person out of the game.

In order to get what you want and need in life, in order to negotiate for your benefit or that of others, it's essential that you be able to communicate, to connect with the world.

Body Language

The first step in this essential communications is your body language. A smile is the opening salvo in this battle to communicate with the world. A smile says, "I'm friendly and I'd love to talk with you." Add to that friendly smile, a "hello" and you have the perfect conversation opener. Couple the smile and the hello with a firm handshake and you now have a perfect icebreaker.

Now your stance says a lot about you too. An open stance (arms to your sides) indicates a readiness to communicate. Standing with your arms folded says, "I'm not open to talk, leave me alone."

Leaning forward slightly, when listening to others speak, shows you're interested in them and in what they are saying. This will make others more comfortable and inclined to talk with you. Leaning away from the speaker indicates a desire to escape, that you're basically disinterested in what he has to say.

Of course, be certain you make eye contact. Refusing to look someone in the eye makes you appear disinterested, or even suspiciously sneaky, as if you're up to something. It's okay to glance away occasionally while your mind is formulating a reply to a question posed. But be careful not to just stare unblinkingly at the person. That will only make them uncomfortable and want to flee. A fixed stare can make you appear aggressive and challenging and could result in a defensive reaction.

A simple nod of your head while the other person is speaking sends a positive signal too. It says, "I'm listening and I'm interested, please continue."

Your tone of voice carries a lot of weight too. A friendly tone and the right words will create an impression of friendly openness, a willingness to communicate.

Keep in mind the words of Emily Post who cautions, "Ideal conversation must be an exchange of thought, and not, as many of those who worry most about their shortcomings believe, an eloquent exhibition of wit or oratory." Those who try too hard to be witty or eloquent frequently find themselves alone at parties for no one can bear an obnoxious person for very long.

How to Start a Conversation

Did you know you only have about five seconds to make a first impression? That's how long it takes to introduce yourself and catch the other person's name. And whatever you do, try and catch that name and then use it right away. Dale Carnegie said, "The sweetest sound in any language is a person's name.

The number one reason we forget a person's name seconds after we've been introduced is because we weren't focusing on that moment. We're too busy trying to figure out what to say next or even worrying about what they'll think of us.

As soon as you gain their name, use it immediately. "It's so nice to meet you, John." You can introduce John to a third party. Try to connect the name to something you'll remember later to further imbed the name into your consciousness. Be sure to use his name again when you say goodbye.

To be an excellent conversationalist, you must look outside yourself and focus on the people around you and the events in motion. If all you can think of is whether they like you, what they think of you, and whether they are judging you and your actions, it's guaranteed to make you feel self-conscious. It's better to look outward and become attuned to what's going on around you. This will enlarge your available topic repertoire as well.

Starting a conversation needn't be terrifying or mind boggling. Try these simple steps to get a conversation going:

  • Take the risk and be the first to say hello and introduce yourself. Just take a deep breath and plunge right in. It may seem scary at first, but when you take the chance, you could meet some fascinating people.
  • Ask the other person an easy to answer kind of question. You could start with the occasion that finds the two of you in the same place. If it's a party, you probably both know the host or hostess. If it's a charity event, that's the perfect opener; talk about the charity. Obviously you're both there for the same cause, it's an immediate bond.
  • Listen carefully to the information being offered freely as they answer your question. Unless you've asked a yes or no question (more about that later), they'll have to offer more of an answer and if you listen carefully, you'll pick up on something you both have in common.
  • Ask some more questions based on what they've already revealed. It's called small talk, but it's an important beginning.
  • Reveal some information of your own. You may discover some topics in common, giving you even more to talk about. Just remember not to babble on at this point. Let them do the talking, asking pertinent questions or making comments here and there.
  • Pay them a compliment, followed by a question. "I love your boots. Where did you find them?" A cardinal rule here though, is never ask them how much they paid, that's considered rude. Admiration can start a great conversation, but keep it genuine. Insincerity can be spotted a mile away.
  • Try a light-hearted observation about the event you're both attending or the setting. Never make anyone the butt of a joke; again, that would be rude.

Shy people often take a back seat when it comes to starting a conversation, allowing themselves to step into the more passive role; but initiating a conversation needn't be intimidating. Try making a mental list of comments and questions ahead of time to give you a head start. Being prepared ahead of time will give you the self-confidence you need to make the first conversational move, at whatever event you find yourself.

Practice, practice, practice, starting conversations. The more rehearsal you get, the better responses you'll get.

Learn the difference between open-ended and closed-ended questions. A closed-ended question will illicit a yes or no, or other very short answer. An open-ended question asks the person for a more detailed answer and actually encourages them to talk.

Some examples would be:


"So, where are you from?"-This will illicit very little response.


"What brings you to our little town?"-This gives them a chance to open up and tell you more about themselves.


"What do you do for a living?"-Again, you'll most likely get a short response to this question.


"What made you choose that as your career?-Here again, you've given them a chance to open up and divulge more about themselves.

Small talk is often very difficult for the shy person, but it can often lead to more interesting topics and a lot of common ground. Once the conversational ball is rolling along, it gets easier; there's more give and take.

Also difficult for intensely shy people is active listening. For the most part, while others are speaking, shy people are trying to think what they'd like to say next. They're also wondering what the other person is thinking of them, if they're making a good impression or worrying that they aren't. If you've asked a question, it's important that you actually listen to the response. Active listening helps tremendously with the conversation. Failure to focus on what they're saying can cause your mind to wander. By listening carefully, the other person provides you with information to keep that conversational ball rolling.

Rather than worry what they'll think about you, keep the words of Judith Martin (Miss Manners) in mind. "Most people are too conscious of their own problems in the matter to hold yours against you. Even if they wanted to give you a black mark, they wouldn't know next to whose name to put it."

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