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Conversation Tips for Shy People

Aug 17, 2007
Everyone feels shy from time to time. Here are twelve tips to help you keep conversation flowing.

1. Before the event, visualize yourself as someone who has an easy time making friends and mingling between different groups and whom everyone likes to talk to. It may feel funny at first, but visualizing a positive outcome and repeating self affirming statements can help in surprising ways. Try "I am comfortable in social situations. I always know what to say. I am a great friend. People like to talk with me, and I like to talk with them." When you act as though you are confident, you will feel more confident.

2. Take the pressure off yourself. Keep in mind that you do not need to impress or even to entertain during a conversation. You just need to show your genuine interest in others. When you focus your attention on someone else, you are making that person feel important and accepted, and that can go a long ways in making everyone feel more relaxed and comfortable.

3. Make the other personal feel important. When you do not know what to say, shift your focus away from yourself. Try to think less about what you are nervous about, and focus on what you could say to your conversational partner that would bring a little light into their day. Good friends are thoughtful, caring, and supportive. What could you say to show your thoughtfulness and support for the other person?

4. Smile. Sometimes, we make conversation harder than it needs to be. All you need to do to get started is offer a sincere smile and a willingness to listen.

5. Instead of waiting for someone to say hello and invite you into a conversation, say hello first. If you start the conversation, you can steer it in the way you like. One way to do this is by offering a sincere compliment to someone. Comment on something they are wearing and then ask a related question. Or say simply, "What do you like to do just for fun?" People love to talk about their hobbies.

6. Actively listen. So many times we are paralyzed with the idea that we need to have something pithy or clever to say when the other person would be more than happy to keep right on talking. Just knowing that can take a lot of pressure off the listener.

7. Ask questions. A conversation is a balance between speaking and listening, but you can take a bit of time to warm into each conversation if you need to. Once you have gotten to know the other person a bit better, you might find that you feel more comfortable sharing ideas and stories of your own. If you are not ready to contribute to the conversation yet, prompt the other person to continue talking. If you have been actively listening (and not using all of their speaking time to try to think of something to say) you will have a few points that you can ask open ended questions about or comment on yourself.

8. Comment on the surroundings. Talk about the food. Not just "Yummy dip!" but something more open ended, such as: "There is such a unique flavor or spice in this that I can not quite put my finger on. What do you think it is?" You can also start conversations based on decorative items in the room.

9. Be prepared for awkward pauses. We have all had conversations that started with a bang and then quickly hit a lull, where no one was sure what to say next. At this point, you can either excuse yourself or start a conversation on a new topic. The trick is to be prepared for conversational lulls such as these so you can avoid feeling nervous and awkward. Be prepared with a couple of observations about the room, followed by a question. Or you might say something like "Where are you from originally?" or go back to another part of the conversation. For example, "Earlier, you said..." or "I am curious to know more about..."

10. It is okay to admit you are feeling shy. One icebreaker is to say something like: "When I am in situations like this, I sometimes feel a little shy at first." If people know that you are feeling this way they will appreciate your candor and they will understand that, if you are quiet or unsure of what to say, you are not uninterested in what they have to say, you are simply feeling shy.

11. Imagine being with someone you feel comfortable with. During the event, think about the way you behave when you are with someone you feel totally comfortable with. How you would you behave if you were with just them? Now take that feeling of comfort and security into your present situation.

12. Realize that it is okay to not get along with everyone. As you continue in your conversations, you will, of course, find people whom you do not enjoy speaking with and people whom you feel do not especially like speaking with you. This is not a personal reflection on you. It is just a fact of life. We all prefer some personality types over others, and it certainly does not mean you are not likable. Be open to talking with everyone, and gravitate toward those who make you feel comfortable and who facilitate your communication. And definitely do not take rejection personally if some in the room do not talk a lot. Who knows, they might be shy, too.

The biggest key is to relax. When you feel comfortable, so will those with whom you are speaking. Keep in mind that conversational skills get better with practice, so anytime you can step out of your comfort zone and converse with new and interesting people, you have developed your conversational muscles, and that means that conversations at the next event you attend will be even easier.
About the Author
Susie Cortright is the founder of Momscape.com and Susies-Coupons.com, where she hand picks the best online coupons and products, including coupons at her favorite online discount stores.
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