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How to get over shyness and make friends?

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answered 04:50 PM EST, Wed July 27, 2011
I am a very shy person that has always had trouble making friends and the one good friend that I had in this city just moved away to get married. I am now pretty much on my own.

I know that I am supposed to get involved in group activities to make friends, but whenever I go to work parties or other social gatherings I find that I never know what to say to anyone and after a while I just kind of feel that everyone is looking at me like some kind of giant loser. I always have a terrible time and leave as quickly as I can.

It’s weird, because I can talk to these same people all day in a professional setting and have no problem, but as soon as we go out for drinks I just feel so awkward and everyone looks so at ease.

How can I learn to get over my shyness and become a little more skilled in social mixing? At the moment, I don’t know which I dread more, the thought of 40 more years alone or the thought of 40 years of painful and humiliating social events in the company of others.

Art Matthews Says...

What I believe is the root to the problem for many shy people is a lack of confidence and sense of competence in social environments.  You identified that when you speak to people at work about work, you are able to communicate just fine but when it's about sharing personal information about you in a social arena, things begin to feel more risky.  

I'd recommend looking at different opportunities to develop more confidence, self-esteem and communication skills.  You may be able to find a self-development class at a local community college or university.  There will also be student clubs and activities that will give you an opportunity to get involved and practice social skills.  A public speaking class would also be good training and experience.  There are also other potential community resources like church social groups, community center activities and volunteer organizations.

Shy people are often anxious and/or depressed people so it's important to make sure you are evaluated by a qualified professional to see if psychotherapy and/or medication are things you want to consider.  Brief individual and group therapy would be excellent ways to overcome shyness.  You may consider going into individual therapy for a short time and then moving into a therapy group with a theme of building confidence, conquering introversion, communication skills or social skills.  Your therapist will be a guide, supporter, advocate, coach and teacher.  Working on changing some of your beliefs about being alone would be helpful as well as identifying what it means about you that you struggle socially.  Your therapist might even explore with you what benefits you get from being shy and avoiding social interaction. Changing how you perceive aspects of yourself will ultimately be necessary to make the changes lasting and feel authentic.

Any time it feels like too much to consider, ask yourself this question: "Is what I am doing now helping me overcome this?"  If the answer is "No", then it's time to do something different.

Stop avoiding your life.  Start living.



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