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How does shyness in the workplace affect you?

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Does shyness in your workplace affect your performance and career growth?

Shyness in the workplace is a very common problem (it can be easy to think that it is just YOU, but trust me when I say this that shyness and social anxiety affects many people.) According to Bernardo Carducci, an expert on shyness, 40-45% of adults consider themselves as ‘shy’.

It can be a major problem that can completely inhibit your social interactions with colleagues and impact your performance. Carducci claims that shyness intensifies during periods of change (when you least want it to!)

Some symptoms include:

  • You feel anxious
  • You feel vulnerable or being judged
  • You feel self conscious or like a ‘fish out of water’
  • You feel embarrassed/awkward

Your body might also respond in these ways:

  • Your face goes red/blushed
  • Your stomach churns
  • Your heart-rate increases
  • Your voice is shaky and your body trembles
  • You sweat more than normal
  • You feel dizzy/light-headed
  • Your breathing becomes faster and/or shallower

Unhelpful thoughts

Shy people are plagued by unhelpful thoughts. Think of a tape constantly running in your head that keeps telling you that you’re no good, that you can’t do something, or this person won’t like you and they will think you’re an idiot. Unhelpful thoughts. It’s a state of self doubt and irrational thinking.

Do you have unhelpful thoughts like this?

What shy people do

The above symptoms are no doubt uncomfortable, so shy people will tend to avoid situations that provoke these effects. The result being that shy people have a tendency to avoid situations that involve an interaction with other people. Especially when meeting new people or people in authority. This can have a detrimental impact on career growth, as career growth typically demands engagement with new people and direct reporting to senior management. Worse still, shy people are painfully aware of their avoidance, so they will beat themselves up over it. Do you do this?

Shy people can take longer to warm up in social situations than their less shy colleagues. Other people can perceive them to be aloof or stand-offish, making the development of new relationships more difficult. Relationships are critical in the workplace – it’s very rare (nowadays at least) for people to be successful if they hide away in their cubicles.

Shy people often avoid trying new things or putting themselves into new situations. They can often feel stuck in a rut, even though it is self-imposed. Because stepping out of a comfort-zone is painful. So the same things happen every week with little variation.

The same goes for their circle of friends, which tends to be small. Shy people have a close group of friends because they feel more at ease with the people they know well. Carducci says “When we constrict our social interactions to smaller and smaller circles and expose ourselves to less and less divergent views, we lose tolerance. We lose our skills for dealing with difference.

Can you remember a time where a close friend has brought a stranger into your social situation – how did you feel?

But shyness isn’t a disease…

I just want to point out that shyness is not implicitly ‘bad’. Nearly half the population claims they’re shy!

Shyness is a personality trait – not a disease. Shy people can learn to cope with shyness and reduce its negative effects, without it limiting their careers.

The most helpful coping mechanism, in my opinion, is the challenging of unhelpful thoughts – like pausing that tape I mentioned and asking what basis do I have for thinking this way?

I found this great online self-help guide you can read, for free, published on the UK’s National Health Service website. You’ll find a section in there on unhelpful thoughts, and how to challenge them, plus other ways of coping with shyness.

Does shyness have a negative effect on your performance?

 
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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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