The following article is a guest post.
Do you value your communication skills enough to break through your shyness?
What if I told you that developing better communication skills is the single biggest thing you can do to further your career and life ambitions. Would you believe me? If your answer is ‘no’, then think about this.
Imagine you are the most talented person in the world in your field (which I’m sure you aren’t far away from). Your skills are unmatched, you’re incredibly diligent, and you can solve any problem that comes your way. You should go straight to the top of the career ladder, right?
But what if you don’t have the communication skills to tell people how good you are? In a job interview, your prospective employer wouldn’t know about your amazing skills. They’d only see a quiet, shy person. So you wouldn’t get the job.
At work, more vocal colleagues could start taking credit for your achievements because they know you won’t pipe up, so you’re passed over for promotion.
And at social events, even though you have loads of interesting experiences and thoughts to talk about, you just… don’t. You’re too shy and unconfident, so you miss out on meeting people who would love to be friends with you.
Now do you see the true value of communication skills?
Of course, if you’re shy or introverted, you might think it’s impossible to change. Your shyness is the reason you don’t communicate well – and you can’t seem to beat it.
But the truth is, when you start working on improving your communication skills, your confidence will grow – and you will gradually start to feel less intimidated.
To help you get started, I collected some of my favourite tips below that should help you get on the right path.
A good tip to find out whether you actually have a problem with communication is to complete a quick communication skills questionnaire. Then you can see what type of communicator you are, where exactly you are going wrong, and how to go about fixing it. But in this article, we are just going to concentrate on overcoming shyness!
1. Focus on speaking up
Now that you understand the importance of communication skills – not only for reaching your goals, but for overcoming shyness as well – you can start to prioritise them.
The best place to start is to make a concerted effort to speak up more often. Here are 3 ways to do it:
- Give your opinion when someone asks you for it. Shy people often believe their opinions aren’t worth hearing, or that nobody is interested. That clearly isn’t true when you’re asked for your thoughts, so speak up!
- Help others at work. You’re good at your job, aren’t you? Then use your knowledge to strike up a conversation when you see a co-worker struggling. It’s a great way to demonstrate your value, practice communication, and build friendships.
- Be more sociable than you were yesterday. It’s going to take time to build your communication skills and confidence, but if you improve a little each day, you’ll get there soon enough. Start with small talk – saying hello, asking how colleagues are doing – and build up from there.
2. Forgive yourself when things go wrong
If you’re like many people, your shyness comes from a lack of confidence. And often, your confidence is damaged not by the things other people say to you – but the things you say to yourself.
In other words, you’re too hard on yourself when your interactions with other people don’t go ‘right’. You might imagine you made a fool of yourself in certain conversations, or that you simply don’t come across well to others.
You know what the likely truth is? You are the only person who sees it that way. Everyone else probably recognises the competent, good person you really are.
So it’s time to start forgiving yourself for small things: like saying the wrong thing, or muddling your words. They happen to everyone, and you can’t let them hold you back.
3. Practice, practice, practice
Communication is a skill, not an innate talent. And that’s good news for shy people!
Firstly, because you don’t have to be born a good communicator. It’s possible to improve, just like with any other skill.
And second, also just like with any other skill, you can get better at communication through practice. Try these tips:
- Use public speaking as an opportunity to practice – next time you need to give a presentation at work, don’t just dread it quietly. Take time to prepare fully. Practice your delivery at home, in front of friends, family, or a mirror. Challenge yourself to do better than last time, and you will.
- Practice important communication skills throughout the day – Making eye contact, speaking up more often, and projecting confidence are all skills you can practice every single day. You just need to focus on them.
- Practice the things you’re the least confident doing – The key to overcoming shyness is usually to build confidence. And you can build confidence by improving in the areas you feel the weakest. Make a list of what you believe are your biggest communication flaws, and practice them until you feel better about them.
4. Stop trying to beat shyness alone
A great way to overcome shyness and lack of confidence is to realise that other people have the same fears as you do. Once you start talking to other shy people, or those who also want to improve their communication skills, you’ll realise their fears are unfounded… and that means yours are too!
So consider joining a public speaking class, or even a local business networking group. A regular class or group is a great opportunity to:
- Practice communication skills like public speaking and presenting
- Meet and talk to other people who are in the same boat as you
- Build your confidence and beat your shyness
You might also have fun, advance your career and make new friends along the way.
Don’t wait a second longer.
Shyness is an unusual problem, in the sense that it comes from within. That means only you can do something about it.
It can feel like a force that holds you back, which you cannot control – but that isn’t true. By working to improve your communication skills, you will slowly build greater confidence. And shyness will gradually become a smaller and smaller part of your life.
I hope you found my tips helpful, and make sure to leave a comment with your own ideas, or techniques that worked for you!