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The shy delusion

| 144 comments | Category: positive mentality

This is another post that is going to ruffle some feathers, but it has to be said.

YOU ARE NOT SHY. Stop describing yourself as such.

How can I be so bold as to claim that almost nobody reading this is actually shy? Well, because everyone says they are shy. Sound contradictory?

When pretty much everyone says it, the meaning of the word gets watered down to nothing.

People’s identification with shyness and/or introversion comes from something similar to the Forer effect, where a vague personality description is identified as “very accurate” by the large majority. It’s the basis of the entire astrology industry; sell people a generic description that sounds accurate “only” about them and they’ll buy it.

The original test run by Forer, and repeated by many many others like Derren Brown (click to see the video) had the following or similar text (among other suggestions) that almost everyone gave a 5 out of 5 rating for accuracy:

“At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.”

Besides heaps of scientific research to show how almost everyone would rate this description as spot on, my own experience in talking to people confirms that they will produce the same generic description of themselves when I meet them. This makes it totally meaningless and they may as well burp in terms of telling me anything about themselves.

Your basis of comparison doesn’t exist

It would seem that in our own heads we have a typical idea of what a complete extrovert is – the “life of the party” guy/gal who strolls in and confidently talks to everyone and who everyone loves. They never doubt themselves and don’t ever have moments where they too would go into their heads or feel that they just don’t want to be social at times.

This mythical creature doesn’t exist (unless they have undergone some intensive social de-programming). I have met many people who are the stereotypical social party animal and you know what? They identify with the exact same Forer description as above. Party animals tell me how shy they are and compare themselves to even higher-level party animals who would likely do exactly the same thing.

Everyone doubts themselves and everyone is “shy” in a situation they are not comfortable with. If everyone is shy, it means nothing. It would be like saying “everyone is short”.

People’s ability to judge their own level of introversion/shyness is horrible. They use an exaggerated basis of comparison, not realising that the rest of the planet is doing precisely the same thing. If we were to all compare ourselves to Michael Jordan, then of course “everybody” would be short. Using the extreme as the basis of comparison, rather than a middle average, is worthless.

I don’t like shallow conversations and need some me-time

Do you feel more comfortable in certain situations and much prefer to talk to people about particular topics? Do you prefer to have some time alone to do your own thing? Are you uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings and sometimes worry about what people might think of you? Do you prefer quality and depth rather than quantity and shallowness of conversations?

Do you also breath air and drink water? Congratulations – you’re just like everyone else.

This post was inspired by a topic on extroverts vs introverts on the How to Learn Any Language forum, and I found it frustrating to see how much generic rubbish (as listed above) people used to describe themselves as an introvert. Introversion and shyness are different (a ‘shy’ person may actually desperately want to be social, whereas an introvert takes more pleasure out of non-social interactions than extroverts would), but because the end result of less socialising is more or less the same they have a lot in common.

Of course, I’m not saying that the entire concept of shy vs extroverted is in our heads. There are people that genuinely do get more energy out of social interactions than others, even if occasionally superficial, and those that prefer to be on their own most of the day. There are also those with autism who really cannot participate easily in social interactions.

But the problem is that most of us identify with the extreme end of introvert/shy. There are exceptions – those who identify with introverts and really are much better off spending most of their time in reflection and study, and even those who are honest enough with themselves to admit that they are genuinely on the extrovert end of the scale.

My problem is with the vast majority of people who are in the middle – or “ambiverts” if you will, and yet identify themselves as introverts or shy.

How a definition can define you

So what’s the big deal? Why am I so annoyed about this and why am I bringing it up on this blog?

It’s because identifying with this definition of yourself (which is not what is actually unique about you, if almost everyone else claims it too) will decide what your limitations are. When you are sure that you are shy or an introvert, then whether it’s true or not, it will become true.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Why can’t you walk up to that stranger and say hi? “Because I’m shy”. Bullshit.

This identification with being shy is stopping you and limiting you. Some people have genuine reasons for not wanting to trust strangers, and that’s fine, but “I’m shy” as an excuse is totally bogus. Be honest with yourself. You can’t talk to that stranger because you have decided you are too shy to do it.

How can I so arrogantly presume how many people’s minds work? Because I used to identify with shyness. I thought it was an inherent part of my being and personality – encoded into my genes. Or perhaps going to an all boys catholic school followed by studying an intensive technical subject and not socialising much sculpted me into being an introvert and preferring the company of books and TV to people.

And you know what I’ve realized over the last 8 years on the road? If I had to give you one piece of advice to gain confidence in socialising with more people, it would be to stop with this “I’m too shy” nonsense.

No self-help book or even blog post like this can magically make you more social – you have to stop being scared to meet new people. Stop thinking about all the things that can go wrong if you talk to someone, stop reminding yourself how shy you are. Just bloody go up and speak to them!

I’m not saying introversion is “wrong” – there are things that people who spend all their time with others can’t appreciate about self-reflection, focused studying and even just down time to be quiet. But the reverse is also true – there is a movement of proud introverts who snub social people as superficial and I find this arrogant and superficial judging nothing less than hypocritical.

There is only so much you can learn from books and from going into your own head. Sometimes you absolutely need to spend time with others and can’t learn more about what you want without them (in my case speak a language fluently).

I can now confidently say that I am an extrovert. And yes, I do want to convert more people to being confident and social. Pep talks can only do so much – sometimes you have to just be social. Stop analysing the reasons why you can’t and just make that phonecall or send that message on Facebook to meet up. Or better yet, walk up to that person, tap them on the shoulder and say “hi!” The worst that can happen is that you can be right back where you started.

When I’m out with a “shy” person, I make a point to see who they’d like to talk to and push (sometimes literally) them into that group. They never regret it. I met a shy girl in Berlin and showed her my “amazing” glass clink trick. She talked to me for several minutes about how shy she was and so I grabbed her glass as she held it, walked her up to someone she wanted to talk to, clinked it and ran away before he had time to see me. I gave her an initial boost, (which technically was just moving her arm muscles for her – no words needed) but the rest of the night she tried it and made many many friends.

It was that easy. I’m writing about this so confidently because I have done this so many times. I have made shy people very social by action rather than psychologically analysing them.

When someone says “I’m shy” to me, what I actually hear is “I just need a tiny nudge and then I can be as social as you”.

Speak, for heaven’s sake!

The reason this point annoys me so much is because it comes up repeatedly in a language learning context, especially since my advice is so communicative and relies on speaking with others. “But I can’t, I’m too shy – what will they say when I make mistakes?”

Sorry for being so blunt…. but don’t be such a sissy!

I’m not going to dig you out of your introvert hole using introvert if-then logic. I’ll drag you out kicking and screaming if I have to, and push you into a real-life social situation with no mental preparation, so you can get used to how us extroverts genuinely do it ourselves.

I can talk to any stranger not because of conquering some non-existent psychological trait. It’s because I stopped thinking that trait into existence before doing anything social.

Maybe you’ll thank me for it, or maybe you’ll be a cry baby and say I don’t respect your shyness. So be it – I want to help as many people achieve their dreams as I do, and sometimes it requires a slap in the face. I see shyness as the non-real Matrix that too many people are stuck in.

So what’s it going to be – are you going to get back into your shy convert zone, or are you going to look back at the matrix of shyness and realize that it’s a reality you’ve created for yourself?

———–

If you are the 1% of people who really are introverts, then I’m sorry. I’m sorry not for writing this post, but that so many “ambiverts” are diluting what you really are. If you’re an ambivert (half introvert, half extrovert) like pretty much everyone else, then stop identifying with the part that is limiting you.

Now let the sea of “you’re wrong” commence in the comments below! What do I know – I don’t have a degree in psychology or anything, I just talk to lots and lots of people. Take my words as wisdom or ramblings as you wish. If you think I’m on to something, please share this with your “shy” friends on Facebook ;)

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  • http://www.yearlyglot.com/ Randy the Yearlyglot

    You’re totally wrong. We’re all actually hyper-introverts, suffering from a condition we have no control over, which renders us unable to be awesome, and does so completely against our will, because obviously we all WISH we were awesome, but not enough to actually do something about it. Excuses are nice, and you’re trying to take those away from us. Aaaaggghhh!!!!! Cognitive dissonance!!!!! I don’t even know who I am anymore!!!!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      You’re starting a lot of your comments recently with “you’re totally wrong” :P

      • http://www.yearlyglot.com/ Randy the Yearlyglot

        No I don’t! You’re wrong! :)

        Yeah, I guess I need to add some more variety to my ironic comments.

  • http://www.gobackpacking.com Dave

    Wow, so much I can identify with in this post, I can’t possibly quote it all. As a guy who use to be a lot more shy, I’ll just say it’s spot on. Becoming a more outgoing, socially confident person is a big part of why I wanted to travel for an extended time — I felt like I was a different person on the road. And after my 20-month ’round the world trip, I definitely arrived back in the USA a changed person, for good this time.

    One thing I’d add to this post, which you might’ve mentioned, is that it takes time to become that socially outgoing person. It won’t happen overnight — deprogramming yourself after years of affirming one’s shyness ain’t easy, but it can be done.

    If someone’s really having trouble, they should read up on “social anxiety disorder” as cognitive behavioral therapy can be an effective approach.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Yes, I was impressed in seeing the ease with which you could talk to those strangers on Saturday night! You’re an excellent example of someone who worked over time and did indeed achieve a much more social personality!
      Indeed it does take time, and I didn’t make the switch overnight myself either. But the quickest way is through as much social exposure as possible.

  • http://twitter.com/marcinsamsel Marcin Samsel

    Haha this photo cracks me up!

    I wholeheartedly agree with you Benny. A few years ago I considered myself a super shy person. Fortunately, I decided to fight with this self-fulfilling prophecy and now I’m way more “extrovert” than before (and I’m still working on my social skills). The key is to constantly step outside one’s comfort zone.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Absolutely! I hope others are reading comments like this to see that there are MANY extrovert-converts. Being shy is not a life sentence :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    I don’t think I’ve ever said that any method of learning is wrong and I’d appreciate if you didn’t make such silly claims ;)

    If someone wants to read a language well, understand podcasts and movies and pass exams then much less of my advice will be applicable. There is no “wrong” way to learn a language when there are so many end goals.

    However, if you want to speak well as soon as possible, then speak a LOT. Lots of practice is the way to speak well. If anyone doubts this then I will say they are wrong. People who prepare with lots of study in advance etc. aren’t “wrong”, they are just reaching spoken fluency slower than those who practice frequently.

    • Xeno_panda

      I see. My primary goal is reading comprehension because it’s more useful for me, not speaking. I think the arguments about flashcards on another blog got under my skin. (who knew people could be so passionate about something like that??) Thank you for replying. :)

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

        Yes, that would be Randy’s blog. I tried flashcards and found them somewhat beneficial for speaking, but not as good as practice. I use them to pass the time when I’m waiting for a bus or something, but think it absolutely cannot be a major part of studying to reach fluency.

        However, I think for the purposes of reading, where recognition (rather than production) is focus they would indeed be an excellent means of studying.

        Thanks for the comment ;)

      • http://twitter.com/chrissarda Chris Sarda

        Something that has to be understood about this new medium of blogging xeno is that in sea of voices you have to make yourself seen and that comes from writing and titling posts in ways that make people want to read the post and comment.I don’t know any of the language bloggers that would tell you that you shouldn’t do what you want, but there are a whole whole lot that would say something is completely unhelpful, sometimes they may say it’s just about useless (randy with flash carding, benny with rosetta stone, steve kaufmann with pimsleur ect), but blogging as a medium is about telling people what you think, it’s basically one big place to read someone’s editorials except you get to discuss it in the comment section. Sometimes the blogger and commenter take it all too personal, but then blogging is still a new medium, my advice is don’t worry and don’t be afraid to give your opinion, but at the same time there’s nothing anyone writes on these blogs that should ruffle your feathers.The best way to prove your system works anyway is to be able to say “Look at these languages I learned by doing it this way.”

  • http://twitter.com/Z_Ha_Dum Christoffer Ohlsson

    You really think that those that actually are shy and think you’re wrong and mean will dare comment? ;)

    It’s really putting yourself out there to get rejected and ridiculed to post a comment on a ‘controversial’ subject online :O

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      That’s the whole point! They AREN’T shy. I am absolutely sure that people who claim to be shy will confidently tell me how wrong I am. The confidence in their reply will ironically prove me right. You can see lots of examples of this in the forum I linked to.

      • http://profiles.google.com/sadgegoddess Donalda Goncalves

        You have a very stereotypical and limited view of what shyness is.  Nobody is shy behind a keyboard, so you have proven nothing.

  • http://twitter.com/HernandezTony Antonio Hernandez

    I’m not saying anything. Just hiding in the corner, overhearing. Don’t mind me. *whimper*

  • Anonymous

    Way to go, Benny… This is a great post. It is so true that “I’m shy” is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is an excuse that actually turns in to a curse. The only person you can change is yourself, but if you are declaring yourself to be “shy” then you have just decided what you will be.

    The best thing to overcome shyness is to just be social, as you say… Find something to say. Comment on anything. Ask an open ended question about it… It’s as simple as saying “What do you think about ____ ? Why do think that?”

    Of course one benefit to deciding not to be shy is that you end up having much more conversation, which accelerates learning of all kinds, especially language learning.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Absolutely – I don’t ever need “lines” to be able to talk to new people. I just ask them a question that is genuinely on my mind, even if it’s something silly.

      Yes, lack of shyness is a major help in language learning!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Excellent way to look at it! I’ll have to quote you on that next time someone says “what if she doesn’t want to talk to me?” :)
    People forget that the extroverts also get shrugged away. I got a couple of nos from girls I invited to dance on Saturday night. The whole point isn’t that you will avoid these reactions from being social, but that you learn to accept them as not being a big deal.
    One way I convince people to try to meet more people is to actually get a blank response as the goal. This way there is no disappointment – either they get the turn down and they were successful in the objective, or they don’t and a social interaction begins.

    Aw, thanks for the compliment! I try to mix up the posts a bit, but always gravitated towards language learning (“shyness” is a major thing holding people back from progressing, but luckily this post would be interesting to non-language learners too obviously).

    Glad you like my writing! Always feel free to comment!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    My previous preference was also initially to stay on my own. I’m convinced that being more social it is something anyone CAN learn to both do and to appreciate.

    To speak a language fluently for example I think working on social skills and exposure to real social situations is crucial. I’m glad to see you pushed yourself to go out ;)

  • http://twitter.com/diarmuidh Diarmuid Hayes

    Had to do some volunteering for Haiti before a rock concert the other night..was quite nervous/shyness initially but after one attempt at talking to a random person and asking them to contribute the shyness left-if you think of your goal you can overcome anything..would be a bit more difficult to go up to a random pretty girl in the metro though ;)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I wouldn’t approach a girl in a metro, better to do it at a social event – she’ll be more open to making new friends then.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Not giving up is the major key to success in all this- keep it up! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Thanks for that affirmation Vic – great to see people using my advice! :)

  • Anonymous

    I liked how analytical this post is regarding shyness. I think a balance is needed of talking at the right time vs. avoiding to talk too much to listen (especially from the “shy”).

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      A balance is always a good thing. I think most of us would naturally talk at the right time and not be machine guns of talkativeness if coming from a shy mindset, so I just talk about the other end of the balance in this post ;)
      Glad you liked the logical analysis!

  • Anonymous

    I liked how analytical this post is regarding shyness. I think a balance is needed of talking at the right time vs. avoiding to talk too much to listen (especially from the “shy”).

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Yes, it seems that many e-mails I get are about social skills and overcoming shyness. Luckily it is totally relevant to learning languages, but I’d like to delve into this again in future :)
    Thanks for the comment and the RT! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Travel created the pressure for me to NEED to be social or simply have no friends at all. I’m glad for this because this pressure forced me to adapt my personality and accept that shyness really wasn’t a life-sentence for me.
    Getting lots of positive experiences does indeed drown out the negative ones :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    “I prefer to talk to natives for whom I’m more sure that the topic of our conversation is going to interest me” – this is exactly the kind of generic stuff I was talking about. It means nothing, since pretty much EVERYONE will identify with it. I can assure you that if the conversation is going to be about the weather/shoes/how great Macs are, I’ll be looking for the nearest exit.

    If you like being alone that’s great – but as I said in this post there are advantages to socialising, and you can learn to appreciate them. I also much preferred being alone to being with people 8 years ago. So yes, I think people can learn to appreciate both alone time and social time (if shy) or trying to balance both rather than focusing on being alone (if an introvert).

    Some information can ALSO only be communicated by spending time with human beings. I’m not telling people to burn books and stop reflecting. I’m telling them to appreciate and embrace human interactions more.

    A world of nothing but extreme extroverts would be just as bad as a world with nothing but extreme introverts. A balance is best, so a post like this is pushing people more towards the middle.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    There are indeed people who can’t overcome feeling very stressed in social situations due to genuine social anxiety and I don’t want to demean that in any way. My beef is with lazy people (i.e. the majority) who identify with shyness and who have nothing actually stopping them from trying. For them it really is just in their head – for others (1% perhaps) it’s a deeper issue.

    Although I still think most people are ambiverts. An “introvert” would get energised from being in a social situation they are absolutely totally familiar and comfortable with, likely with a small group of friends, perhaps praising them from something they did cool and an “extrovert” would have certain social situations that would drain his energy that he’d want to get away from asap.

    Almost everyone can identify with both, so I’d argue that most people are indeed in between and NOT an either/or. If you have genuine social anxiety, then of course you are the 1% in the extreme, and it pisses me off that too many people who claim to have social problems and actually just need a tiny budge say they are in the same boat as you.

    Glad you liked the post! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    There are indeed people who can’t overcome feeling very stressed in social situations due to genuine social anxiety and I don’t want to demean that in any way. My beef is with lazy people (i.e. the majority) who identify with shyness and who have nothing actually stopping them from trying. For them it really is just in their head – for others (1% perhaps) it’s a deeper issue.

    Although I still think most people are ambiverts. An “introvert” would get energised from being in a social situation they are absolutely totally familiar and comfortable with, likely with a small group of friends, perhaps praising them from something they did cool and an “extrovert” would have certain social situations that would drain his energy that he’d want to get away from asap.

    Almost everyone can identify with both, so I’d argue that most people are indeed in between and NOT an either/or. If you have genuine social anxiety, then of course you are the 1% in the extreme, and it pisses me off that too many people who claim to have social problems and actually just need a tiny budge say they are in the same boat as you.

    Glad you liked the post! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    There are indeed people who can’t overcome feeling very stressed in social situations due to genuine social anxiety and I don’t want to demean that in any way. My beef is with lazy people (i.e. the majority) who identify with shyness and who have nothing actually stopping them from trying. For them it really is just in their head – for others (1% perhaps) it’s a deeper issue.

    Although I still think most people are ambiverts. An “introvert” would get energised from being in a social situation they are absolutely totally familiar and comfortable with, likely with a small group of friends, perhaps praising them from something they did cool and an “extrovert” would have certain social situations that would drain his energy that he’d want to get away from asap.

    Almost everyone can identify with both, so I’d argue that most people are indeed in between and NOT an either/or. If you have genuine social anxiety, then of course you are the 1% in the extreme, and it pisses me off that too many people who claim to have social problems and actually just need a tiny budge say they are in the same boat as you.

    Glad you liked the post! :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    There are indeed people who can’t overcome feeling very stressed in social situations due to genuine social anxiety and I don’t want to demean that in any way. My beef is with lazy people (i.e. the majority) who identify with shyness and who have nothing actually stopping them from trying. For them it really is just in their head – for others (1% perhaps) it’s a deeper issue.

    Although I still think most people are ambiverts. An “introvert” would get energised from being in a social situation they are absolutely totally familiar and comfortable with, likely with a small group of friends, perhaps praising them from something they did cool and an “extrovert” would have certain social situations that would drain his energy that he’d want to get away from asap.

    Almost everyone can identify with both, so I’d argue that most people are indeed in between and NOT an either/or. If you have genuine social anxiety, then of course you are the 1% in the extreme, and it pisses me off that too many people who claim to have social problems and actually just need a tiny budge say they are in the same boat as you.

    Glad you liked the post! :)

  • Lisa

    Nice post. I think you wrote something about this before, because I remember commenting on this blog about that I have an autistic disorder and can’t always help being ‘shy’. I’m not shy at all at the moment though, and that’s not because I said to myself I shouldn’t be shy, it’s because I’m not depressed anymore and made some friends. A year ago I was pretty depressed, had no friends, and hardly talked to people at all, and really, you can’t just decide to stop being shy in such a situation… I do agree with you though!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I agree 100%, but it’s very important to be honest with yourself about the cause.
      So rather than say “I’m shy AND I’m depressed” the truth was actually “I’m depressed and don’t feel like being social because of that”. It’s a minor distinction, but important as it doesn’t identify shyness as an inherent character trait. If you overcome depression (which obviously takes way more than just deciding not to be depressed), then overcoming shyness is simply a part of the package ;)

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Yup, but to be honest my general experience with people like this is that they can’t be convinced otherwise (it’s almost like you’re dealing with a die-hard victim mentality–perhaps that’s what it is) so I just don’t bother arguing with them. I know they’re not going to learn a new language unless they spend a LOT of time talking to native speakers, regardless of nearly everything else they do, so I just remain polite and humor them but think “Nope, you’re screwed, you’re not getting fluent in ___….ever. Dude, just give up and go spend your time learning something that doesn’t require you to interact with people.” I don’t say this, because in my experience if you do 99% of the time they just get mad at you and it doesn’t do anything at all to change their mind :(

    I’m all for helping people, don’t get me wrong, but in my experience you can only help those who WANT to be helped. When someone says “How can I find native speakers to talk with?” or “Should I start talking with native speakers now?” or “When should I actually start conversing with native speakers?”, THEN my eyes light up and I mentally vomit onto them everything I can think of that will help them find natives to practice because these people actually WANT help and are open to talking with native speakers. When someone says they can’t talk with natives for some reason, I just nod politely and humor them–do you think that’s wrong? Do you have some Vulcan mind-meld trick you know about that I don’t that will work on them or something? :D

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      It’s hard to convince people who are very experienced with coming up with seemingly logical arguments for why they should maintain the status quo. That’s why I usually don’t argue with them and just push them (sometimes yes, literally) into a social situation so they can see the world really doesn’t end.

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Yup, but to be honest my general experience with people like this is that they can’t be convinced otherwise (it’s almost like you’re dealing with a die-hard victim mentality–perhaps that’s what it is) so I just don’t bother arguing with them. I know they’re not going to learn a new language unless they spend a LOT of time talking to native speakers, regardless of nearly everything else they do, so I just remain polite and humor them but think “Nope, you’re screwed, you’re not getting fluent in ___….ever. Dude, just give up and go spend your time learning something that doesn’t require you to interact with people.” I don’t say this, because in my experience if you do 99% of the time they just get mad at you and it doesn’t do anything at all to change their mind :(

    I’m all for helping people, don’t get me wrong, but in my experience you can only help those who WANT to be helped. When someone says “How can I find native speakers to talk with?” or “Should I start talking with native speakers now?” or “When should I actually start conversing with native speakers?”, THEN my eyes light up and I mentally vomit onto them everything I can think of that will help them find natives to practice because these people actually WANT help and are open to talking with native speakers. When someone says they can’t talk with natives for some reason, I just nod politely and humor them–do you think that’s wrong? Do you have some Vulcan mind-meld trick you know about that I don’t that will work on them or something? :D

    Cheers,
    Andrew

  • http://hessiess.com Hessiess

    My social issues are caused not by ‘shyness’ but by Asperger’s Syndrome. Social interaction does not come naturally to me, I have to manually “emulate” this behavior. That results in frequent conversion stalls and mis placed behaviors; driving people away.

    My behavior in social situations is created by mimicking the behavior of others, if I run into a situation I do not have a behavior for, which happens all the time, everything grinds to a halt as I have no idea what I am supposed to do next.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Sorry to hear about those difficulties! Obviously Asperger’s Syndrome is not something you can simply will away. This post is directed at the vast majority of the planet that don’t have any genuine excuse other than a faulty mindset, and it pisses me off that they claim to be in the same boat as you, when some minor nudging and a bit of practice can genuinely convert them into more outgoing people.

      • http://hessiess.com Hessiess

        Some people just have no motivation. Even with the disability I am still working to develop myself. I am improving slowly, mainly by learning more responses and improving the speed of my emulation. I do have a social anxiety and generally avoid getting into conversations. That comes from the knowledge that I am going to mess up badly in every conversation, it isn’t part of the condition.

        Also, something about me or my body language makes people go into a closed defensive state before even talking to them. On-line, non real time communication is much easier for me as it removes these problems. Several second to several minute stalls do not come through the communication media.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    “or that I’m attracted to topics that do not interest many people” – once again, more generic stuff! Who reading this is going to say the opposite? I’m into lots of specialised things that the vast majority of the planet doesn’t care about. My particular interest might make me special but the fact that I have unique interests is not in itself unique and thinking otherwise is arrogant.
    This is my problem with those who avoid contact with others – they have a warped view of how the world works and how other people’s minds work. I also used to think that I was alone in my way of looking at the world, but it turns out that even if there is nobody exactly like me, there are many traits that I do indeed share with others.
    This is why I used the word “delusion” in the title of this post. Those sticking to an anti-social mindset are lacking in knowledge about how the world actually works. If you’re perfectly happy not realizing this, that’s fine – there are also people “perfectly happy” watching TV all day long, but I personally feel they could do better. They are also “different” to people who apply themselves in life – should I respect that inaction too?

    As I said in the post, I will drag people out of an asocial lifestyle kicking and screaming if I have to. So no, I don’t expect you to be happy about it ;) But getting to the other side of discovering the wealth of knowledge others can impart on you, beyond calling them when you need a question answered, is too amazing for me to keep it to myself.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Please read the other comment from someone who has Asperger’s syndrome. That’s the extreme I’m talking about and it pisses me off that people who really have nothing stopping them but a faulty mindset claim to be in the same league as those who really do have a problem. I consider them to be disrespectful.

    Is it that hard to accept that you can learn to find social interactions interesting?

    Once again, I am writing this as someone who spent most of his life before traveling in his own company. I’m not making up what I feel introverts might be thinking.

    What you quoted was not a definition of introverts, I was giving an example to show that introverts can be seen as extroverts in a certain light.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    I can totally relate to your situation of being alone in a strange new country as I have done it many times.
    However, shy people are very lucky that in the 21st century we don’t have to walk up blank to strangers (way too hard for someone starting off in attempting to be more social). I did a search in Facebook and see that there is a Changwon Expat group! Please find this group and do similar searches in Couchsurfing, meetup.com or Korea specific forums (there is likely a forum just for expats in the country, there usually is).
    And just e-mail people in those groups and honestly say you are by yourself and would like to meet up with them. Honesty will reveal to you that perhaps someone is thinking the same thing and was hoping to get an e-mail from someone similarly minded – you don’t have to sculpt a perfect introduction or anything.
    Literally just write a quick introduction and send it to several people. You’ll have made a new friend for sure within a few hours and they will introduce you to others :) This new social circle will be your first step to breaking down the shyness barrier!
    I know I promote speaking only the target language, but working on your confidence to talk to expat strangers will translate over to your confidence with locals. You can make friends in both groups – and will even find other foreigners learning Korean who will be a major help ;)
    Best of luck and let me know how it goes!!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Thanks for the “like” and glad you appreciated the Jack Sparrow article too :) Sometimes having a bit of fun really is the best way to overcome shyness!

  • Goŝka

    Let me Hire You to make The Glass Clink Trick (excellent idea:) ) or The Ass Kick :) next time, when I don’t feel comfortable in a group of people I don’t know.
    it’s very true that I feel comfortable, talkative and ‘extrovert’ when being with friends or esperantists, but I would really need your tricks when being with some new people.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Don’t you meet new Esperantists? ;) It’s easy to be friendly with them because you know you share something in common. The way I look at it, everybody I meet has something that we can talk about at length, even if I have to dig a little to find it.

      You don’t need to hire me to do the glass clink trick. All I did was move that girl’s arms for her – there was no trick to it ;) Rather than think of reasons why someone would not want to talk to you, just stop thinking, clink their glass (note: I do this even though I usually only have a coke or Orange Juice!!) and say “Cheers!”

      In fact, I search out someone without beer specifically so I can clink their glass of water etc. and toast to non-drinkers – an immediate thing we have in common that I can see without me even needing to ask.

      There are lots of opportunities, try it!

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Interesting you should mention photography! I never did say this, but when I was first in Spain, being the camera guy helped me immensely to make new friends! At the time, digital photography was still a novelty, so it was so amazingly cool to see a picture of yourself immediately on the tiny screen. My pics went up on the local university website and so I felt a somewhat “professional” urge to take them and did learn to walk up to people and say hi. It was a huge help in helping me get over shyness.

  • Steve

    hmm, im one of those people who you are talking about, i agree but it took me A LONG time to reach that point for one reason only. I stop that mindset that said steve dont do it, i still have problems with it.

    One step at a time

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I don’t actually promote the “take your time” idea with this. Intensive socialising and social sky-diving of taking to strangers will make you confident quickly. Doing it once a week or something will slow you down immensely and you will have no momentum.

      It’s all or nothing if you want to get over shyness quickly.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Yes, I hope others read your affirmation! There are a lot of people disagreeing with this who cling on to their shyness almost with pride and might indeed feel like they are selling out to superficiality by being more flexible in being social, but it’s simply not true.

  • QK

    I agree with you when you say that everyone who complains that he/she can’t do x because he/she is too shy is talking bullshit. Everyone can choose to become more outgoing.

    However, I don’t like it when you put shyness on a level with introverts.
    Introverts aren’t shy per se. They just don’t seek out other people as much as extroverts do.
    They do things on their own not because they are shy but because they choose to do it like that and are happy with it.

    Many extroverts, on the other hand, couldn’t stand being in solitude.
    Spending a week on their own without talking to anybody would make them feel bored and anything but happy.

    And yes, of course most people aren’t 100% percent introvert or extrovert.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Shyness and introversion are not the same and I said that in the post, but they do have a lot in common.

      I think ANYONE who spends an entire week on their own needs to change their lifestyle (apart from extreme cases like hiking mountains etc.) whether they like it or not because they are missing out by being antisocial.

      Introverts may be happy being on their own, but the comments I have seen them write show me that they have no idea what they are missing, thinking people in general are superficial, that they can’t really learn anything by talking to them etc. If an introvert attitude promotes this idea then I will put it on the same level as another that is equally antisocial.

      There are many things extroverts can learn from introverts by doing some self reflection and spending time on their own, but in this post I’m focusing on the opposite case.

      • QK

        “Introverts may be happy being on their own, but the comments I have seen them write show me that they have no idea what they are missing”
        That’s true. If you haven’t tasted alternatives you can’t judge.
        In that case, however, I would assume that the real underlying problem is closed-mindedness.

        I guess we actually agree with each other and are just discussing a stupid definition of a word here.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Yeah, I thought it was very relevant to include it ;)

  • 1% – The Introvert

    Your post was really great, and I agree with a lot of things in it about people who think they are introverts. I myself am in the 1% who are true introverts. But I am not shy. I simply prefer being alone. I could, if attending a social function of any kind, talk to any person present and feign interest. This has led to some people thinking of me as a social person even!

    The whole myth about shyness has gotten under my skin as well. I used to tell myself that I was shy, only because I disliked being in social contexts, but when I made a self-examination, I realized that it was not shyness, it was just disinterest in being social.

    There is a world of difference between the true introverts and the people who pretend to be, by giving themselves a daily dose of “what if” speeches.

  • 1% – The Introvert

    Your post was really great, and I agree with a lot of things in it about people who think they are introverts. I myself am in the 1% who are true introverts. But I am not shy. I simply prefer being alone. I could, if attending a social function of any kind, talk to any person present and feign interest. This has led to some people thinking of me as a social person even!

    The whole myth about shyness has gotten under my skin as well. I used to tell myself that I was shy, only because I disliked being in social contexts, but when I made a self-examination, I realized that it was not shyness, it was just disinterest in being social.

    There is a world of difference between the true introverts and the people who pretend to be, by giving themselves a daily dose of “what if” speeches.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Too many people instantly reply to explanations like this one and claim to be that 1%.

      I still think it’s very likely you are exaggerating about being in the 1% of “true introverts”. The introvert part of you likes being alone but you can still talk to people. Feigning interest means nothing – even an extrovert will do that. But I’m sure if the conversation interested you, you would stick to it. A typical true introvert would not ever be confused as a social person in my mind. I’d call you an ambivert with a leaning towards introversion based on your description.

      Perhaps you are in the mostly introvert scale, but please re-evaluate if you are a “true 100% introvert” as that may limit you to trying out social situations that would be greatly beneficial for learning a language or many other things.

      I realise there’s a huge difference between shyness and introversion, but parts of this post apply to you too ;) I don’t want everyone to read this post and say “OK, then I belong to that 1%!” If everyone is in the 1%, then we’re kind of back to square one…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Too many people instantly reply to explanations like this one and claim to be that 1%.

      I still think it’s very likely you are exaggerating about being in the 1% of “true introverts”. The introvert part of you likes being alone but you can still talk to people. Feigning interest means nothing – even an extrovert will do that. But I’m sure if the conversation interested you, you would stick to it. A typical true introvert would not ever be confused as a social person in my mind. I’d call you an ambivert with a leaning towards introversion based on your description.

      Perhaps you are in the mostly introvert scale, but please re-evaluate if you are a “true 100% introvert” as that may limit you to trying out social situations that would be greatly beneficial for learning a language or many other things.

      I realise there’s a huge difference between shyness and introversion, but parts of this post apply to you too ;) I don’t want everyone to read this post and say “OK, then I belong to that 1%!” If everyone is in the 1%, then we’re kind of back to square one…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Too many people instantly reply to explanations like this one and claim to be that 1%.

      I still think it’s very likely you are exaggerating about being in the 1% of “true introverts”. The introvert part of you likes being alone but you can still talk to people. Feigning interest means nothing – even an extrovert will do that. But I’m sure if the conversation interested you, you would stick to it. A typical true introvert would not ever be confused as a social person in my mind. I’d call you an ambivert with a leaning towards introversion based on your description.

      Perhaps you are in the mostly introvert scale, but please re-evaluate if you are a “true 100% introvert” as that may limit you to trying out social situations that would be greatly beneficial for learning a language or many other things.

      I realise there’s a huge difference between shyness and introversion, but parts of this post apply to you too ;) I don’t want everyone to read this post and say “OK, then I belong to that 1%!” If everyone is in the 1%, then we’re kind of back to square one…

  • 1% – The Introvert

    Your post was really great, and I agree with a lot of things in it about people who think they are introverts. I myself am in the 1% who are true introverts. But I am not shy. I simply prefer being alone. I could, if attending a social function of any kind, talk to any person present and feign interest. This has led to some people thinking of me as a social person even!

    The whole myth about shyness has gotten under my skin as well. I used to tell myself that I was shy, only because I disliked being in social contexts, but when I made a self-examination, I realized that it was not shyness, it was just disinterest in being social.

    There is a world of difference between the true introverts and the people who pretend to be, by giving themselves a daily dose of “what if” speeches.

  • Sonia Saules

    Dammit.

    Ich bin Englisch- und Spanischlehrerin, auch Übersetzerin.
    Ich spreche Portugiesisch auch und jetzt lerne ich Deutsch.
    Übrigens bin ich auch Grammatikfreak.
    Ich kenne mehr Grammatikregeln als mein Mann, ein Deutscher.
    Wenn ich schreibe, Alte, fühle ich mich wie Gott… ohne scheiss.
    Aber ich kann einfach nicht sprechen, Benny.

    Este post tuyo me llegó al corazón! Por 8 años he aplicado métodos similares a los tuyos con mis alumnos. Funciona, simplemente funciona. Entonces mi esposo siempre me pregunta “¿¿Por qué carajos no lo aplicas contigo misma??”

    “Porque YO soy tímida!”

    Não mais!
    Obrigada pelo Post! É um lembrete muito bom de que tímido, em muitos casos, é só um rótulo, ajuda para nada. É um estado mental. Foi um prazer ler você.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Gracias Sonia :D Se ve que escribes super bien :) Pero si – a veces nosotros los profesores no aplicamos nuestros consejos ;)
      A partir de hoy, no eres tímida!! Disfruta de la vida sociable :D

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Gracias Sonia :D Se ve que escribes super bien :) Pero si – a veces nosotros los profesores no aplicamos nuestros consejos ;)
      A partir de hoy, no eres tímida!! Disfruta de la vida sociable :D

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Gracias Sonia :D Se ve que escribes super bien :) Pero si – a veces nosotros los profesores no aplicamos nuestros consejos ;)
      A partir de hoy, no eres tímida!! Disfruta de la vida sociable :D

  • Sonia Saules

    Dammit.

    Ich bin Englisch- und Spanischlehrerin, auch Übersetzerin.
    Ich spreche Portugiesisch auch und jetzt lerne ich Deutsch.
    Übrigens bin ich auch Grammatikfreak.
    Ich kenne mehr Grammatikregeln als mein Mann, ein Deutscher.
    Wenn ich schreibe, Alte, fühle ich mich wie Gott… ohne scheiss.
    Aber ich kann einfach nicht sprechen, Benny.

    Este post tuyo me llegó al corazón! Por 8 años he aplicado métodos similares a los tuyos con mis alumnos. Funciona, simplemente funciona. Entonces mi esposo siempre me pregunta “¿¿Por qué carajos no lo aplicas contigo misma??”

    “Porque YO soy tímida!”

    Não mais!
    Obrigada pelo Post! É um lembrete muito bom de que tímido, em muitos casos, é só um rótulo, ajuda para nada. É um estado mental. Foi um prazer ler você.

  • Sonia Saules

    Dammit.

    Ich bin Englisch- und Spanischlehrerin, auch Übersetzerin.
    Ich spreche Portugiesisch auch und jetzt lerne ich Deutsch.
    Übrigens bin ich auch Grammatikfreak.
    Ich kenne mehr Grammatikregeln als mein Mann, ein Deutscher.
    Wenn ich schreibe, Alte, fühle ich mich wie Gott… ohne scheiss.
    Aber ich kann einfach nicht sprechen, Benny.

    Este post tuyo me llegó al corazón! Por 8 años he aplicado métodos similares a los tuyos con mis alumnos. Funciona, simplemente funciona. Entonces mi esposo siempre me pregunta “¿¿Por qué carajos no lo aplicas contigo misma??”

    “Porque YO soy tímida!”

    Não mais!
    Obrigada pelo Post! É um lembrete muito bom de que tímido, em muitos casos, é só um rótulo, ajuda para nada. É um estado mental. Foi um prazer ler você.

  • http://dgryski.blogspot.com Damian Gryski

    For overcoming shyness, you might also be interested in Rejection Therapy: http://www.rejectiontherapy.com/

    Doing a Google search will bring up some interested articles. A couple of people are blogging / have blogged their experiences playing the game. There are also several longer-form articles talking about it.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Didn’t know about the website, but I’ve tried it and it works. Thanks :)

  • http://www.sc2review.com Eric | Starcraft 2 Strategy

    I think the actual definition of an introvert is someone who gets their energy from within vs. an extrovert being someone who gets their energy from other people. Shyness is almost more “approach anxiety” and has everything to do with fear. And you’re right, most people want to overcome their fear and getting a tiny push from someone is oftentimes enough.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Don’t forget it for next time :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Thank you Laurie! I hope you apply what I said here and get out of your head! ;)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Absolutely – thanks for sharing :)

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    As I said at the end of the article, I didn’t study psychology, but I have a LOT of experience meeting new people and talking with them deeply about their life’s experiences, and my people-skills help me to analyse what they are saying in a social rather than psychological context. So YES I do think I am qualified to write a post like this. I find it frustrating when academics with plenty of theoretical but way less practical knowledge than me claim their studies outrank my experience.

    My understanding of others is based on helping hundreds of people over the years who claimed to be shy to overcome their delusions, and I stand by that word ‘delusions’ because they need to be told frankly to get over it, even if the process is uncomfortable. My get-over-it advice may be insensitive, but it’s way more efficient.

    You don’t have to become a “social butterfly” – the fact that you practice with others who happen to be “equally introverted” is what I’m talking about. You got out and did something with your language with other human beings. That’s a major step that a lot of people wouldn’t be willing to take, so I’d congratulate you for that and urge you to expand on the kinds of people you meet.

    I am sorry that you find this post offensive, but I am not going to back down and let shy people find something “that works for them” if their goals require being social. For someone who doesn’t want to improve their spoken language skills or become more confident then they have no need for my ideas of jumping into undesirable social situations and they can ignore this post.

    Maybe listening to podcasts for years is “fun”, but the feeling of having conversed with a native goes well beyond that and sacrifices need to be made to reach that goal. I am not interested in presenting people with the easiest way to fluency that requires no struggle whatsoever. Rosetta Stone and other software and books talk about “easy” ways to fluency; I am interested in the BEST, QUICKEST and most EFFICIENT way, and sometimes, yes, this means being in undesirable situations. I sound like an idiot when I start to speak any language, but accepting that embarrassment is a major reason for my success.

    I’m glad you normally enjoy my blog but I’m not backing down on this. This post is based on thousands of social interactions with “shy” people so I will share these ideas confidently. This is not speculation that everyone else is simply exactly like me and can follow my path of getting over shyness, but based on my interactions in helping others. Read a few other comments and you’ll see I’m already getting through to people who had claimed to be shy.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

    Exactly. A friend can be very useful, but most of the encouragement they give can indeed come from within if you try hard enough :)

  • http://simplicityinstages.wordpress.com/ Julia

    Thank you thank you thank you for posting this. I have a lot to say about “being shy,” and agree with you that it’s a complete cop-out. I actually wrote a whole blog post in response; it’s something I feel very passionate about!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I had a read of your post – slightly different take, but glad you enjoyed what I had to say! Being thought of as shy by others is also quite frustrating. As a non-drinker I got that a lot initially, but now people think the opposite ;)

  • Ben_l-l

    Very interesting post. Not sure I agree 100%, but interesting none the less.

    Myself, I went the other way. After being quite the “extrovert” for most of my life (note: that’s not too long, I guess, I’m not even 20 yet) I became a very socially awkward introvert. This was due to falling chronically ill for ~4 years (still counting).

    During most of that time I was in a zombie-like, spaced out mental state, so I basically stopped socializing all together and pushed pretty much all of my friends away in the process. I barely remember most of that time, but it definitely changed my personality quite a lot. As it stands, I’m extremely nervous when it comes to meeting new people, very hesitant to talk to people I used to know well, I even have difficulty “opening up” at all with people I know very well (close, long time friends, family members etc.). I could continue, but this definitely isn’t the venue.

    To the point: I’m not sure if my doing the inverse of the process you describe in the article serves as proof for or against the fact…

    On the one hand, it’s possible that all shy people have simply become socially retarded, as I have, only through other means such us bullying, having physical defects, or something else that would possibly alienate them from their peers, therefore making the process reversible for everyone.

    On the other, though, those ones mentioned above could be getting lumped in with the truly introverted people, only outweighing them(leading to you getting skewed data). This wouldn’t be a hopeless situation, though, as those who couldn’t be “converted” may very well be happy with being introverts. Although, you’d still have no way of knowing who is what as every shy person likely says they’re happy as they are, whether they mean it or not.

    Anyway, that’s all my sleep-deprived mind can come up with. Regardless, I have no doubt that I can become an “extrovert” with practice when I’m well again and that many other people can, too. Just not sure about ALL of them.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks for the comment. Glad you are not giving up and are indeed going to try to become more extroverted ;)

  • http://twitter.com/JakePendragon Diego T. Guimarães

    Mi ne volas skribi nek en la angla, nek en la portugala nun…. :P
    Vi frenezegas, mi tre ŝatas vin kaj viajn metodojn… “Mi eltiros vin ŝotante kaj kriante se mi bezonus…” Amuzege kaj instruege. :D :P
    Nu, mojosege! o/
    Bone, estas tio. Ĝis plu!

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Dankon ;) Kaj dankon pro la RToj!! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Dankon ;) Kaj dankon pro la RToj!! :)

      • http://twitter.com/JakePendragon Diego T. Guimarães

        Nedankinde! :D

  • Anonymous

    Okay yeah it’s true. I said this a few days because I’ve had two radio stations ask me for interviews and I said yes, yes yes. Then I said “wasn’t I shy?” I still have anxiety and have trouble starting conversations with people. But once that intial hump is gotten over, I am a loudmouth.
    I want to argue that your conclusions are not true. But it’s just about being semi-confident.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      Saying “wasn’t I shy?” *after* doing things involving people is the best place for that doubt. Then you start to realise how silly it is.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Well said! Go make the other self fulfilling prophecy come true :D

  • http://how-to-overcome-shyness.org/ Pia Cindy

     Focus on Other People – Good idea .

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

    Excellent!!! Best of luck :D

  • Jeff Winchell

    Half the world are introverts. Half are extroverts. You can look at studies using FMRI or academic research in Myers-Briggs to validate this.

    Ambiverts are people who are taught one thing (by society, parents, friends) and are genetically born the other way. Given how many people there are in any one physical area, it would be tough NOT to be taught to behave differently than your genetics. Plus wanting to fitting in has nothing to do with introversion or extroversion. That’s why you think you see so many ambiverts (and why so many people who do Myers-Briggs SELF-TESTS come out as near the middle on the E vs  I scale.

    I am an introvert, raised in a household of EXTREME extroverts. So many people think I’m an extrovert when they talk to me. But if they talk long enough and would notice my rapidly diminishing energy level after a while (or put me in an FMRI then), they would no I’m definitely an introvert.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the Irish polyglot

      “Half the world are introverts. Half are extroverts”. It’s great to live in a black and white world with such a perfect 50-50 balance! Good for you! Pity the rest of us don’t…

      • Jeff Winchell

        It sounds like you are dismissing the entire post, which seems contrary to focusing on the positive.

        There is value in recognizing the positive sides to Introversion. This applies to learning extremely rapidly too.

        You have to keep an open, positive mind.

      • Jeff Winchell

        It sounds like you are dismissing the entire post, which seems contrary to focusing on the positive.

        There is value in recognizing the positive sides to Introversion. This applies to learning extremely rapidly too.

        You have to keep an open, positive mind.

      • Jeff Winchell

        It sounds like you are dismissing the entire post, which seems contrary to focusing on the positive.

        There is value in recognizing the positive sides to Introversion. This applies to learning extremely rapidly too.

        You have to keep an open, positive mind.

      • Jeff Winchell

        It sounds like you are dismissing the entire post, which seems contrary to focusing on the positive.

        There is value in recognizing the positive sides to Introversion. This applies to learning extremely rapidly too.

        You have to keep an open, positive mind.

      • Jeff Winchell

        It sounds like you are dismissing the entire post, which seems contrary to focusing on the positive.

        There is value in recognizing the positive sides to Introversion. This applies to learning extremely rapidly too.

        You have to keep an open, positive mind.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Why are you angry? You should be thanking me. The point of the post is that too many people claim to have something exaggerated. If you truly have a disorder then those people belittle it.
    However, I’d be sceptical about self diagnosed “disorders”. If you have actual panic attacks, then that’s nothing to do with this post, and you’d be in the small percentage of real cases I mentioned.
    Get angry at people claiming to be in the same situation as you, don’t get angry at me telling them to grow up.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Why are you angry? You should be thanking me. The point of the post is that too many people claim to have something exaggerated. If you truly have a disorder then those people belittle it.
    However, I’d be sceptical about self diagnosed “disorders”. If you have actual panic attacks, then that’s nothing to do with this post, and you’d be in the small percentage of real cases I mentioned.
    Get angry at people claiming to be in the same situation as you, don’t get angry at me telling them to grow up.

  • Anonymous

    I also started out introverted and “shy”. I actually had a fear of talking to anyone that I didnt already know. I was terrible in social situations, even in stores asking a clerk for something. Lacking so much social confidence. I wouldn’t say I’m cured, but I think I’ve come a long way. But, I tend to overuse alcohol as a social crutch. It’s good to see you don’t drink.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    There’s introversion and then there’s being antisocial, and sometimes I wonder where the line is drawn.
    Watching reality TV is NOT a sign of extroversion!! Come on. You don’t seem to understand the quality of human interaction.

  • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

    Interesting to see that introversion (as you understand it) and modesty don’t go together :P

    That was one hell of a rant!

    • http://theurbanista2.wordpress.com/ Rhondacoca

      From your response, it is clear that I am not the one who lacks modesty. You come off as intellectually immature or simply immature in general. I thought I could share my personal story so you can understand the thought process and life experience of someone who is introverted. It is interesting how you refuse to engage any of the points I brought up. My definition of introversion is based on psychological and sociological text and literature not on individual subjectivity or assumptions. 

      What you are discussing here is social anxiety which is a fear of socializing and social spaces which is usually a result of past experiences or trauma. Most people with social anxiety would never see it as an identity. Social anxiety is more extreme than shyness but both are different from introversion. So it is still obvious that you know very little about the topic you are discussing and refuse to engage maturely anyone who dissents. 

  • Alex N

    Well, this site seems aimed directly at me.

    I had a 9 month stint in Australia, and I would of described myself as shy at the start of it, I mean I walked into a hostel and couldnt pluck up the courage to say “hi” to the two girls in there! I couldnt say a word in the common room, because of the fear of what people would think.

    Bullshit…. It did take some time, but 2-3 months later, the next few hostels, just walking into a room and saying “hey, hows it going, where you travelling from” etc breaks the ice so well…. and another vital tool “dont suppose you can point me in the direction of a decent pub, fansy a drink?”

    Man, I need to get out there again, Im thinking Germany in July!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Allan-Ngo/553146527 Allan Ngo

    Yeah. Shyness indeed held me back on maximizing my 5 month stay in China then. I learned a lot but I could have been SO MUCH better if I weren’t so shy. 

    I know this because I started speaking more on the last couple of months after reflecting my progress and assessing my comfort level in speaking with the natives. Which is unsatisfactory. 

    I’m starting to practice this again both in my mother language (Tagalog) and second language (Mandarin). It helps that I am working in sales right now and am forced to socialize whether I like it or not. 

  • Am I extroverted?

    I think I am an introvert, or at least just shy. I find it very difficult to speak to people. I never speak to anyone unless they speak to me first. When someone asks me a question I tend to answer it as abruptly as possible, unless it is a personal question in which case I may just ignore that person and stare at the wall behind them in the hope that they will leave me alone. I don’t ask them any questions because I think that I will come across as rude to just walk up to a person and start to talk to them. I wouldn’t like it if they did that to me. By now you must realise no one ever talks to me. Which is good because I don’t want to talk to them. It takes me years to warm up to people. Infact I have made only 2 friends in the past decade and am only just beginning to tolerate people I have been at school with for 7 years. When I am with a person I have warmed up to and a stranger tries to talk to me, I look at that person (usually my mom) in the hope that they will provide the stranger with an adequate answer because I don’t really want to share my opinion. My parents have told me many times that they are concerned about me.

  • Alanna Lb

    I’m in the process of transgressing my shyness, and sometimes it feels like an incredibly long and hard journey. You get so used to being one way, and for my whole life I felt shut out from social situations. But as I get older and wanting more out of my life I realise that it is not other people’s fault, for not accepting me or taking the time to understand, it’s my own fault for putting them off to begin with. I feel as I become more understanding and aware of other people and how much they are like me, this has driven my goal to become more confident/sociable/friendly! That, and I have a hunger for more experiences. I’ve had a glimpse of what’s out there and there are some incredible people I’ve just been too afraid to know. Being shy is a load of bullcrap, and every sentence you’ve written above makes perfect sense to me. I resent being called shy and my friends saying their shy. I think only about changing that perception so that people don’t feel weird or uncomfortable around me any more, just because I’m scared to engage with them. You have to be accountable for yourself and your actions in life! Ultimately it’s a slow process, but as with anything, realising the problem is in you and not your ‘situation’ is the first step. All in all, sorry about this rantastic comment, but I just had to say I enjoyed reading this post :) I’m aware this is probably from about… 2yrs ago. But google is a magical thing.

  • http://profiles.google.com/sadgegoddess Donalda Goncalves

    Hmn.  Yes, there are a lot of very social people who claim to be “shy” and I think what they’re meaning is that they are afraid of public speaking (like most) or they are ashamed of some perceived or actual physical deformity or something like that or they’re just modest or they want to be seen as cute and coy, you know, the positive aspect of shyness.

    But make no mistake that shyness does actually exist and it does mean something to those who suffer from the extreme form, which is social anxiety.  Do you suppose boldness doesn’t exist?  Boldness is just the opposite of shyness.  Some of us are raucous and loud and that’s our preference our main personality trait.  Some of us are more quiet and cautious and modest and that’s our main personality trait.  

    Just because some idiots are jumping on a band wagon and claiming to have a trait they don’t really understand or possess, doesn’t mean that trait doesn’t in fact exist.

  • a labeled shy girl

    I agree with your post and I do believe that shyness is a state of mind, but the question is, how the hell do you change your state of mind after over 30 years of believing yourself to be shy and other people telling you you’re shy??? I just feel like I often don’t know what to say to someone to start up a conversation or to keep it going. How can I suddenly start being able to do this after all these years??

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      You need to start “social skydiving”, where you go up to as many people as possible. Not knowing what to say doesn’t matter. Just say “do you know what time it is?” to start with so there is no embarrassment. Then when you’ve gotten over THAT fear to approach people, replace it with “What’s up?” or something along those lines.

      Do it with as many people as possible and you can improve your confidence quickly! Sometimes there will indeed be moments when you have nothing to say. The point is to get used to them and see that it’s not that big a deal!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=40105343 Shaun Sticka

    Usually you have good advice for getting out there and talking to people, but this time you’re just plain off. Trying to insist that only 1% of people are genuinely introverted is basically like saying the last several decades of social science research is nothing but a sham. The truth is that a great deal of people do end up falling in the middle but more often than not the do lean to one side of the spectrum than the other. A huge percentage of the population are introverts. This is a fact, I’m not sure why someone would dispute it.
    The other problem you have here is that you say you are using your experiences talking to other people and finding out about their lives. So, you are out and about talking to other people who are out and about… what chances do you think there are that those people you encounter are actually introverts? Most likely, unless you’re invading and wandering into people’s homes, you’re not encountering too many actual introverts in your travels since, by defintion, these are the same people that would tend to stay away from such situations.
    Myself, I’m quite introverted and very often very shy. Like other posters I can go to social situations but I’m often times a very miserable person if there is more than a few people present. Yes, I’m amiable and get along with everyone just fine but I rarely, if ever, enjoy the situation. Also, whenever I leave I feel very drained and often times downright depressed. It’s a little insulting to say that it’s all in my head and I just need to “get over it”. As with other posters, I spent years seeing a therapist in an effort to find out “what was wrong with me” and why I couldn’t seem to enjoy a social life like so many others. The idea that people just need to “get over it and get out there” is the exact reason that so many introverts and shy people DON’T do that in the first place – we feel like others look at us as if we have a disease sometimes.
    All that said, yes there are many people who say they are “shy” when they actually aren’t. This happens, but the fact is as much as 40-45% of the population is tilted toward the introverted side of the scale, with about half of those being very introverted and really doing what they can to avoid high stress social situations. I’m not sure “it’s in your head” is going to help very much here.

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny Lewis

      If a “huge percentage” of the population are introverts, this just proves my point. Why even have a label for it, if it applies to everyone? Then what about that 1%? You can water it down all you like. Most people are in the middle.
      Strange that you feel my observations could only be come across by “invading” people’s homes. As if I couldn’t have had other experiences apart from meeting people at parties? You are doing quite well in making presumptions yourself, aren’t you! Please don’t accuse me of something you are doing yourself, and don’t claim you know what my experience has been. I’ve seen a lot more in 30 years than parties, and if you really are an introvert as you claim, then you will have to admit that you have seen a lot less than me.
      40% of people need to get over it. 1% of people can’t, and don’t need 40% being lazy and pretending they have what is a genuine issue. It’s not in everyone’s head, but it definitely is in many.

  • Skylais

    Hi i am 15, i claim myself to be very shy. I know i can do it. i have done it before, but i can no longer find the courage to speak to someone or make another laugh. School is starting soon and this article was very inspirational. I will try my best to socialize more, when school starts.
    I know
    -English
    -A lot of spanish
    -trying to learn korean
    :i found this website today, and i really would like advice, both in “shy” terms, and how to learn a damn language quickly, without having to leave the country or webcam with others.

  • Isadora

    Introvert experience : I am a student, in an exchange, so new country, new language. Luckily my university organizes “orientation days” for international students, so they can get to know each other.
    I am afraid of others (one could say shy), however I do make efforts and speak to all those people, in this foreign language. They are all enthusiastic and so willing to meet others. Apparently they miss it, feel they need it to enjoy their time here, even if it means talking about the weather. Maybe they would prefer talking about something more interesting but given the choice between being alone/talking about the weather, they chose to talk about the weather. I did it on the first day. Then I simply stopped going, because… why would I do that while I could be happy thinking, reading and all this? Given the same choice I prefer being alone. Most of the time. I will rarely look for contact. If I meet people with the same interest, I will want to speak to them, because of this, not because I want to meet people.
    And yes, it’s partly because I am afraid, but… not only. I can force myself but,… do you force yourself to eat chocolate because others like it ?
    And just saying about shyness: would you say to someone with a phobia that he has no phobia at all? Of course it’s in their head, like pretty much everything. But, like Dumbledore said, it doesn’t mean it’s not real.

  • Sandra

    Actually I agree with you, my sister describes herself as shy yet when she goes out she can talk to anyone and everyone.
    I’d also describe myself as shy, I’d really like to talk to new people but my head keeps telling me don’t be stupid they don’t want to talk to you, your boring, you have nothing interesting to say so I don’t even try.

  • annonymous

    i am only shy around people who are not a close friend but i find there is nothing to say when i with some one who isnt a close friend how can i change that?

  • http://www.16kinds.com/ Wiktor Kostrzewski

    Okay, this is not on.

    I’ve learnt several foreign languages so far and can honestly say that I know a thing or two about this. My job involves hundreds of phone calls and dozens of meetings every month – something I do without too much trouble. I work, play and function just as any average, sociable individual would.

    And yet I know I’m an introvert. I know I’m at my best best when you give me time and space to think. I know I’m overwhelmed by noisy gatherings. And that I feel at ease when I’m alone. Not all the time. But a lot of the time. And what a good time that is.

    Now, I could do two things here.

    I could learn to play to my strengths when learning a foreign language, acknowledge what I do best and treat that as a source of confidence for the tricky parts. I could work on the parts that don’t come easy, and let the work I do on my own shine through. In time, I could be really good on the “extrovert” parts – and really proud of the “introvert” ones.

    Or I could believe that it’s just something I need to overcome and “get over.” I could believe that only 1% of all people are “really introverts” (which is just as bizarre as stating that “an ideal extrovert” exists – Benny was right on that one, so why not the other?) – I could become convinced that either I’m faking what I feel, or that I’m a freak and that 99% of the population are doing things better. In turn, I would drift away from what tends to work – and into a series moments which I’d neither enjoy nor benefit from, as it’s hard to benefit from immersion when you’re at your wits’ end.

    I ended up here for research – there are lots of people I know and work with who appreciate and admire the qualities of introverts. I was hoping to learn more from this post – and Benny has usually delivered when it came to language learning.

    Instead, what I got was: “stop identifying with the part that’s limiting you.”

    No, you’re not wrong, Benny. You know what feels right for you, and you’ve shown us what works. Kudos for that. You’re being worse than wrong here, though: confident, exaggerated and simplistic.

    I know lots of people who feel introverted on 4 days out of 7, doing amazing things and being more awesome than many extroverts out there. And for the sake of those people I want to say: this is important, and what you wrote is painful.

    Get in touch if you want to talk about this – and please don’t treat this as a trolling comment. It’s just surprising to read this on one of my favourite blogs.

    Best,
    WK

  • Andrea

    Hi, I think you’re right in some parts. You see there are people that are not actually “shy” but they describe themselves as one because they feel nervous in SPECIFIC SITUATIONS. But there are SHY people, and I myself, am one of them. Being shy is to feel nervous ALWAYS when you’re around people. It’s terrible. But aside from that I agree with the “Matrix reality”, most genuine shy people are stuck in it.

  • AJ

    I know this post is extremely old, but I’m new here and really wanted to add my thoughts.

    I have no idea why people are so angry at this post. I’ve always identified myself as shy (I had no idea that shy and introvert were two different things), but it wasn’t until I got out into the “real world” away from my home town/family/friends that I found out how shy I really am. I seriously have panic attacks when I go out in public. Sometimes I have to leave mid-event and go home and unwind because I am completely drained from all the anxiety. But I make friends with people like the author who will push me out of my comfort zone. I need extroverted friends!! I also have to constantly push myself to do things. Trust me, I’d rather go without food before I’d go to the grocery store and forget about eating out!

    So thank you for your article and thank you for pushing people (some of us need it)! Keep it up!

  • http://twitter.com/AC_Rebecca Rebecca Rosenberg

    You’re absolutely spot on. This is from a true introvert and recovering social phobic. No, not self-diagnosed. Yes, I’ve actually been medicated for social phobia. Not anymore, though.

    I say “recovering” social phobic because I have worked hard to get where I am today. There’s still no way in hell anyone could drag me to a retail store the day after Christmas, but I do manage to attend a German language class at a community college. A language class where students are required to speak to the instructor and other students throughout the class. Not speaking means failing the class. I hate it, but I show up anyway because I really do want to learn the language and I no longer have panic attacks.

    I forget the official name for the type of therapy I had, but it pretty much consisted of doing what Benny is telling everyone to do: suck it up and do it! Of course, since it was therapy there was lots of recording feelings, grounding exercises, anti-anxiety medications (at first), and encouragement. I left the therapeutic crutch behind and have been on my own for years now.

    How I started: I started going to a bar where I didn’t know anyone, didn’t drink alcohol, and didn’t talk to or look at anyone. I took a book, sat down at the bar, ordered a soda, and started reading. After an hour, I left. Each time I stayed a bit longer, and then people started talking to me. Not many people, since I did have my nose in a book, but a few. After a few months, I left the book at home. I even sang terrible Karaoke at the urging of my new friends (other regulars at the bar). That’s how I learned that I could talk to people without the world ending. As time went on, my anxiety decreased and going to the bar went from painfully intolerable to actually fun.

    Of course, talking to someone in a language I’m learning scares me to death! Even in class I have difficulty. I get called on to answer, and my brain shuts down. I’m not really afraid of making mistakes, I’m afraid that I’ll open my mouth and nothing will come out!

    And that does happen, sometimes. So I still have fear, and it’s still holding me back.

    But Benny is right. If I suck it up and just start talking to people, the world is not going to end. I’ll probably have anxiety. I’ll feel uncomfortable. I might even want to run in the other direction. Hell, I might actually do it! Just last week in German class, I abruptly got up and left because the discomfort was too much. But the next class day, I went back.

  • rachel

    Awesome. It’s exactly what I needed to hear. I know I van do it. In fact I know I can do just about anything when I put my mind to it. I just won’t think about doing it too much. Like Nike says just do it. Thanks benny

  • Ryan

    I’m a quiet guy, meaning that I prefer to listen to others speak more than I like to speak myself, which has it’s advantages and disadvantages for learning languages, but because of me being so quiet, I’ve been accused of being shy my whole life and I’ve hated that. When I was younger I let it get me down and I avoided social situations, so people’s labeling me became the self-fulfilling prophesy. But at some point I just decided I was tired of this, so I just decided to go to whatever social activities I wanted to and not worry about being called shy. Now I have a lot of good friends, not one of whom thinks I’m shy, and I went from thinking I’m an introvert, to realizing that I do get energy from socializing, even though I’m still pretty quiet. So I think that Benny is mostly right about this. I went from being someone who couldn’t stand social situations to the point of telling my mom I was sick so that I wouldn’t have to go to school and be around people, and I even remember a few occasions where I just ignored people who tried to talk to me and just waited for them to go away, to four years later being someone who makes it a point to take every opportunity I can to talk to people. Just recently I even volunteered to teach an English class here in China for 3 hours a week, the thought of which freaked me out, but I overcame my fear and just did it, and I’m glad I did because it was a rewarding experience. I have another class tomorrow. I’m scared again, but I’m going to go anyways. So my point is that shyness and social anxiety can be overcome and you can learn the social skills needed to do whatever you want to be able to do. I was able to change because I had a desire and motivation to change, and I set goals to make incremental improvements. I’m still not at the point that I would like to be, but I feel much happier and much more free and much more capable than I did a few years ago.

  • jimestyl

    spot on. i used to think i was an introvert. then i put some effort in to being more social and outgoing. i realized i can be just as much extrovert as introvert. the issue is my goal and the context at the moment. there are people who think i’m super introverted because they’ve only interacted with me in a context where i need to be focused on something or maybe i’m just preoccupied with a life problem and don’t feel social. then there are people who think i’m an extrovert because i always see them when i’m in social mode – out w/friends, at a bar/club, etc.

    a lot of it has to do with perceived reward… this sounds bad but when i’m around groups of people from whom i have less to gain than i have to lose, i tend to be more reserved and actually avoid being outgoing. it only encourages friendship and distracts me. when i’m around my peers (equals) and those from whom I have something to gain (financial/career wise, or social status wise), I tend to be my “normal” outgoing self and can really put on the charm. if someone is really quite socially superior to me, i am shy because i am conscious that “messing up” in front of this person could damage my reputation and potential access to their “rewards” down the line. if i sense this socially superior person needs something from me or that i could provide something for them, i become outgoing because now we have the grounds for a mutual relationship.

    i really notice that context is huge with this and everyone is in a different position in terms of what their current goals are and what they want from each other. what we want from others can also be quite complex and we are often not even conscious of it ourselves.

  • Stephanie Milos

    Amazing post! This is the 2nd post of yours that I’ve read and now I want to read them all.
    The title made me instantly think of some people who I want to send this link, but I was worried about offending someone. But as I was reading, you taught me that it will (hopefully) be helping them…if they allow it.
    Thank you!

  • Jenna

    I understand what you’re saying in this article, that people use the self-diagnosed condition of being shy as an excuse for inaction, but I have to disagree with your overall sentiment that extroversion and a social lifestyle is superior to introversion and the asocial lifestyle. It seems that you suggest that for someone to experience new cultures (and languages) and to be open-minded, one has to be extroverted and social, but those aforementioned qualities and introversion are not mutually exclusive. I don’t even consider shyness a negative quality or as something that one has to “get over,” as so many of the commentators (and you) seem to believe.

    Overall, I do agree with the crux of your argument – we really are our own most damning obstacles. I guess you’re not really directing your criticism to confident introverts such as myself (I, for instance, always prefer to be alone and have never seen my reticent personality as a hindrance – I have also traveled a lot, met and befriended people of all different cultures and walks of life, and have never said no to an adventure). But some people do prefer to see themselves as silent observers rather than ignorant outcasts, which is how you are flippantly painting all introverted people. Without introverts and shy people, we wouldn’t have so many of the worlds’ greatest artists who happened to prefer the company of their own minds to the forced conversations with others.

    In spite of all that, I do enjoy your blog and do not say any of the above to offend or malign. I’m planning a long, gluttonous jaunt around the world in a few months on an anorexic budget and am finding your advice on budget traveling quite useful.

  • raspberrycake

    Actually, ‘shy’ is used interchangeably with ‘socially anxious’ in psychological literature, and the two don’t have anything to do with introversion. Introversion is not made up, it is roughly equal to the system that all people have which depends on how people react to emotional stimuli.

    Introversion and social anxiety are two separate concepts, whereby introverts are simply people who enjoy themselves even while being alone (and in fact, seek out to be alone), and socially anxious people really, really want to be with others, but are frightened of (suffering from anxiety symptoms when) they seek out, or even think about social interaction.

    Basically shy people experience anxiety symptoms because they suffer from evaluation apprehension. It sounds like exactly what it is: a fear of being evaluated, and then coming up short. You have to remember that these constructs are evaluated on a continuum. Some people are so shy that they cannot leave their houses for fear of a panic attack (panic disorder, agoraphobia), while others simply get sweaty and begin to mumble when they see someone attractive.

    You’re advice is peppered with simple errors, but I agree with the general message. It is important to put yourself out there and try your best, but that doesn’t mean that what you are feeling (shy) isn’t real.

  • Jessica Godden

    Im shy…but its not that I dont want to talk…I do…but eople already know that Im shy and I feel like I CANT talk.

    • Nicola Elkin

      Can relate so much

  • Dalton Fitzgerald

    Speaking as a self-identified intro/ambivert who is NOT shy… this post seems to imply that what all of us really ought to *want* to do is talk to strangers more. Why? When someone I don’t know comes up to me and randomly starts a conversation, my response is always to be somewhere between nonplussed amusement and profound irritation, depending upon my mood; I can only assume at least some others feel the same way. The reason I don’t start conversations with random strangers isn’t principally because of nervousness; it’s because I’m trying to not be a penis. Just a thought. ^_^

  • Shane Stevens

    I was an intravert and shy as a child. As I grew older I learned to interact socially (albeit at a slower rate than some people). Now I’m middle aged, have a teenage son, a small group of incredibly close friends, a wider group of mates and I’m still an introvert. I tend to view introversion as a natural state of being for some people and shyness as a learned behaviour ( excluding things like Social Anxiety Disorder etc)

    Anyway I like the way you wrote your article, simply because you made it stand out amongst the sea of intravert/extravert themes floating all over the net.

    “Use your words” – One of the Green Brothers (I can’t remember which right now)

  • Terance Haight

    Please reply.

    Hey, you’re wrong, and here are the words that say why. You premise your argument on this notion that “everyone claims to be shy”, and that the “I’m shy” self-description is thus diluted into irrelevance by these assertions. Why? Someone could say, “I’m eating a burger” when it’s really “a hot dog”. Does that mean “burger”, BURGERS, don’t exist? No, they do. And just like those “burgers”, so does “shyness”, or “shy people”.

    “People’s ability to judge their own level of introversion/shyness is
    horrible. They use an exaggerated basis of comparison, not realising
    that the rest of the planet is doing precisely the same thing.” — YOU

    I agree. But I can, from my experience with both people that are very easily “opened up” in conversation and comfort socially and those whom aren’t, tell you with relatively precise accuracy who it is that CONTAINS THE CHARACTERISTICS OF “SHYNESS”.

    If you want to get clever, words are only meaningful in relation to other words. In the same way, actions can only be characterized in relation to the essence of other actions. If it happens that, normally, MOST people don’t show outward expression of nervousness in social situations, and other visibly noticeable “shyness” expressions, but there’s that one person you know gets all quiet and whatnot around new people, that person can with validity be described as “shy”.

    The benchmark for description is indeed correctly set by a midpoint, not an extreme. Like is the case with virtues, one needs to find that ‘middle path’ if you will and traipse along that for the rest of one’s life. But that some people describe themselves as “virtuous” when they really aren’t DOESN’T DENY THE EXISTENCE OF VIRTUOSITY, it just means that the people speaking don’t know what they’re talking about–which is very likely, as you say.

    I think you’re problem is that you essentially, as you say, think “shy” people are actually “sissies”. Here, and this’ll be my last point, you say this:

    “Do you feel more comfortable in certain situations and much prefer to talk to people about particular topics?
    Do you prefer to have some time alone to do your own thing? Are you
    uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings and sometimes worry about what
    people might think of you? Do you prefer quality and depth rather than quantity and shallowness of conversations?

    Do you also breath air and drink water? Congratulations – you’re just like everyone else.” —YOU

    You’re correct, everyone does have what they consider to be “these feelings”, but you’re making a mistake just like the one’s you’re trying to illuminate. You misappropriate YOUR FEELINGS as NECESSARILY those of others. Every single one of those ‘feelings’ you touch on CAN BE REALIZED TO A DIFFERENT DEGREE by any given individual at any point. Sometimes the QUALIA (look it up– essentially ‘feelings’ or the ‘character of experience’) is strong, sometimes weak. What determines the strength of these feelings is an individual’s PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, something you are not qualified to speak on, as here you try to do.

    Real simple: BECAUSE YOU FEEL A CERTAIN WAY CERTAINLY DOES NOT IMPLY OR EVEN SLIGHTLY HINT THAT OTHERS HAVE FEELINGS OF THE SAME NATURE IN THE SAME CIRCUMSTANCE.

    That you, yourself, don’t suffer from any sort of abnormally strong feelings during these situations is good for you. You may feel something in these situations you’ve listed, but it’s analogous to a cup of coffee’s relation to a line of cocaine. The fact that these sorts of ‘feelings’ can’t be held in your hand, weighed and measured, and that most people ‘get them wrong’ doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Positivism was debunked almost a century ago. You don’t want to be a positivist. You’re being one. Please don’t. Positivism is a real problematic ideology to all kinds of issues in politics, etc… Stop applying it.

  • Terance Haight

    What happened to that very insightful comment?

  • Terance Haight

    I came in too late, I guess…

  • Terance Haight

    If you read it, you know why you’re wrong.

  • Terance Haight

    Because I’m pretty sure I dismantled your fallacious argument right thurr ;) Philosophers own meaning in language. Pwn it. It’s all we got ;(

  • Samantha Kirkwood

    I usually like your posts but I’ve had pretty bad social anxiety all my life so it’s a little hurtful and frustrating to see you writing on the internet that all the things I’ve felt and been through do not exist and my ability to deal with social situations is just the same as everyone else.
    I understand that if I just put myself out there more It will get better and I’ll be able to handle social situations better, and that is my aim, but I think you are being a little harsh about it as if you are very frustrated with “shy” people which I think is unfair because we don’t mean to be shy and we are not causing any hassle by it, a lot of people have simply been through a lot which has left them emotionally terrified of many social situations.
    I also understand you that everyone is the same in the sense that we all feel uncomfortable and become reserved at times whilst we are all very extroverted at other times but the scale of this does differ greatly so I think that does make social experiences very different for different people. I totally get that we can all feel uncomfortable at times but when you are terrified of most normal social interactions and basic conversation with people of your own age leaves you nearly having a panic attack, it really does have an impact on your life and someone saying “Just don’t be shy!” or “Just speak more!” really does not help.
    I think a lot of what you are saying has a point, and I am taking it on board and I do agree that I will need to get out there and simply speak to people if I am to overcome my fears. I just think that the harsh, frustrated way you were writing about “shy” people showed perhaps a lack of understanding as for people like myself, it takes more than what you have suggested to be able to enjoy social experiences and participate in them properly. Like to you it seems as simple as socialising more but for me if I have a bad social experience it can affect my mental state and make my social anxiety worse, so it really is not as easy as that.
    I was just a little disheartened by your lack of understanding as it really upsets me when people get angry at me for being shy and I feel like this post encourages frustration and ignorance towards people who behave in a “shy” way.
    I just think you need to be more considerate about this as honestly, it is really difficult to overcome social anxiety when you have it really badly. Also, generally, “shy” people are probably trying very hard as it is! I don’t know of anyone who is happy being reserved or uncomfortable, it’s awful! And they have already heard what you suggest a thousand times before from countless people who think their words will break them out of their shell. They know they are quiet and they probably really want to change it! But it often does have to be a gradual process and I think being understanding and kind towards these people will help a great deal more than passionately telling them the things they’ve already told themselves a million times before as If you’ve stumbled upon the cure yourself and all these “shy” people are simply too wrapped up in their shyness to see it.
    It is not as easy as you seem to think, just don’t be so arrogant about it, please. I am much better now and I can enjoy socialising far, far more than I did when I was younger, but back then the fact I was shy made me absolutely despise myself. Just like you do in this post, everyone would get on at me all the time to speak more etc and stop being shy and it really, really upset me because I felt like a useless, hopeless failure and a horrible, boring person because I couldn’t be normal and virtually every day it was pointed out to me. So please just don’t be one of those people. It does not help at all.
    and I wouldn’t encourage people to share this to their “shy” friends on Facebook. People have a lot of issues as it is, they’d probably feel really upset and humiliated if what they feel is their ridiculous shyness was posted on Facebook. I know it probably seems silly to you because you haven’t dealt with an anxiety disorder but please try to understand. I mean you are writing an article about it so at least try to empathise.
    People do not want to be shy. It is horrible and it makes you feel awful about yourself. Especially when people are forever pointing it out. Just please try and be more understanding I just hated how ignorant and harsh this post was.

  • Samantha Kirkwood

    I first skimmed this article and became very annoyed as I’ve had pretty bad social anxiety most of my life and I felt like this article totally looked past how difficult it can actually be to overcome that and was a bit of an attack on “shy” people.
    But then I read it again properly and I saw more clearly what was being said. I actually do agree with most of this article now, I really shouldn’t have made assumptions so quickly!
    My anxiety used to be so bad I’d show physically signs of panicking (shaking, throat choking up etc) and It got to the point where I could barely speak with anyone without thinking I was making them hate me. But I overcame it myself by doing two things: changing my thought process over time and increasing positive social interactions. It is true that you do just need to push yourself. Something can be so terrifying but you must eventually do it anyway as even if things don’t go smoothly it is the most amazing feeling of relief to realise that you have done it anyway! Once you push yourself you stop thinking “I can’t do that!” and start thinking “okay I done it once, and it didn’t go so smoothly but I can work on that next time” and you become better and better the more you actually do the thing!
    This article has reminded me that I must keep pushing myself and making sure I am getting out there and interacting with the world. It is so easy to become lost in your anxieties but overcoming them is the most amazing feeling and it really can transform your life.
    I think it is important to remember that generally people are nice and open minded, they want to be spoken to! and if you mess up, it really doesn’t matter. In fact, you should praise yourself greatly for you put yourself out there and done the thing anyway!

  • Ross Brooks

    Hey Benny,

    Loved this article, so much truth in it!

    I can definitely relate to the introvert/shyness trap, which is at the end of the day a self-enforced outlook on life.

    There have been times when I’m in the middle of conversations with a large group of people that I barely know, and still catch myself saying “Yeh, I’m pretty shy.” To which they normally respond “Bull***t.”

    The worst thing is that when you hold on to this idea, which I have been doing for a while now, you go out in search evidence to support your case. This has led to countless articles about introverted nature, shyness, why i can’t do this and that, and blah blah blah.

    It’s even got to the point where I’ve cut myself off from most people that could provide some kind of social interaction, or find myself distanced even when engaged in conversation.

    Might be time to face my fears…

    Thanks again for such a great post, and keep up the great work!

  • Nicola Elkin

    I want to meet you, I cannot STAND the way I am

  • Alyssa Vincent

    There are people that have very real conditions that prevent them from becoming the ideal extrovert that seems most desirable to become fluent. I’m not disagreeing that speaking is necessary (and to other people!) but don’t discount people (help them by providing different ways!) who do have serious issues that are more than ‘shy.’ So try not to say (as an analogy) to someone who has a speech impediment, “YOU CAN SPEAK PERFECTLY FINE!”

    As a not shy person (at least now), you will inevitably not be able to connect with the kinds of feelings someone who is shy has.

  • Angelene

    Thank you god! Finaly someone who understands! I think that this is the best article I have ever read in my entire life! I agree with every word you wrote here. Most of my life I was VERY shy and when I started searching the internet I bumped up into that introvert/extrovert thing and ever since I have seen myself as an introvert. And that was it. I am born like that and I just can’t change it. But now I believe i fall for that just because I wanted to find something that will prove why I don’t talk much. So, I concluded that I don’t do it because I simply don’t like to talk and reather keep it to myself. One day something huge happend. While I was on a prom trip I had to be with people all day. I was scared at first because I thought that I am an introvert and that there will be no time to spend alone by myself. And introverts need time for themselves to “recharge their batteries” so that they could function normally. But I was pleasently surprised. All those seven days which I spent surrounded by people actually made me want to hang out even more! And I felt like I could spend another seven days having fun and enjoying my life with OTHERS! And I just didn’t want this to end. I didn’t want to go back. But I had to. When I came home I felt so different. Like I just wanted to be with anyone and talk to them. Which was strange, but I really liked it. And wanted to stay like that. Sadlly, after a few days everything was the same like before. I got depressed. I was extremely sad. And than I decided that I don’t want to waste my life anymore and that I will stop being shy. It was about 4 months ago and I believe I am in the right track. But stil I need to push myself to talk. To sum up I think that we are all ambiverts. And if someone believes that he/she is an introvert it is only because he/she convinced himself/herself that they are introverted and they proved it on the basis of their experiences. E.g. “I never had more than one friend at the time and was allways very quiet, therefore I am introverted.” What I think is bullshit. One more thing. When I believed that I am introverted I really didn’t like that fact. I always wished i was born as an extrovert. What I wanted to say is that if being an introvert makes us unhappy than we aren’t introverts. Doesn’t this makes sense? I think that we are on this planet to make the most of our lives and do what makes us truly happy. I want to thank you for this post once again! You rock! :) P.S. Sorry for grammatical errors.

  • Kisa Suzuhara

    I’ve heard before that due to my shyness I’m unfit to join the navy. That rejection haunts me along with other things people say about shyness . I’m shy at times sure. People can be scary. People can be mean. But it’s more true than I want to believe that I let people control my life and happiness by fearing contact all the time. It’s hard enough being a girl and dealing with body image. But I love to read articles or talk to people ( I do talk a lot for a shy person) about shyness. Because I m not crazy . Negativity hurts and drives me crazy. So thanks for your input.

  • Megan Flanagan

    You mayyyy be onto something. But being shy and being an introvert are different. An extrovert (one who is energized by people and social situations) can be shy. They can desperately want to socialize but are insecure, anxious, depressed or have a social problem/disorder. An introvert (one who is worn out from social situations and people and who enjoys being alone for most if not all of their time) may or may not be shy. True introverts that aren’t shy can easily put on a mask and appear extroverted and adapt to situations when they have to, to get what they want, or reach a goal – but they’d much rather be alone doing something else. Another word for introvert could be loner – those who want to be alone. But then, there’s the lonely – those who are extroverts and don’t want to be alone but are. You were clearly the later, an extrovert (or ambivert) who didn’t truly want to be alone, but your situation caused you to be more alone. So introverts do exist. I believe shy people exist as well but there’s usually something behind it. I think the most popular problem behind shyness is anxiety and/or insecurity. Maybe people should replace “i’m shy” with “i’m anxious” or “I’m insecure”. These problems, if not genetic or result from a chemical imbalance, can usually be overcome but take time. If it isn’t a biological issue, but rather due to experience/nurture or a self-fulfilling prophecy, then they can focus on changing and manipulating their own mindset and perspective. Simply pushing someone out there doesn’t always change/fix it, but I wouldn’t doubt that it may temporarily help in some cases or that the person may ‘mask it out’ if necessary. This is all mostly my opinion, but I’m also a psychology major and talk from ‘my’ own personal experience as well, with myself and others.

    Btw, people can be shy and write out online posts. It’s much different from face-to-face confrontation or discussion. There’s even online Aspergers community groups where people with a true social disorder will talk online.

  • Sarah

    There’s a difference between being shy and being an introvert. I like your idea of shyness being a state of mind that people need to get out of, but being an introvert simply means that you need alone time, time to get your head together and to get away from the judging that is going on with people around. Being an introvert means that you enjoy being alone for a lot of the time. You still need to be social and talk to people, but you can’t take being alone away from introverts, and its not wrong to be one. Its not wrong to be shy(or to tell yourself that you are) either. Some people don’t have that boldness all the time, but may get bursts or will grow to find it. Its true it may be limit you, but its your choice. I think this article was a little too harsh. There are people that want to be alone, and there are people afraid of interacting. You can be ‘shy’ and an introvert, or you can be an introvert with no problem interacting.

  • Seth Borchardt

    I was yelling angrily you at the whole time while reading this, but you are actually right. At least I will say you are for the sake of things actually getting things to change in my life. Action really is all that matters. Although what would you say to me if I don’t define myself as shy, but still act shy? Action is probably the solution to the problem, but you don’t really seem to address the people that are like me who don’t think of themselves as shy but still end up acting like it.

  • gothicaWay

    This article reeks of “you’re shy? lol just stop being shy! problem solved!” Would have preferred some actual real advice or techniques to overcome shyness and anxiety.