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Make Shyness Work For You

I’m shy.  I clam up right away when I’m in a room full of strangers and even when I’m with people I am close to.  But do I let it hamper my personal and professional relationships? Do I allow it to get in the way when I deal with clients or talk to a friend?

We live in a world that thrives on interaction and where reaching out can be daunting despite its necessity in building relationships and forging close relationships.

Have you ever felt this way? How do you deal with your shyness?

TALK ABOUT IT

I find that talking about my weaknesses does not make me less of a person; rather it makes me more human, more able to reach out to others despite my faults.  At one point in my career, the head of the station manager of a local FM radio station wanted to hire me as a disc jockey.  “You’re kidding, sir,” I said.  I’m an introvert and I can’t talk a mile a minute! Still, I was put in that position.  Emotionally, it has been the most challenging job I have ever had, but I had to do it.  Along the way, I’ve met a lot of leaders who realize that letting other people know what is going on in your mind is so much easier than not letting it out.  And most of the time, the things that we make up in our minds are not as big as a deal as they actually are.

REACH OUT TO OTHERS

Leaders are the most misunderstood people in the room.  Some people think that they are the most outgoing, charismatic and visible, yet this turns out to be a very narrow perception of what they actually are.  What is the key challenge here? Go beyond the woodwork.  Get beyond the surface of your colleagues and you will be surprised to discover that there are introverts embedded within your organizations who are born to lead.  One thing that’s true is that extroverts may get places faster but for introverts, it’s all about working at a suitable pace yet never forgetting to perform at one’s optimum level.

BE AUTHENTIC

Changing who you are to adapt to what’s required won’t work as effectively as embracing one’s true essence and working well with what you’ve got.  When I turned 40, I discovered that the best thing to do was to tell everyone I worked with that I’m shy.  People are not mind readers and you need to let them know.  As the months progressed, I learned how to develop a short script that became an intro on who I am and what I do, where I come from and what I expect everyone to do in order to be effective at what they do.  I have been doing this for over a year and it really does build a strong sense of trust and surely gets beyond trivial topics that others talk about that come off as superficial.  People will figure things out sooner or later, anyway.

CHERISH ALONE TIME

Lastly, find time to be on your own.  For the better part of my teaching career, I always had very short breaks between classes to recharge and do anything unrelated to teaching.  I called it my “un-teaching mode”, sitting quietly in the corner of the faculty room and closing my eyes to think.  Introverts get more energy by having quiet, sacred and uninterrupted pockets of silences whenever possible.

Being shy —and admitting it— is not the end of the world.  There are fruitful steps you can undertake to overcome this challenge and to finally come out of your shell.

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