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12 Top Tips for Managing Shyness throughout the festive season and beyond....


'Tis the Season to be Jolly' as the saying goes....


Well for those of us struggling with shyness, this season of socialising, partying and family gatherings can also bring with it feelings of anxiety and overwhelm but fear not, I've got you covered! See below for my 12 top tips to help you through. These are tried and trusted strategies that I know helped me and which I hope you will find helpful too.


Tip No 1 - Beware Dutch Courage

Dutch courage refers to the confidence that some people get from drinking alcohol before they engage in something they feel nervous about. At first glance it can seem like the perfect answer; at this time of year with so many parties and social functions, alcohol is widely available, most people are partaking, so what could go wrong?


Alcohol travels to our brain, where it has wide-ranging effects on our mental and emotional function. The initial impacts include a relaxed feeling and greater self confidence, which seems ideal for those struggling with shyness. Although we may not be immediately aware, the impact of alcohol kicks in long before we reach the point of legal intoxication.


By the time we reach the threshold of legal drunkenness, we will typically lose a good bit of our normal inhibition and behave in ways which are contrary to how we normally conduct ourselves. This leads to regret, self recrimination and only serves to increase our desire to hide away in the background. I know, I've been there and done it, only for it to fuel my shyness even more. I'm not for one minute saying you shouldn't enjoy a drink but just be mindful - perhaps try drinking a glass of water between every 1-2 alcoholic drinks.

And before you do go out, try asking yourself how you'd like the evening to end - feeling accomplished for having managed your shyness well or waking the next morning in a pit of embarrassment and regret?


Tip No 2 - Plan Talking Points

It might sound contrived, but it really helps to prepare some talking points to break the ice and fill any conversation lulls.


Think about 3 types:

  • generic

  • specific

  • personal

Generic topics can include current events, weather, and scenery. Specific topics address the interests and lives of those you know are attending the event for example 'How did Jane's house move go? or 'Tell me about your recent holiday to Peru, it sounds really interesting'. Finally, personal topics are about you. When someone asks, “What’s new with you?” have a few updates or stories ready to spark dialogue rather than a muted "oh, not much” won’t get you far.


Tip No 3 - Bring a Sidekick

Having a chatty companion can balance out your shyness and help you feel at ease. Make plans to arrive with a confident friend who is also going or ask your host if you’re allowed a plus one.


While it’s safe to leave the talking to those who are more extroverted, don’t stay in your comfort zone of silence. You don't necessarily have to take the lead but be sure to participate in the discussion. When you feel more settled, you can then perhaps introduce a topic of conversation or, gulp, even venture off on your own to mix with other known or unknown partiers.


Large get-togethers are a great way to meet new people and remember, if someone isn't your cup of tea, you can always politely bring the conversation to and end and move on.


Tip No 4 - Smile

A smile is the best conversation starter. Think about it - who are you more likely to approach, the person who looks like they're having a good time or the one who looks like they wants to run for the door any second? When feeling shy, it can be really hard to strike up conversation, but keeping a positive demeanour is more likely to invite introductions from others.


A smile projects confidence and it can also make you feel confident. In 1989, Dr. Robert Zajonc (Polish-born American social psychologist, known for his decades of work on a wide range of social and cognitive processes), published a study that facial muscles influence subjective feeling. A smile can induce real feelings of happiness due to the facial muscles’ connections to cerebral blood flow.

So, when you’re feeling self-conscious or overwhelmed, a cheerful expression will help quash your doubts and invite others to come chat with you without you having to say a word.


Tip No 5 - Be Authentic

Be realistic about your socialising expectations. Give yourself some perspective, tell yourself “If I have at least one meaningful conversation or meet one new person, the event was a success.”


Evaluate the situation and set achievable conversation-based goals. Don’t force or engage with topics you’re uncomfortable or can’t identify with. Avoid placing unnecessary pressure on yourself to speak to everyone and remember, you don't have to be the life and soul of the party.


Tip N0 6 - Do Your Homework

If you've been invited to a gathering and are feeling nervous, carrying out some research in advance can be really helpful to ease those nerves.

  • Is there a specific dress code?

  • Will there be parking on site?

  • Is transport provided?

  • Is it a shared venue or private?

  • Is food provided - sit down or buffet?

  • Expected numbers?

  • Will there be speeches/prize giving?

Whatever might be worrying you, just ask rather than ruminating on it.


Tip No 7 - Arrive Early

If you're shy, you'll know all too well how overwhelming and intimidating it can feel walking into a room full of people.

Plan to arrive on time, or perhaps even a little early to give yourself time to settle into the environment and avoid having to join in already established conversations.


Tip No 8 - Breathe

When we feel nervous our breathing is often affected. When in a state of anxiety, our nervous system becomes activated and produces adrenaline. Too much excess adrenaline leads to those all too familiar and unwanted symptoms such as a churning stomach, trembling limbs, racing heart etc....


Breathing is something we just take for granted, it's automatic, we don't pay any attention to it but when we're feeling nervous, paying attention to our breath rate is key. Regulating our breath pattern sends a signal to our activated sympathetic nervous system that all is well which will in turn bring our parasympathetic nervous system online, thus calming us down.


There are many breathing techniques but the Box Breathing method is one I favour in particular.


1. Inhale through your nose steadily, fully inflating your lungs for a count of 4

2. Hold you breath for the same count of 4

3. Exhale through your mouth, emptying your lungs for the same count of 4

4. Hold your breath for the same count of 4

Keep repeating this cycle until you feel yourself calming and your breathing becoming more regulated.


Tip No 9 - Tell People You're Feeling Shy

What?!!! I hear you say. Yes I know this one goes against the grain but bear with me.


For years, I saw shyness was a weakness and that I 'should' be gregarious like others. I spent years trying to pretend I was confident and things were ok when in reality they were very much the opposite.


Sharing that I felt shy and feeling nervous was a real gamechanger. It was a huge release. As soon as I embraced my shyness and started to work with it rather than hide it (albeit unsuccessfully), that's when things started to change for the better. So go on, take a breath and just say it.... the world won't stop turning, promise.


Tip No 10 - Wear Something you Feel Comfortable In

If you're feeling shy and nervous about attending a Christmas social, be sure to wear something you feel comfortable in, although I don't mean your PJ's and slippers, unless it's a sleepover!


That said, be mindful that although you're going for what you feel happy in, you still want it to be appropriate to the environment/dress code. Although they may be your favourites, wearing your old torn pair of jeans to a formal function will likely leave you feeling very self conscious due to standing out from the crowd for being under dressed just as much as wearing a ball gown to a casual event may do.


Tip No 11 - Find Your Tribe

A You Gov survey revealed over 50% of the UK population identified themselves as shy, whether that be a little, somewhat or very, so you can be pretty sure you won't be the only one. Take a look around the room and see who else may be standing back and go say hi.


I remember how glad I always felt when someone came over and started chatting with me. Trust me, they'll be glad of the company as much as you are.


Tip No 12 - Remember it's Okay to Be Shy

Being shy doesn't mean we're broken, we're not weak, we don't need fixing and with over 50% of the population being shy, we're normal!

Shyness isn't who we are, it's just one part of our character and we have so many wonderful qualities to bring to the party (forgive the pun). So heads up, shoulders back, smile, be you and have fun!




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