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Shyness: A Bold New Approach

"Shy people constantly fail in their own eyes. They know what's expected, don't try, don't succeed, and feel miserable that they can't accomplish what they know they're supposed to." Bernardo Carducci

Shyness: A Bold New Approach

The Latest Scientific Findings, Plus Practical Steps for Finding Your Comfort Zone

By Bernardo Carducci, Ph.D.

If you are working to overcome shyness, have a shy child you wish to become more confident, or just want to understand shyness better, Shyness: A Bold New Approach by Bernardo Carducci is a great book. It is highly readable and offers great practical advice.

After twenty years of shyness research, Carducci summarizes three common shyness factors:

  1. Shy people are trapped in an approach-avoidance conflict. They want to reach out and interact more socially, but they also hesitate to do so due to fear. Shy people must work to strengthen the tendency to approach and not be held back by avoidance.

  2. Shy people are slow to warm up to new people and places. While all people feel this to an extent, shy peoples' prolonged warm-up period makes a feeling of fitting in difficult. More time must be allowed to acclimate to new people and places.

  3. Shy people need to expand their comfort zone, which represents the places and people with whom one feels comfortable. Carducci breaks a person's comfort zone into three main components-a physical comfort zone, a social comfort zone, and a personal comfort zone, consisting of activities you are comfortable doing.

Most shy people have difficulty with the initial contact in meeting new people. However, after that, they often have successful relationships. Rather than becoming an extrovert, shy people can become "successfully shy" as Carducci calls it.

In the Chapter, Shyness of The Body, Carducci discusses the physical process of shyness. The body senses a new situation it deems could be hostile and the fight-or-flight, physical response begins. Carducci says to remember that these stress reactions are short-term responses to fear. By dwelling on your physical reactions, you only make the situation worse. Refocus your attention elsewhere.

Carducci also offers many long-term strategies for controlling the fear response. He recommends shy people Persist, Stop Avoiding, Act Now, and do "Social Reconnaissance."

For example, Carducci writes "Stop Avoiding. If Public speaking makes you nervous, create plenty of opportunities to do so. Practice at home, in front of close friends, or join a speech-making club such as Toastmasters. Your goal is to turn an anxiety-provoking activity into a routine one."

In the Chapter, Shyness of The Mind, Carducci discusses how shy people think about themselves and their shyness. In particular, shy people tend to have a pessimistic attributional style, where they view awkward social encounters as being their fault. Further, they attribute failing to their own ingrained, personal flaws. Successful personal encounters tend to be attributed to luck, the social skills of the other person, or some other external factor beyond the shy person's control. How you label and interpret encounters affects how you feel about them and how they will affect your future behavior.

Carducci discusses the narcissistic paradox, which says some shy people hold back because they have greatly elevated expectations for themselves.

Rather than comparing themselves to the majority of reserved people, shy people tend to compare themselves to the most socially successful and outgoing. Then, they rank poorly by comparison. They tend to have great conversational responses, unfortunately, after the conversation has ended.

"Shy thoughts follow a progression. If the body is aroused and tense, you focus attention inwardly. Concentrating exclusively on your own reactions (the narcissistic paradox) leads you down the primrose path of self-criticism, objective self-awareness, and pessimistic attributions. That gives rise to further arousal, which induces even more discomfort and uncertainty. You make unrealistic comparisons and begin to believe, as my correspondents do, that you will never succeed. As a result, you withdraw," writes Carducci.

I found it interesting to note that objective self-awareness is the opposite of flow. A person's shyness takes them "out of the moment." Shy people focus too much attention on how they are being evaluated to have fun interacting.

In Shyness of the Self, Carducci discusses self-esteem. Carducci writes "Personality theorist Alfred Adler believed that our 'style of life' encompasses personal and environmental factors that influence our desire to strive to be the best people we can through self-enhancement. He stressed what he called social interest: helping yourself through giving to others. ...

...Adler claimed that well-adjusted people create a style of life that allows them to unify all aspects of their lives, take risks, and tackle problems head on... maladjusted individuals, on the other hand, feel inferior, show little social interest, think in simplistic manner, and hold a self-defeating outlook on life. They blame others for their difficulties and flaws. Rather than creating a healthy style of life, they live 'as if' reality were different ('as if' intimate relationships were unimportant, 'as if' they could achieve a personal, professional, or social goal without withstanding some risk)"

Carducci goes on to say that shy people can't let self-defeating attitudes of inferiority lead you down that road.

Shyness: A Bold New Approach devotes a chapter to the question of whether people are born shy. Two of my favorite chapters were The Successfully Shy Lover and The Successfully Shy Worker. Carducci shows how shyness can adversely affect the quality of life and tells how to prevent shyness from limiting your happiness and potential.

Shy people (about half of the population) will benefit from reading Shyness: A Bold New Approach and, then, acting upon its recommendations. The book is jam-packed with useful advice, insight, and understanding of shyness. You, too, can become successfully shy. Highly recommended.

Shyness: A Bold New Approach
Shyness: A Bold New Approach

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