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How to Always Have Something Better to Talk About Than the Weather

Coffee and rain

Six years ago, when I lived in a snowy mountain village and paid my bills by cleaning high-end sinks and toilets, someone said something that prompted me to confront an uncomfortable truth about myself.

A well-meaning coworker mentioned that she had been talking to another housekeeper about me.  Oh?

“She said, ‘David is a such great guy to work with, it’s just that he’s just so quiet.‘”

I don’t remember how I responded, but I assume I tried to disagree somehow, and went back to my work hoping nobody would ever say that to me again.

Quiet.  As if I have nothing to say.

I remember the rest of that day.  As I scrubbed luxury-suite shower stalls, I played out an imaginary rebuttal in my head:

“Maybe I don’t want to talk about what any of you want to talk about.  I have plenty to say, I just don’t want to talk about TV shows or how much I hate my job, like everyone else does.  Maybe all you people do is complain, and I don’t want to participate.  I’m a lot of things, but I’m not quiet.

My little internal rant echoed a common human pattern, though I didn’t see it at the time:

When people feel inadequate in some way, they tend to make up whatever prejudices or beliefs they need to feel okay about it.

Of course, nobody realizes it while they’re doing it.  Forming beliefs out of self-defense is very common behavior, and it’s probably the source of most of the erroneous and destructive beliefs people carry.  I knew my coworkers weren’t all complainers and ingrates.  They talked about things I was interested in too, but they did it much more freely and comfortably than I could, and I hated that.

Another typical example of a self-defense belief: a person feels like he doesn’t make as much money as he wants, so he forms the belief that highly-paid people are greedy or materialistic, to defend himself from feelings of inadequacy about his ability to earn.

I told myself that everyone else talked too much, so that I could spare myself the rotten feeling of recognizing that I was really bad at something I knew was important.  I was painfully shy and I knew it, but like so many other behavioral problems I had, I rationalized it away.  I argued to myself that I had every reason for speaking exactly as much or as little as I did.  That belief kept me slightly less uncomfortable, but also prevented me from ever fixing the problem.

The Black Hole of Social Anxiety

I suspect that most shy people are not hardwired to be that way.  They don’t lack any innate social talent, they just had one or two bad social incidents early on, and in an effort to avoid further social pain they began to err on the side of silence.  Where last time they said something and regretted it, the next time they said nothing, and did not regret it.

Unbeknownst to them, this seemingly innocent little lesson is actually the seed of a devastating habit.  Every shy person knows that the safest thing to say is nothing. Once a person chooses this safe approach a few times in a row, an insidious snowball begins to pick up speed.

The default approach to conversation soon becomes minimalism.  Say what is necessary, but don’t volunteer anything extra.  Anything you say is a liability.  Every statement makes you a target for scrutiny.  Every question you ask reveals your ignorance.  Every passion you confess opens you up to ridicule.  Better to say nothing.

Silence seems to quickly become the smartest policy.  And in the short term, it is.  Humiliation happens far less often.

But the long-term consequences are brutal.

You always look to someone beside you to address questions asked of your group.  You slow down your pace when you enter a restaurant so another member of your party will reach the maître d first.  One easily sinks into the habit of deferring social responsibility in this manner, and that dynamic begins to influence other aspects of life, such as work and family roles.  You never feel like a leader, and that’s because you’ve always avoided leading.  To lead is to be responsible.  And shyness, at its heart, is about avoiding responsibility for what you say.

Shyness is so devastating to a personality because its effects compound so quickly, creating an outward personality that does not match the person, and an anemic social skillset that makes it difficult to ever recover.

First you begin to avoid conversation, because it presents risk.  This reluctance becomes habitual.  Then, because saying nothing is the standard approach, the prospect of speaking up becomes scarier, which only makes you avoid it more.  The thought of humiliation becomes a looming, stalking monster, who can only be thwarted by keeping your mouth firmly shut.  The more you avoid disapproval, the scarier it gets.

Being shy just kills self-esteem.  People begin to treat you like you have nothing to say.  It’s not even that they’re trying to marginalize you.  It’s just that when you consistently contribute little or nothing to the conversation, they can’t help but assume you have nothing to contribute.  And if everyone seems to be treating you like that, you begin to believe it.  You begin to play out the role that is expected of you, even if it isn’t who you are or who you want to be.

Does any of this sound familiar?:

  • People you’ve already met introduce themselves to you multiple times.  They don’t remember you because you didn’t say anything.
  • People know they’ve met you, but forget your name every time.
  • Somebody speaking to your party always looks to someone else for a response, never you.
  • You often hope someone else in the group will say something, to kill the silence.
  • You get nervous, or even resentful, when your friend departs to the restroom, leaving you with someone you don’t know well.

To make things worse, the consistent lack of practice prevents you from getting any better at conversing.  So when you do find yourself wanting to speak up, it’s because you’re in a situation where it’s crucial to do so, such as at a job interview.  Your underdeveloped conversation muscles make you much less likely to succeed in these high-pressure situations, which only creates more bad results and feeds the fear that much more.

This cycle is a big, slippery black hole, and once a person slides too far, they may never get out.  Many come to a point where they give up on ever being comfortable socially.  I wonder if this is what happened to Eleanor Rigby .

Public speaking still outranks death as most people’s greatest fear.  No wonder.

Recovering From Shyness

I’ve spent a lot of time in online forums discussing ‘recovering from shyness’ with other people, and it’s comforting to know so many people have been in the same place I was in.

There are two primary pieces of advice I received, and now give.  The first is watch how more skillful people do it. There are always opportunities to watch people interact.  How do they begin conversations?  How do they end them?  How do they change topics?  Even watching bad conversations can give you a great idea of what to do instead.  Just watching people can give you a short go-to list of ways to open and close conversations.  Make conversation-watching a habit.

The other piece of advice is, of course, to practice speaking up. And practice always means allowing yourself do something badly until you can do it not so badly. It means making habit of doing things that are uncomfortable at first.  So when it comes to overcoming shyness, that means speaking more than you feel like speaking. If you’ve established a habit of leaving most of the speech to others, it will feel unnatural to open up.  That’s good, do it anyway.  Discomfort indicates growth.  Always say a little bit more than you’re used to.

Everyone eventually recognizes that social muscles will atrophy if they are never exercised, so there is no salvation from social discomfort that does not include deliberately making conversation.

That was a huge sticking point for me: I hated the idea of making conversation. I thought it was phony to try to force something to happen like that.  If there was something meaningful to be said, it would be said, right?  Unfortunately that just isn’t true; it’s another false belief created for self-defense.  I see now that making conversation is one of the most important life skills.

The bottom line, when it comes to overcoming fear of anything, is this:

Whenever you give in to a fear, it grows.  Whenever you act in spite of it, it shrinks.

Luckily, it tends to shrink fast once you start opening up.  You’ll find people have an easier time opening up to you.  Uncomfortable people tend to make others uncomfortable, and open people tend to make others open.

However, when it comes to creating the habit of being un-shy, there is a roadblock almost everyone seems to encounter, even after the anxiety of speaking up begins to wane.

The problem almost everyone seems to have is that they simply don’t know what to say. They may be no longer afraid to speak up, but they just can’t think of a place to start.  Those who have been social butterflies their whole lives probably have an entire arsenal of conversation starters at the ready — an inevitable byproduct of experience.  But for the rest of us, it is often a struggle to find something to say that isn’t either trite or self-absorbed.

The Three Stooges of Conversation: Weather, Work and Current Events

Making conversation is uncomfortable for many people, because “made” conversations so often turn out to be contrived exchanges about the weather.  I heard it’s supposed to be nice tomorrow. Yeah, but I think they changed the forecast.  Might be cloudy.  Oh, that’s too bad.  Yeah, it is…

Awful.  Why did we create this banal monster?  Surely silence would have been preferable.

The reason the weather turns up as a topic so often is because we know that it’s something that is relevant to the other person’s life. In that sense it’s somewhat ‘safe’ territory.  But wouldn’t it be nice if we could think of something (anything!) else that might be a little more… engaging?

Even with good friends, I’ve often found myself scrounging for conversation fodder, offering up such winners as: “So how’s work?”  “Man is it windy today.”  “So what did you do yesterday?”

Sometimes these tired offerings do get the words flowing, but so often the conversation limps along on topics neither person really wants to talk about.  Most people I know aren’t especially excited to spend their leisure time talking about their jobs, or spending today talking about what they did yesterday.  We dutifully play out these dead-weight conversations because it seems to be more wholesome than a conspicuous, lingering silence.  I agree that it is marginally better, but it sure is refreshing when someone offers up something specific to us as a topic.

When you bring up something the other person genuinely cares about, enthusiasm begins to flow.  A sense of collaboration emerges, and bonds form.

Best friends usually have an easier time getting a meaningful conversation going, because they know each other so well.  They each know what the other wants to talk about.  With acquaintances or ‘second-tier’ friends, it is more difficult to peg a particular topic as a good one, and so we lean on the old standards: weather, news and work.

It really comes down to making the habit of discovering what other people value. You can connect with anyone, if you know what is important to them, and if you give them an opportunity to talk about it.  Just ask about their boat/kids/trip to Mexico/new motorcycle/squash club/kitten/sustainable household/homemade jam.

People are so grateful to get a chance to gush about their pet topics.  They’ll remember the conversation, and they’ll certainly remember you.  And that’s because you gave them a tremendous gift: you gave them a chance to be themselves with you. You rescued them from the slow agony of a dead-end work or weather conversation, and you let them feel good about being who they are.  Don’t underestimate how profound an effect this has on a person.  You can be the best part of a party for a lot of people.

It doesn’t really matter if you’re not interested in the topic.  Just become interested in their interest.  We all know what it’s like to be in our element, subject-wise.  Help them to get there.  Once the enthusiasm gets flowing, there is usually such openness and understanding that it becomes easy to work in virtually any topic you like.  Then you can be in your element, if you want.

When you’re in a conversation with somebody, (or better yet, when you’re just watching a conversation) see if you can pick out what you think they really want to talk about.  Everyone has their own pet topics that excite them  What makes their eyes light up?  Here’s a quick hint: all parents love to talk about their kids.  And they’re so impressed when you remember what sport they play or what university they go to.

It’s not such a terrible idea just to sit down and write a list of friends and acquaintances, and for each, a few things you know they’d be happy to talk about.  Then there you have it: starting points for any conversation you might find yourself in.  If you can’t think of anything, make a point of finding out next time you speak with them.

Now I don’t suggest getting creepy with this, creating folders and pie charts about what the people in your life are interested in, but there certainly is something to be said for just being aware of what is important to other people.  When you’re going to some kind of get-together, and you know certain people are going to be there, can you think of one or two topics each person might like to talk about?  Again, not to get too stalker-y, but Facebook is a great resource for this if they’ve added you as a ‘friend.’

In any case, generally avoid asking about people’s jobs.  It’s just too easy, and it almost guarantees a dull conversation.  They will remember their encounter with you as dull and typical, and that’s the type of emotion the will associate with you.

If you do sit down and brainstorm what people in your life get excited about, you may realize there are people you don’t really know at all.  You may know how they get paid, but if you don’t know what makes them smile, you don’t really know them.  So find out.

I am far from a brilliant conversationalist, but there is no fear in it for me anymore.  It did take consistent effort to get comfortable, and I still feel a bit behind where I’d like to be in terms of beginning and steering conversations, but I feel like I’ve got the most important part down: Learn what others get excited about, and give them a chance to get excited whenever they speak to you.

So next time you find yourself looking to the Stooges to save you, ask yourself “What excites this person?”  If you don’t know, then you know what to ask.

Photo by Deapeajay

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Brandon April 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

This describes me so well, though I have been recovering. Only a few points on that list apply to me now.

Excellent advice, and I will be implementing it.

Ian | Quantum Learning April 27, 2009 at 6:33 am

One sure fire winner to get conversations going, AND discover what people are interested in .. is … asking a question! Sometimes I wonder if the art of asking questions has been lost somewhere along the way. Those people I most enjoy spending time with are those who ask me stuff. “What’s new and juicy in your life?” is a favourite of a close friend of mine.

“How’s your sex life?” is another good one for getting a reaction.

Or just a simple “How are you?” … wait for the polite, stock answer before asking “No! I mean, really. HOW ARE YOU?”

Roger - A Content Life April 27, 2009 at 6:54 am

Good advice!

I’m not a shy person, so I don’t have much of a problem in social situations. I know some shy people join something like ToastMasters to force themselves to speak in front of a group. This tends to kill shyness painfully, but quickly.

rgdaniel April 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

I tend to over-compensate for my shyness and social anxiety by acting brash and jocular. Telling people I’m shy is a hard sell sometimes, they just don’t believe me.

David April 27, 2009 at 8:14 am

@ rg — I have found myself overcompensating too, but it never really worked well for me. It didn’t feel natural, and I know I’ve come off as loud and obtuse. Combines terribly with alcohol.

@ Roger — I have thought about joining Toastmasters, to deal a final deathblow to my shyness. Maybe I will when I’m not as busy. I don’t want to add anymore homework to the pile at the moment.

@ Ian — I recognized the power of questions a quite a while ago, and I think I became dependent on them. I think questions were my only approach for a while. Made me feel like a police inspector.

Heh, it’s hard to get a genuine answer to “How are you?”

@ Brandon — Hi Brandon, glad you’re making progress. Keep us posted.

Jay Schryer April 27, 2009 at 8:30 am

I have a big-time problem with shyness. it’s something that I have worked on for a long time, and only have begun making progress recently. It’s even kind of ironic, because I have a degree in communications, and you would *think* that would make me a social butterfly. However, it just wasn’t the case. Even though I became a proficient public speaker, and a competent PR rep, I never really felt comfortable in those roles. And I felt even less comfortable in one-to-one communication settings.

The one thing that has helped me the most is what Ian mentioned, and you touched on-Asking questions. As you pointed out, if you can get people to talk about themselves, the conversation always seems to flow smoothly. The key is remembering their answers, so that the *next* conversation you have with them becomes a continuation of the last one.

Ian | Quantum Learning April 27, 2009 at 9:06 am

It is hard to get that genuine answer to “How are you?” … but it does pay to be persistent and not accept the stock answers.

Positively Present April 27, 2009 at 10:32 am

This is such a useful post. I love it! Whether you have social anxiety or not, everyone can learn from the advice you give here. I find that especially around the time of year when the seasons change all people seem to talk about is the weather. It’s nice to have something to talk about, but it’s so much better to do what you’ve suggested and find out what excites people. It helps to build stronger and better connections with the people around you, which always makes for a more pleasant experience. Thanks a lot for this post. I really enjoyed it!

David April 27, 2009 at 10:44 am

@ Positively Present — Glad you enjoyed it. Whenever you do end up bringing up the weather, it’s probably a good habit to take sixty seconds after the conversation and brainstorm a few ideas of what to bring up next time you talk to that person.

@ Ian — I know, the “Oh, Good!, You?” response is almost automatic in all of us. I try and think of more specific reponses to it sometimes, but other times that stock answer just comes out of my mouth before I even think about it.

@ Jay — I have about five months left at my current job, and I’ve been trying to use it as an opportunity to practice my people skills. My industry’s culture is so steeped in formality and stock greetings, it’s hard to really connect with anyone. If I could remember just one thing about each person at a meeting, I could really make an impression by bringing it up next time.

Kim April 27, 2009 at 10:47 am

An interesting post. I stopped asking “how are you” when a particular aunt started regaling me with stories of her back pain. I now only ask that question when I really mean it. I noticed that my “travel buddy” has 2 topic’s (diving and australianisms) that he uses to break the ice with anyone we met. At first it was interesting, later it became “can’t we find out what they want to talk about”? But if you actually listen to the answers of “where do you come from” and “what do you do”, you can find something interesting to talk about.

Andrew Gubb April 27, 2009 at 1:25 pm

This was an incredible post.


Thank you so much.

You really hit me where it hurts :D

Except in a good way. Hit me where it heals. If you get me.



Nadia - Happy Lotus April 27, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Hi David,

I am happy that you addressed a topic that many do not care to discuss. I used to be quite shy myself. I used to feel free ill at ease with others. Then somewhere along the way I managed to be more at peace with myself and then the shyness just kind of disappeared. However, one of the greatest things gained from my days of being shy was that I learned a lot about people by watching them.

People give themselves away with the little things they do and say. Even the little things that they do not say and do, convey a lot about a person. Also, one thing that really helped me was the realization that no one is perfect. Everyone wants you to think that they are perfect but no one is perfect. So when you see that fact, it is easier to be an open book and to help others to open up too. The key is to make others know they can feel safe to be themselves with you and one way to do that is to accept them without any preconceived ideas!

Sherri (Serene Journey) April 27, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Hey David,
Are you sure we haven’t met? You seem to have described me perfectly! :) Maintaining conversation is painful for me. I’ve always admired people who have the “gift of the gab” they make it look so easy. My grandpa was like that, he could walk up to anyone at all and strike up a conversation and after about 20 minutes he would know them quite well. I was always amazed.

I use the question technique a lot as I found people will open up if you show a genuine interest in them. But like you, I feel like I’m interrogating them all the time. I guess it’s a work in progress and I will certainly try what you suggest here.

This is a really helpful post, one that I will read and re-read. Thank you!!

Tim April 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm


Great post. I’ve always been a quiet person in general. It has taken me years to get where I’m at now, which is very comfortable with myself. Over the years, I took a year’s worth of improv classes and I’ve been in Toastmasters for almost five years. These groups have helped me immensely.

But, these days I still have my challenging moments. There are times when I’m extremely comfortable in social situations, but shy in other situations. There have been moments in previous jobs when I have had to get pretty agressive just to get a few words in certain conversations with coworkers – it is at these times, when people are so into what they are saying (and not into listening), that it is easier to not say something. Unfortunately, this quietness can sometimes be misinterpreted as aloofness.

Thanks for some good suggestions!

Andy Parsons February 28, 2010 at 10:02 pm

The comment about not being able to get a word in with co-workers really strikes a nerve with me because I found myself in this situation a lot in my last job.

At meetings and even more so at lunchtime (which was POTENTIALLY the best time to build and maintain a good relationship with colleagues) everyone seemed to be talking about things which I had absolutely no interest in whatsoever.

At first I tried to take some interest in what they were talking about, but it must have seemed fake when I’m not genuinely interested in the topics that come up.

I found it virtually impossible to talk with them about things I WAS interested in because they had no interest in those things.

The worst thing though was that everyone seemed to talk over me and so I’d say something or ask someone a question and I was totally ignored! This happened a lot and quickly made me feel that it was pointless to even try to have a conversation with them.

To be honest I am left with the impression that they are just rude, ignorant people because I was brought up to believe that it is rude to interrupt someone or to ignore them.

I do accept though that just thinking it’s all their fault and not mine is not going to make the situation any better so I suppose it must have been partly my fault in some way.

This was a huge problem for me not just socially but also career-wise, because my success in my job relied largely on my ability to persuade these people to do what I wanted them to do, and I frequently found I did not have as much influence on them as I needed to have because of the communication problems I have expressed above.

To be honest I have also found the same problem in making conversation when I’m at almost any social situation with lots of people such as a party, so it wasn’t confined only to my colleagues in my last job.

I think Davids point about taking an interest in people is very vald and useful when it comes to one on one individual conversations, but perhaps in group situations a different strategy is needed for those who are not “loud” and not used to interrupting others or being interrupted.

I’d be very interested in any advice anyone here has for dealing with these group situations where it’s hard to get a word in sideways!

Barb July 30, 2011 at 9:05 am

Andy, you probably need to reread this article again, because I think you missed the point of it. Also, if you haven’t, you might want to read this awesome piece, The Secret To Connecting.



Lisis | Quest For Balance April 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Well I am just shocked and stunned to hear about several of you who say you are (or were) painfully shy! I had no idea!! And you, Jay, I just talked to you at Starbucks the other day, and you didn’t seem one bit shy. Maybe you’ve finally conquered your fears? :-)

David, I think this is a fantastic post. I know a lot of people shy away from conversations and suffer in silence. I can’t say that I’m one of them, though. I’m quite the opposite. I don’t talk a LOT, but I can talk to anyone, at any time, about any topic and be genuinely interested (maybe even interesting?)

I guess for me the “trick” is to see the other person as just like me. We’re not really so different, you and I, so what is there to be afraid of? I don’t really judge others, so I don’t feel judged. I really, REALLY know who I am and what I believe, so I wouldn’t care even if they WERE judging me. It’s the whole “I’m OK, You’re OK” approach to life.

I’m not trying to be a smartass, because I know many people suffer tremendously with this; I’m trying to think of strategies that work for me, ’cause they may work for someone else.

BTW, if you ask a pilot about the weather, you’ll get more than you bargained for. ;-)

David April 27, 2009 at 4:26 pm

@ Lisis — I think, for shy people, the problem is not the other person’s judgments; it’s their own. When you self-identify as being shy, you’re telling yourself that you aren’t like others, and that becomes your reality. People can tell you you’re perfectly normal all day long but it just doesn’t feel like it.

@ Tim — I still let myself slip into quiet observer mode when the conversation isn’t too inspiring, and I think that’s okay. The difference is that it’s a choice now; it’s no longer a reaction to fear. Good to hear you’ve emerged from The Hole.

@ Sherri — My grandpa was also known for his gift of the gab. For a time he was the top real estate salesman in Winnipeg. He died when I was young so I didn’t get to know him too well, but I still hear my family members talk about his reputation for being a slick conversationalist. Fifty years later they still talk about the time he sold three houses in one day. So I knew genetics wasn’t my problem.

@ Nadia

The key is to make others know they can feel safe to be themselves with you and one way to do that is to accept them without any preconceived ideas!

Great way of putting it, Nadia. Make others feel safe with themselves, that’s an excellent policy.

@ Andrew Gubb — I got ya. I knew it would strike a deep nerve with a few people. I’m happy to be useful to others in this area. I know what it’s like.

@ Kim — Variety is so important :)

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Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching April 27, 2009 at 4:57 pm

Thanks for this post — I appreciated the sincerity of it. I’ll offer a few more things that have radically changed my attitude toward conversation. One was my realization that silence is not in fact dangerous — no one’s going to spontaneously explode if there’s a lull in the conversation, and actually I often find those moments deeper and more meaningful. Sometimes I’ll find myself saying to someone “I like connecting with you quietly.” The second realization was that there’s actually no such thing as a wrong thing to say — God did not decree certain conversation topics off limits or something — and when we stop labeling the stuff we say as “right or wrong” based on someone else’s real or hypothetical reaction, relating becomes much easier.

Albert | UrbanMonk.Net April 27, 2009 at 7:33 pm

This is a really comprehensive post. I enjoyed how you didn’t just cover one angle but the subconscious junk behind our shyness, as well as the social effects of it, as well! This is much deeper than most of the other stuff I see on the blogosphere. Thanks for writing it up!

David April 27, 2009 at 11:15 pm

@ Albert — Thanks, Albert. I actually was thinking of splitting it up into two articles. It ended up being over 2500 words. But I couldn’t find a way to cleanly break the subtopics apart. So there it is.

@ Chris — I agree, silence can actually be refreshing. My experience with shyness though, was that there was often silence even when it was wholly appropriate to say something. It seems that the more I’m comfortable with speaking, the more I’m comfortable with not speaking too. Yin and yang. I used to be all yang.

Alex May 4, 2009 at 12:27 pm

Great post David! The truth hurts, but it’s a good hurt! I have always been a shy guy, although I will have my moments once in a while where I can be very social with others. I’m not sure why that is, maybe it’s the alcohol :) although I know that sure helps the social lubrication process sometimes. I think it always helps when you first meet someone to look them in the eyes and smile, and if that comes out in a genuine way then I think that other person will feel a bit more comfortable with you and it will be easier to start and continue a conversation with them.

David May 4, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Hi Alex,

Let me tell you, it is possible to make a fairly drastic change in just a year or two. It just boils down to offering more to people when you speak to them. Offer them comfort, esteem, attention… the greatest gifts.

There is also a gradual reworking of physical habits: posture, how you enter a room, how you stand in a conversation circle, body language. Those physical gestures tend to reinforce your mentality.

You may like this post if you haven’t already read it:

How to Alleviate Self-Consciousness and Other People Allergies

David’s last blog post..Same Purpose, Different Styles

Jared May 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm

First, I used to have a committee in my head… rationalizing my actions for everything.

Secondly, I used to be quite. I called myself shy. In reality I was selfish and self-centered. Not in a bad way really, not in a way that hurt other people directly, but in that I made everything about ME!

I may not have been much, but I was all I thought about. When I started a new job a friend (more like a life coach and spiritual adviser at the time) suggested I go around each day and introduce myself to 3 new people. I thought he was crazy, that’s not my personality, I’m uncomfortable with that. Don’t you know I’m shy!

He said, “you’re making this about you! It’s not about you! Its about seeing how you can be of service to others. You’re not shy, your self-centered.”

Sometimes I still want to take the stairs down from my 8th floor office, just so I don’t have to talk to anyone or look at anyone on the elevator. Then I realize… hey, maybe I’ll have a chance to be of service to someone if I take the elevator. I’ve started becoming a “part of” humanity as opposed to a “part from.”

Jared’s last blog post..What Is Love to You?

David May 7, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I have noticed that too: a direct relationship between shyness and self-absorption. I try to make my interactions about the other person now, and any worries about my appearance or impression become completely secondary. It gets easier and easier.

Jared May 8, 2009 at 7:26 am

I agree, it does take practice. I still have that voice in my head that starts to shout during a conversation..”oh man, can I top that one, wait till they hear this, it’s going to blow them away!” That’s when I would normally miss what they were talking about as I’m waiting for my chance to speak… and the fact that I’m not paying attention is written all over my face. When I hear that voice now, I tell it to shut up. I tell it that, “if it’s so important and is meant to be heard, you’ll remember it later.”

Jared’s last blog post..What Is Love to You?

Chris May 11, 2009 at 3:38 pm

Awesome post. I think it rings true to all of us out there who have suffered from social anxiety at one point or another. Its crazy how we all have such similar fears and habits. For me it took pushing out of my comfort zone again and again, I try to speak up at times I feel most uncomfortable this is the path to growth.

Chris’s last blog post..Some Summer Fitness Tips

David May 12, 2009 at 6:34 am

Thanks Chris. It’s odd how so many people can have the same problem, yet it still seems so hard to get straightened out. Doing things that are uncomfortable is the key, for sure.

Great avatar, btw. :)

Melissa June 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm

Thank you so much for writing this. I have been looking everywhere for ways to overcome my shyness. I have trouble conversing with people because I am constantly thinking of how awkward I am being while I am talking to the person. I never thought that it meant I was self-absorbed. It makes sense though. I will definitely try out these methods, and hopefully it will work out for me as well as it did you.

O June 30, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Hi David,

For so long i have been trying to put a finger on my problem and after reading sooo many articles thank goodness I stumbled upon yours. Maybe the discriptions of the attitudes, feelings and emotions you give are common of most people with this problem, maybe they are not, but what I can say is they describe me 100% accurately. I would like to thank you for such a brilliant post as I has opened my eyes up to the rut Ive been in for so many years.
Constantly conversations with people die so quickly and I find them always avoiding and dreading having to spend anytime with me, this has worsened over the years as previous experiences in life havve dented my personality to the extent that I now get the feeling my closest friends are fed up with me now.
I refuse to allow this to continue any further and I am determined to go back to being the happy, loved and dare I say popular person I once used to be.

Once again thanks for the magnificent post and good luck to any others out there that are suffering from this problem; dont give up and get the joy you once had back in your life!

David June 30, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Hi O,

I’m glad this article was meaningful to you. I think there are millions of people in the same boat. The rut you speak of never really stays exactly how it is: in any conversation it’s either going to get deeper, or you’re going to gain a bit of traction. You seem to have a good head on your shoulders. Good luck to you and drop me a line any time.

bleh August 4, 2009 at 4:11 pm

this is a great article!

David August 4, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Thanks bleh!

I like typing your name. Bleh. Bleh!!

Rhett August 20, 2009 at 8:53 am

Great post. You really isolated the issue well.

Karen October 10, 2009 at 8:14 am

How about the opposite of this? I don’t consider myself shy and can get into a conversation, but my neighbor has me stumped as to what to do. She will come over (univited) and usurp the conversation to talk about herself. If others are talking, she’ll interrupt to tell what she ‘knows’. If you say ‘hello’ to her she’ll tell you about her day! I am disgusted with her interruptions and ‘all about her’ comments. She never asks about anyone else. If she does, you are only granted about 15 seconds before she launches into something about her. I have given up trying to speak when she is around. I try to not get annoyed, but it is hard and I’m at a loss as to what to do. I don’t want to be as rude as her, but I cringe when I see her because I know what’s coming-more info about HER. I don’t care what she has to say anymore. I’m told I have to remain civil becuase they live so close and her husband is not a bad guy. Just frustrated with the rude selfishness

David October 10, 2009 at 9:24 am

Yikes. My strategy is always to flee in situations like that. I’m really not sure what I would do… I’d probably eventually interrupt loudly with something blunt, like “Hey why do you always talk about yourself? I can’t keep up with you.”

Mike aka Find Inspiration November 9, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Really a great post – I had to chuckle a few times at the absolute truth relative to weather’s role in boring and forced conversations. Enjoyed giving this a read. Keep it up!

Sean December 6, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Everyone would probably be interested in these articles here, because sometimes introverts mistake themselves as shy or vice versa

sol December 8, 2009 at 6:00 pm

Great post!!
The first part describe my high school years to a “t.” The second part about getting out of feeling awkward and shy has past over me, luckily. But just as your article says, I’m having a hard time conversing without thinking too hard or too long about it. I have basically developed a fear of “not knowing what to say,” in close to all situations, just being obsessive and self-conscious about it too. I thought I had social anxiety, but this post seems to say that I’m merely shy? What is good advice for me at this point of my development? I truly want to be more social, and I crave human interaction, but I feel bogged down with how I think I might not have something to say, leading to discomfort, and people not enjoying being around me.

David December 8, 2009 at 10:32 pm

The best advice I could give is to get used to the sensation of saying something before you start pondering whether you should actually say it. In other words, improve your ‘quick draw speed’ when it comes to talking.

If you watch other people, especially good talkers, you’ll see a lot of them just firing off questions and statements as they pop into their head, not thinking about it first.

You can’t get bogged down if you don’t start that whole thinking process beforehand. This gets easier with practice, and once you do something uncomfortable once, it’s profoundly less uncomfortable the next time. If it scares you, all the more reason.

Justin Mickelsen December 29, 2009 at 3:46 am

This relates to me so much its creepy except I developed this problem in the last year or two. In school me and my best friend were the main people of our big group of friends and I never had a hard time talking to new people. Then several events took place to relocate me to a different school and that is were it began. I made the worst choice ever and that was to only answer to people that were talking to me and I almost never started a conversation the first half of the year. I quickly became the most shy guy in every single class except for one during the end of the first half I just started talking to people and kinda a had a friend or two. Then unbelievably second half started and all the classes got changed ruining the friendships that were unfolding and slipped back into not talking to anybody ( me and my brother went to the same school so I talked to him at lunch and that was it ). I was actually doing good in school getting good grades, getting into shape in gym, but I was depressed and stopped coming in to school (actually got a truancy ticket and had to do community service) and came in late almost every day. Then I decided I couldnt do it anymore and dropped out while having a B average ( probably seemed unusual to others). Dropping out wasnt so bad I eventually took my GED and got honors scores on it and I am currently looking into colleges now. It did not help though with this problem that I was having and without gym I quickly gained weight not terribly but back to how I used to be. Now I hang back with my old friends and I have never had problems talking to them. After living with my mom and my brother when they moved to Florida for 10 weeks I didnt talk to anybody other than them but was trying to change my shyness at the time. I read two big books on communication yet I never use the skills I know to my advantage. Now I work as a delivery man, put together mattresses and sometimes fill in and sell them (kills me not having any skills talking to people but I manage). My best friend has been trying to help me get over this and I have slightly gotten better the problem for me now is trying to talk to new people when I have nothing to say. The biggest thing to talk about is music but every one I have been meeting lately listen to rap and I hate that crap ha but nobody listens to the music I like which doesnt bother me but sucks losing something like that to relate to. I have also made a new friend two weeks ago (first in a year) and am really working on getting more. Leaving this page im truly gonna start putting all the stuff I know to use (a long with a diet I started two days ago which is grueling in itself) and hope this wasnt to long and boring for you guys to read and I hope nobody goes through this scenario ever.

Mike King January 3, 2010 at 1:41 am

This is a wonderful and detailed article. I think everyone can relate quite easily to many areas of this. I know I’ve struggled with finding things to talk about because I don’t watch the news, don’t watch TV and hate talking about the weather. However, what I have learned to do is ask lots of questions, talk about activities and when I really want to open a can of worms, stop and ask people if they are accomplishing their dreams today? How and what dream is it? If not, ask what dreams they have? That’s either gets em talking or gets them running. :)
.-= Mike King´s last blog ..Resources December 2009 =-.

Mike January 26, 2010 at 11:23 am

I have to admit that I am very shy. The advice you give here I will try, but my problem seems to come more from not allowing people to connect with myself. How do you overcome the fear of talking about yourself?

David January 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm

Hi Mike. The way to reduce a fear is to do it anyway, starting small if you have to. You have every right to talk about yourself. When people ask you about yourself, what do you say?
.-= David´s last blog ..How to Enjoy Your Forgotten Superpowers =-.

sahil February 17, 2010 at 5:21 am

HI david,
you’re super star.
you really know me, how did you do that. I’m really the same person you posted here.specially that five topics you described.
it’s was really an incident with me (I cant described here) because of this I never talked with someone in my class for more than a year.
now it’s too difficult to talk with someone. it was really effected me a lot. before this I was a parrot who always talked. people were really impressed how I could talk that much.
but now everything is finished, nobody want to talk to me, no one want to hang out with me for a long time because they have to talk always only, I’m only answering machine if they ask something I can reply.
It’s really painful for me, I have no topic to talk if I find topics, problem how to start it, If I start it’ll be finished within a minute.
now I only can count my friends on my finger who speak with me with interest because we have the same topic and we love that topic.
I can not talk any thing else except that. though I know lot of things but difficult to talk verbally.
always think what other will think.
it is because I practiced in my past incident that I didn’t have to talk and If I talk what other will think. and now it has been stored in my mind, “what the fucking other will think”
if you want me here I can write a so many things on this topic but if you are at front of me I cant speak with you more that 2 minutes.
I’m very very depressed……….

Rony March 20, 2010 at 7:25 am

thanks David for this post. really liked it. I am that shy person that u described. I am surely trying your tips the next time I go to work. I am really bad with starting conversation and making conversation . I know i am not that shy but its only that i just cant make conversation and dont know what to talk about.

John May 22, 2010 at 6:58 am

A friend told me once, “us shy people think we’re doing others a favor by not talking to them”. Hit the nail on the head for me. Later I found out that my entire congregation thought that I didn’t like them because I never spoke to them. And here I was thinking I was doing them a favor. Decided then that it was better to be disliked for what you say and not for what you don’t say.
I have made strides since then but I still have problems remembering conversations for follow ups.

David May 23, 2010 at 1:02 am

Ah, there you go… that sounds about right to me. I have found that all of my motivations for shyness are selfish at the root. I would tell myself I’m just good at not bothering people, but it was really just me avoiding the risk of socializing.

Danielle June 7, 2010 at 10:09 pm

This reminds me of a long story involving an article I read about a narcissistic guitar player. Not that shy people are self-absorbed…not in a bad way anyway…explaining my thought process is messy sometimes, sorry, anyway…at the end of the article I remember him saying something about not having anything to say to all these people he’s constantly surrounded by (woe is him). I may be a terribly social creature, but I do actually understand and relate to people with social anxiety on a very sincere level. I swear I think most of my exuberant personality is often just a retarded social anxiety attack. Anyway, that’s not my point. My point is shy people are sweet and I feel for them. This guy just sounded like an ass.
I wanted to stalk down his phone number and call him up just to say, “Maybe when you’re bored and feel unconnected to the poeple around you, you should try thinking about THEM and what makes THEM interesting every once in a while!!”. Heh.
So my point is that shy people are sweet, I want to help them be more comfortable, and sometimes I even AM one of them, but I found it amusing that I came to the same conclusion while judging a pouty rockstar whihle you were like, helping humanity and junk. ;-)p

Daniel C. June 12, 2010 at 5:49 am

“If there was something meaningful to be said, it would be said, right?”

Describes me to a T. “Small talk” never seems to interest me or seemed efficient since I don’t want to A) Waste the other persons time and B) More “importantly” waste my time. Somewhere I know that’s not the case and this article has brought up this glaring imperfection of mine into sharp relief. So I suppose a thank you is in order, even though being confronted with my own social inadequacies isn’t always an ideal way to start the day ;) In all seriousness though this was a fantastic article.

Thank you again David, keep up the fantastic work.

David June 12, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Hi Daniel. Thanks. I still struggle with embracing small talk. I know it is necessary but there is something about it I continue to resent. People aren’t conditioned to jump right into meaningful topics — we have to play this little game first where we talk about the weather — but it doesn’t have to last long, and it is the best way to get to a meaningful conversation.

kacsa June 26, 2010 at 9:51 am

Thanks for your insightful article! I too struggle with these issues on a day to day basis. Shyness can really adversely affect one’s quality of life, and make one’s world and experience of life very small and limited.

I show alot of interest in others, but they NEVER reciprocate. I find its always me listening, and asking questions. They will answer, and show little interest in me. My focus is always on the other person. I still have problems. However, I do need to work on trying to make others feel at ease, as sometimes my anxiety is evident when speaking to others, I speak quickly and desparately sometimes!!

I asked a very socially adept friend for some insight into this, and through discussing it we arrived at the conclusion that I am much too formal with people, and not at all open, relaxed or candid. It was a revalation to me. I never would DARE of saying something joking to another, so sure I am that they would take offence or not respond well. I would also rarely disagree with someone, so desperate am I for their approval. I don’t look on others as my equals, and am much too sequacious. I will try to be more informal and open with people in future, and will see how that works. (Obviously, within the restraints of my personality) Perhaps this idea might be of help to others too:)

David June 28, 2010 at 9:45 pm

It’s revealing to hear what kind of insight we can get when we hear how other people perceive us. We are blind to our own habits a lot of the time. Someone else’s input can be very valuable. I remember somebody telling me I was argumentative once, and I realized he was totally right — after I argued with him for a bit. After that I became quite aware of that habit, but had no idea before.

About reciprocation: yes, some people never reciprocate. I tend to gravitate away from them.

nahl July 10, 2010 at 6:19 am

Very good advice but you take too long to get to the point!

Tony July 30, 2010 at 11:39 am

I was very shy growing up, which is why I’m surprised I ended being a lecturer then trainer for about 20+ years! While I have no fear of public speaking (where I’m confident of my material), I am guilty as charged with respect to social “functions”. I hate them, and I *hate* small talk. But you’ve called me out on that one. Being able to make conversation, and really listen, are such vital life skills. I was recently at a conference where I felt completely lost, because I didn’t know how to strike up conversation with people I didn’t know, and that is a really uncomfortable feeling. I was standing around like a right chump. You’ve given some really good tips there, and as you say in the end it does come down to finding out what excites the other person, but it’s opening the conversation that I still find a killer.

TJ September 25, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Insightful article!

The general principles you cover are clear for me but I’m interested how you actually applied them in your life to increase your social skills. Was there a specific plan you set out about improving yourself in everyday life or did you just keep these general principles in mind as you went about your day?

I guess the only hangup for me is going from agreeing with the article while reading it to consciously and consistently applying it in my life.

David September 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Yes, I keep the principles in mind. Mainly, I just speak out a little more than is comfortable for me. As a rule I don’t let conspicuous silences happen anymore. Whenever I notice I’m being too quiet, I think about why I’m doing it and I find a place to speak out.

Candida September 28, 2010 at 9:54 am

Good post – even for those of us who usually don’t have much of a problem in social situations. One thing that I’ve always found handy is remembering this piece of advice that I’ve read somewhere:

Be a listener – not a problem solver.

By doing this you’re offering people both attention and comfort, which can really improve your relationship in the long run…

David September 28, 2010 at 7:59 pm

Be a listener – not a problem solver.

I think that’s a great mantra. I will try to remember it.

Daily Success Place October 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Man, this post really has a ton of useful information!

I too had similar feelings you felt at the beginning of your story. I used to be very shy and have to fight those feelings from time to time.

It’s so freeing to know that many of those feelings we have are only misbeliefs and that we can be free from them. When we become free on unhealthy beliefs, we become more happy, fulfilled and even successful.

Donald October 15, 2010 at 12:26 am

Just want to let you know that ive read this blog many many times, and each time i feel confident about myself as a person. what makes me feel good is that i can connect with all the stories and points that you talk about.

whenever i feel lost ill come to this page and build myself back up. im starting to get used to not being shy around people and im also starting to speak up more, but i still have to get used to getting a conversation flowing and having something to talk about.

i cant thank you enough for writing this blog and i enjoy reading your other blogs as well. i wouldve never found this site if it wasnt for stumbledupon lol.

Fistfootface December 29, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Excellent article. I really enjoy your writing style. Thank you!

Edmund-B January 5, 2011 at 1:10 am

Dear david,

i like the way you analyzed this phenomena. i enjoyed learning how i could bring my self out of it, and “when asking people questions” how to bring bring people out of it. win-win method.

never the less, what attracted me more to continue reading this long post is your excellent writing style; something that most books lack these days sadly. considering writing a book? =)

David January 5, 2011 at 6:57 am

Thanks Edmund.

I’ll write a book sooner or later.

8run0n January 27, 2011 at 8:49 am

i’m somewhere in the middle of the process you described and it worked for me very much the way it worked for you.

IMO fighting shyness is also related to working on assertiveness. one of the rules of being assertive is observation and absorption of info about other people. it’s about looking for people’s ‘pet topics’ but also about watching out for things they may not enjoy talking about that much. what works for one may not be so interesting for another, even though both may enjoy mountain biking.

effectively, you’re supposed ensure anyone you speak to feel comfortable in your presence, or better yet, love to talk to you coz you’re ‘such a nice and open-minded personality’.

my point is, you may also wish to find out about assertiveness in your quest for your brave new personality. it may give you hints on how to deal with abusive, exploitative and negative people in a productive way.

Will February 11, 2011 at 4:59 am

Excellent article, I found myself thinking, “me too” at pretty much everything you said. I’ve recently come out of my shell a more, and I think there’s another part of shy people that makes them think that it’s not OK to be shy – that is, that one might feel ashamed, or guilty that they have nothing to say. This was especially the case in my situation, where I went through several years of turbulent low self-esteem and confidence, culminating in several panic attacks, which is what forced me to re-think my entire approach. I think one important thing for shy people to consider is that they might just naturally be less prone to making conversation – or in other words, an introvert – and coming to terms with that.

Once you do, it then becomes easier to feel comfortable in all situations. I’ve taken this on board myself, and I readily admit to people that, yes, I am quiet, but it doesn’t make me any less of a person. In my mind, it makes what I say even more valuable because I have taken the time to say it, even though some people may not always appreciate that. But then that’s another part of the acceptance – some people will react in a way that you weren’t expecting, so you have to learn to brush it off and carry on without dwelling on it.

Again, brilliant article! Thank you.

James February 11, 2011 at 7:14 pm

Hey man, great article. It reminded me a lot of this post on reddit, if you have 5 minutes it might interest you: http://www.reddit.com/r/offbeat/comments/esk68/for_those_of_reddit_who_are_socially_awkward_how/

You seem to think in a similar way. Keep up the perceptiveness!

Breezy February 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I would like to thank you very much for this article. It felt as if you wrote it just for me! After every paragraph, I was nodding away thinking ‘yes, this is me, this is how i feel, this is my life, this is EXACTLY how all my social encounters go’. I am definitely going to try much harder these days to push my self to speak up, and not maintain being the ‘shy one’ or the ‘quiet one’. Because I do notice that whenever I am with a group of people, even with my closer friends, the person usually speaking never looks to me for a response. Or if they do, out of politeness or pity for me. I always feel like people will only talk to me or put effort to take some interest in me when they feel sorry for me because I am all alone or too quiet or cowardly to take the initiative to put some effort in myself. And YES. I have suffered MAJOR self-esteem and depression issues because of this. I always used to tell myself i’m too stupid, dumb, boring and passive. I hated myself as a consequence of these social encounters. They never made me feel good, so i opted for the next best thing to spare me of the humiliation and dread as you mentioned – quietness and shyness. Which of course, in turn, never made me feel good either. I hated it so much – because I know deep down i’m not a shy and quiet person, I’ve just gone through so many awkward, painful and consistently horrible experiences to become like this. I’m starting university soon so this should be a new, fresh start for me and my social encounters. I am extremely worried of course that I won’t make any new friends or that I will blow it eventually with people thinking I am too boring, shy, or quiet for them due to my past encounters – but- I will most certainly keep your article and all your points in mind.
Thanks :)

Ian Anderson February 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm

I haven’t made it away yet, too much good stuff to read!

As an English man I always feel shy next to ANY American lol!, where do (most of) you guys get all that confidence from?

I started to make it a habit to say “how are you?” to just about everyone. It is so unusual these days that checkout girls get a bit freaked out! They all love it though and I love it when their head comes up to see who it is that can actually see them as a person and not part of the checkout machinery.

I am still shy, but I can at least switch it off when I need to.

Stay well

David February 21, 2011 at 9:56 am

Hi Ian. I’m actually Canadian so I can’t really say for sure, but I suppose the American dream surrounds the idea of the “self-made person” so there isn’t so much bashfulness about saying “this is who I am and what I do.”

You want to see a culture of confidence, go to Australia :)

Bob Leedom February 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Re: Getting a conversation going by discovering what the other person is interested in

On Monday morning, when anyone asks me, “How was your weekend?”, it doesn’t matter if I re-arranged my socks or climbed Mt Everest on Saturday — I will say, “Great! How was yours?” Nearly always, they were only asking because they were bursting to tell me about their own weekend.

That may sound cynical, but I can tell you that I’ve spent many useless breaths answering the opening question, only to realize that the asker is simply waiting for me to finish so he can get to his story.

The exceptions: Good and true friends, who really are interested in me. I’m interested in them, too, so we both enjoy each others’ answers.

Kristi T February 28, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I love reading your blog. I just finished reading the post about shyness. Consider that you might be an introvert. I am. It’s a different way of looking at the situation and for me, was very clarifying.


bg May 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

Great article! This really resonated with me in a lot of ways. I too am very shy and have trouble making conversation with people. I think you have some excellent tips here that I will try. I’m glad I found this blog. I have it bookmarked and plan to explore it more. Thanks!

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GD June 3, 2011 at 11:17 pm

This is probably the most comprehensive article I’ve ever read about overcoming shyness! The posts that follow are great as well. As I saw myself in many of the examples, it dawned on me that my problem is worse than I thought. People have told me that I’m ‘quiet’ yet I can also talk quite a bit depending on the circumstances. In the last couple of years I’ve been a part of a singles group and we get together about once a week. One or two people usually have control of or outtalk most of us. I often find myself trying to say something, or only get part of my point across before being interrupted by something, someone or their phone. It’s so annoying that I give up and just let others talk and just sit there and listen until they actually ask me something. But it’s hard to stay silent sometimes. What do you do when people always interrupt or talk over you without saying something catty or mean?

gary July 29, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Great post David, probably one of THE best I have read over the years I have spent looking for self-help. Something about it made me realize fully why it is such a disadvantage to be shy or quiet. Naturally my ego activates a self-defence mechanism, saying that people who small-talk lack insight or have nothing more important to talk about. But it is those views that have caused me plenty of social anxiety, awkwardness. Some people just seem to have the ability to have great conversations almost about nothing at all. I often find myself having to resort to asking some question and hopefully getting enough information to continue, but that hasn’t worked that well for me. Sometimes you just lack knowledge about someone else’s interest and can’t ask the right questions to make them start talking. Sometimes people don’t want to open up about what they really want to talk about. And of course, no one really is excited to talk about plain old work or school.

What I still struggle a lot is with second-tier friends – you know them enough superficially, but trying to get the conversation flowing really requires something else. Truthfully, I just hate asking what someone’s been up to lately, or vice versa.

Bibiana October 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm

It’s a good thing this appeared today, I was feeling a bit depress because I have been studying in college for 5 month now, and haven’t really talk with anyone. I really need to improve my social skills.
oh! and my solution to be notice and kind of remember, is that I dye my hair in different color almost every month; and in a way it also helps as an icebreaker because people are curies about it haha but that doesn’t always work =/ so I need to find a way to be more sociable.
so thanks for the post, I’ll keep the tips you gave in mind.

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Nicole October 26, 2011 at 9:58 am

So enlightening! I don’t think I realized how much of an issue my shyness could be until I read this! So thank you for making me realize the things I need to work on! It really hit me when you said:

“Being shy just kills self-esteem. People begin to treat you like you have nothing to say. It’s not even that they’re trying to marginalize you. It’s just that when you consistently contribute little or nothing to the conversation, they can’t help but assume you have nothing to contribute. And if everyone seems to be treating you like that, you begin to believe it. You begin to play out the role that is expected of you, even if it isn’t who you are or who you want to be.”

That is an exact description of my issue, and so relevant to my life. Improving on this, starting NOW! :)

Cindyy December 8, 2011 at 5:38 pm

A lot of things you said are so true!! I had to cry really bad during reading it… hehe…
Last year I even told my friends I didn’t want to be friends anymore because they told me I don’t speak much, several times. I really hate it how they could talk freely about everything they like or dislike, I also wanted to talk about things I like. And I wanted a friend with the same interests as me… But! I really want to change and it’s difficult…
I decided to talk about this for my oral presentation!
What do you guys think? Wish me luck! (ÓAÒ)
I wanted to type some more but it’s late~ Bye!

Kira July 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm

I’ve been browsing around your site for a little while now, and this caught my eye because I work a customer service rut and every time I have to take an order from someone new, I dread the question I know I’ll ask, how about that weather…I guess in that little window of time there’s no way to not be a creeper. Unless they come with a kid strapped to them or a dog outside, asking about either seems highly unusual.

Still, I feel this kind of isolation because my conversations are almost exclusively with strangers I will most likely never see again, and my script feels imprisoned by the stooges. But I digress.

I really appreciate what you’ve said here. It’s important to remember that the people in your life are often there because you care about them, acquaintances, friends and even occasionally strangers. The more you invest in them, the less you have to worry about yourself.

Thank you for your blog, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read so far.

DAN August 15, 2012 at 11:44 pm

This blog just made my day :)

DAN August 16, 2012 at 12:10 am

I have been suffering with this since being around 14 and am now 24. and has gotten to the stage was just feeling enough is enough. but since reading the blog and all the comments its made me feel soo refreshed! it feels like i got all your support thankyou so much. LISTEN TO PEOPLE AND OBSORB THEIR INTERESTS. keep the posts coming….

Shane September 7, 2012 at 7:26 am

Thank you for this article. I usually have the confidence to talk but I never know what to talk about. It’s good to know I’m not the only one suffering. I wish I had the gift of the gab but I don’t think I ever will. Does anyone have any other advice other than the list idea and the watching others’ conversations?
[email protected]

Del September 9, 2012 at 6:41 am

I read articles it a wonderful read, 40 male and alway shy person , come few year ago that i need to talk more than what i doing i have feel i have miss onlife, o

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Wolf September 13, 2012 at 12:23 am

Amazing, well-thought out advice, by the way.

Anyways, while not quite ready to tackle physical conversations, I took the online route and starting chatting to people online. Don’t worry, I gave no information of me nor my family.

Anyways, even here, I find myself beating myself up (sometime literally) because I either run myself into a hole or I say something stupid. I often get “freaked out” when talking to others and find myself, yet again, beating myself up (sometimes literally) because chatting is “new” and “strange” to me.

And is it strange to want to end a conversation? I find myself irritated if I have to listen to someone talk and them asking you numerous questions, usually over matters I don’t care about nor are interested in. I do this with my dad numerous times, where I’m practically at the door, patting my legs wanting to leave. It created a rift in us where he’s disappointed that we don’t talk about things like a father and son should.


Ash September 23, 2012 at 9:23 pm

I definitely can relate to this. Whenever i try to tell people that im really shy, they just wont believe me. I think that because in my jobs ive worked as some form of customer service provider, i can initiate conversations with people, but i often struggle to steer them to anything useful. Once ive blurted out the “safe” options, im usually stuck for anything else to talk about. I usually end up talking about something ive done, and just feel like im boring others with stories and ideas about me.

My question to you is this, how does one who works in a customer based environment, where you serve a hundred or more customers a day, keep conversation fresh and engaging for both parties?

David September 23, 2012 at 10:02 pm

A large part of having good conversations is finding people you can relate to. In a working situation, you don’t choose who to talk to and the conversation is usually going to be pretty distant and “business transactional.” It might not be possible for them to all be fresh and engaging. You can always comment on something related to the other person: where they’ve just been, what they’re wearing or carrying — if it’s appropriate for the kind of work you do.

Hussain October 7, 2012 at 1:03 am

I want you to write to something interesting 3-4 minutes

Karen October 8, 2012 at 8:57 am


tigerlyly October 13, 2012 at 3:44 am

Love your comments… Although I am not what you consider a shy person, at least on the surface, and make friends pretty fast… i do not actually make them, I just go through the motion of talking about their interests, get bored pretty fast and start putting emotional and mind distance between me and them… and then have the same rants/full discussions in my mind in order to answer them when they say something that bugs me. I never seem to be the perfect poised, sophisticated image of myself when talking to other people… hate that since in my head I am.
So thanks for your article, helps knowing you are not exactly crazy and damaged somehow, just a little different.

Kenji October 23, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Hi David,

I come to Uk about 7 months ago and I find it hard to understand what my peers are saying and I find it difficult to tell what I want to tell. But most of the time I get what my teachers are saying.This always happen when my friends are having group conversation. I find it a lot easier to talk to one person at a time. Because my english isn’t very bad, my friends tend to think that I don’t talk because I’m quite person. Not because I don’t understand. Anyway Thanks for the help.

Claire March 17, 2013 at 7:33 am

Hi, thank you for a great post. I’m overcoming my shyness at the moment and your advice will go a long way towards helping me get there. It’s great that you are using your experience to help others :)


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Omoba Tonovercome July 13, 2013 at 7:27 am

This is really useful. Its about diversity and inclusiveness. Recognizing that we all cannot be the same. If what has been described is what is called shyness, why should it be a problem? That is simply who the person is. Okay, we all can make changes to make living better, so l grudgingly accept to make amend. Thanks for the advise

icat November 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm

so what are some tips for forcing yourself to talk with co-workers? the kind of thing where you walk into their office or cubicle for a chat? I’m the only one at work who doesn’t do this from the looks of it. The thought of doing this makes me cringe. Seriously – how do i break the ice and then just chat? I need specific ideas here. This is a topic that isn’t covered much, but a really important part of work. Everyone else is building bonds while I’m sitting out taking my chances waiting to bump into people in the lunchroom.

Terrance Moran March 19, 2014 at 8:11 am

I think in Earl Nightengales book “HOW TO win Friends and Influence People” that I learned that people would think I was a great conversationalist just by creating a space for them to talk about themselves. And it works

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