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7 Ways to Conquer Shyness in the Workplace – Like a Pro

Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Shyness in the workplace is a big reason that a lot of people struggle to fit in.

The problem is, shyness leads to avoidance of contact with other people, but other people often perceive it as aloofness, arrogance or being ‘snooty’. When in fact, it’s often very much not the case!

If you’re shy, then I bet it’s very frustrating. I know, I am shy too. Most people who know me well wouldn’t say I am – perhaps they would say I am the most ‘un-shy’ person they know. But the fact is, I don’t easily just walk up to someone and start chatting about stuff, full of charisma. It’s frustrating for me, because my job demands the charisma of me.

Do you feel this way too?

There is good news – there is a way through it. Over a number of years I’ve learned how I can conquer shyness (I am not there yet, but it’s a lot better for me). There are 7 things you can try, like I did, to get over the shyness.

1. Recognize you’re shy, and accept the responsibility to overcome it – it starts by accepting it, and taking responsibility for it. Only you can make you less shy, nobody else. So unless you’re prepared to take full responsibility for it, you’ll fail in your goal. The best way to start taking responsibility is to tell people about your shyness.

2. Watch how ‘non-shy’ people are, and learn – take some cues from non shy people and try replicating them. Be prepared to fail at first – this is part of the learning process. Having a role model (even if they don’t know they are) really helps.

3. Talk to somebody new every single day – it’s a small goal, but it will make a massive difference. You probably address many people in your day – the guy at security when you walk into your office, or the barista when you’re buying coffee, but instead, really talk to them; ask these people how they are, or say ‘Good Morning’ – anything that gives you an opportunity to speak clearly and positively.

4. Forget about YOU – one of the characteristics of shyness is a belief that everyone else is staring, or is judging, or harboring thoughts about us. Chances are – those people have too much going on in their own lives to be doing this, or are shy and are thinking the same about you too. The trick is to forget yourself – don’t even consider that other people find you interesting enough to stare, judge, or harbor thoughts. So take the focus off yourself, and place it on something else.

5. Accept the worst – if you must, try this. It’s a rough way of doing it, but it does work very well. When you face a situation (like a meeting) where your shyness will flare up, because you think people are going to laugh at you, talk about you, think bad of you, then accept that they already are. Face this truth you have created before you put yourself into the situation. Feel the hurt, and deal with the pain. When you’ve been through that, you’ll feel so much better about it that when you step into the situation, your shyness will have reduced by a mile.

6. Mix with non-shy people – OK, you’re stepping into the breach, but associating with non-shy people will help you learn by osmosis. It’s easier to learn something new when you’re mixing with the people who exhibit the skill. This might only be possible by mixing with folks outside of your core team. It’s the antithesis of mixing with shy people; you might feel more comfortable at first in this group, but in the long-run, you won’t be learning the skills and behaviors you’re trying to develop.

7. Don’t give up on people – one thing shy people tend to do (that is, if they haven’t accepted responsibility for their shyness) is to dismiss people outright if they have a bad experience. It’s a way of coping. But a bad experience is a good learning opportunity, and often, a single encounter is not a good measure of a person’s character. Don’t give up if someone rebuffs you or gives you a hard time because of your shyness. The workplace can be a harsh place at the best of times, but don’t let one exchange result in a dysfunctional team!

I hope you find these tips useful. They won’t all work overnight. Some might not work for you at all. But you won’t know until you’ve given them a go!

Please share your story about your shyness by leaving a comment below.

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This post is part 4 of 12 in the series Getting to Know Colleagues
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About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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