How to Become Less Shy (for Autistic People)

Three Methods:Identifying Your FearsLearningReducing Your Fears

When you're on the autism spectrum, it can be very difficult to interact with people. You may be confused as to how to start a conversation, or how to join in one without looking "weird". You may be worried about people disliking you for something you say or do. Don't fret! There are many ways to get rid of your shyness for good. Follow the steps below to learn how to shake your anxiety and feel more comfortable talking to people.

Method 1
Identifying Your Fears

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    Make a list. Write down a list of everything you can think of that is preventing you from socializing with other people. Make sure you organize the list into three categories:
    • Confusing -Things that you don't know how to do or have trouble doing. Examples: "Trouble joining groups", "Don't know how to make a joke", etc.
    • Worried - Fears you have that prevent you from socializing. It is especially important to not exclude anything from this list, no matter how ridiculous you may think some of your worries are. You must write it down in order to face it and get rid of it. Examples: "Worried I'll have a bad reputation", "Afraid that my stimming will weird out Connor at the party", "Worried I'll look like an idiot for saying "hi"", etc.
    • Excuses - Excuses you make to avoid social interaction. Examples: "Eating lunch at home so I don't have to go out with friends," "Doing extra work so I can tell people I'm too busy," etc.
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    Look over your worries. If any of them sounded ridiculous to you when you were writing them, then you are already on your way to getting rid of them. Put a star next to any of the worries that sound ridiculous to you.
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    Examine your excuses. As a shy person on the spectrum, chances are that many of the excuses on your list will be things that you have set up yourself to avoid the anxiety of social interactions. Put an "X" next to the excuses that either you have set up yourself or can be easily worked around.
    • It is important that you be completely honest with yourself as you are doing this. Avoid rationalizing your excuses in your head. When in doubt, "X" it out.
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    Eliminate your excuses. Give yourself a block of time to gradually phase out your use of the "X" excuses. As a general rule, this timeline should be long enough to ease you into social interactions at a pace that is gradual enough to keep you from feeling too stressed out, but not so long that you feel like you are wasting your life away.
    • Remember that you don't need to stop using excuses completely. Be gentle on yourself, and give yourself quiet time when you need it.
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    Consider the possibility of Social Anxiety Disorder. You may have this if your fears of socializing are interfering with your ability to function normally or do the things you want to do. Anxiety disorders can be treated with therapy and/or medication.
    • Research social anxiety. Is this something you have? Do the techniques sound like they may help?

Method 2

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    Learn the confusing things. If you don't know how to do something, ask someone. You may go to an autistic support teacher, a counselor, a family member, a close friend, or someone else that knows about your social issues and is willing to provide help. Go out and practice the skills you learn as often as you can. You will make some mistakes, but they will help you learn what to avoid and are worth it. You will get better and better with time!
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    Learn to listen well. When you make conversation, you don't need to talk the whole timeā€”in fact, many people love it if you let them do the talking! Practice showing interest in what they're talking about, and asking questions to get them to talk more. Most people just want to be heard and have their feelings validated. This will make them walk away from the conversation feeling happy and thinking that they like talking to you.
    • Validate their feelings.
    • Ask questions to clarify if need be.
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    Work on open body language. Stand up straight, look at the speaker (eye contact is not needed), stim quietly as needed, and nod or say "Uh huh" and "Mmm hmm" to show you are listening. You can try practicing in front of a mirror or with a therapist or family member.
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    Examine your meltdown and overstimulation cues. Learn to know when you're stressed so you can back out of situations when you need to. You don't want to push yourself too hard, and it's important to take good care of yourself.
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    Read books and websites about social skills. Neurotypicals have social trouble too, so there are plenty of books you can read. There are books to analyze people, become well-liked, and feel less afraid. There are even books written with autistic people in mind!
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    Go to the autistic community. Plenty of people on the spectrum have faced this same problem, and learned how to overcome or work around it.

Method 3
Reducing Your Fears

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    Face your fears. This is the longest and most difficult part of becoming less shy for most people on the spectrum. However, once your anxieties are gone, most of your shyness will leave with it. The two major components of doing this are as follows:
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    Use gradual exposure. Identify one general fear (e.g. "Fear of strangers") and make a hierarchy of things from least to most scary. Start with something at the bottom (least scary) and work your way up as you grow more comfortable. Here is an example for a fear of asking for help:
    • Ask brother to reach high shelf
    • Ask sister for help on math homework
    • Ask dad for anything
    • Ask to walk Mrs. Patel's dog
    • Ask store attendant for help
    • Ask stranger for directions
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    Pay close attention to what happens when you try a new worrisome thing. What is the worst thing that could realistically happen? Does that thing happen? How do people respond?
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    Imagine how you would react to a person who does the thing you are afraid of doing. Would you be mad at someone who stuttered, mixed up their words, flapped their hands, or awkwardly entered a conversation? How long would it take for you to get over it and move on?
    • Most people do not care as much as you might imagine.
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    Try some anxiety-reduction techniques. You can use these as you try new social situations and tackle your list. These work for many anxious and autistic people. Try plenty of techniques and choose your favorites.
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    Give yourself plenty of downtime. You don't want to push yourself too hard or stress out. Spend plenty of time on your special interests, give yourself quiet time each day, allow yourself to be autistic, and get lots of sleep each night.
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    Hang out with people whom you can be yourself around. Maybe your brother is a great listener, your autistic friend is super sweet, or your mom is always there for you. Find people who make you happy and be with them.
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    Believe in yourself. If there's anything that will make or break your attempt to become more social, it's how determined you are. You have to want to become less shy in order to do it. You need to be able to shake off your mistakes and carry on. Always keep trying. In the end, you will be glad you did.


  • Keep the list in a convenient place that you will remember. Do not throw it in with the pile of papers growing on your dresser. Put it in a special folder or attach it to your door.
  • You may also write the list on a piece of colored construction paper with markers if you tend to have trouble finding your things. That way, you will be able to spot it instantly in a pile or folder.
  • Remember that there are many, many autistic people who have similar issues talking to people as you do. You are not alone! Ask a fellow autistic person what helps them and what doesn't.
  • A few mistakes will not make people think any less of you. Apologize and move on.


  • Avoid any social interactions that make you feel extremely uncomfortable or unsafe. You do not need to put your life, health, possessions, or overall well-being at risk in order to get rid of your shyness. Make an excuse if you have to, then leave.
  • Keep socializing, even after your fears have disappeared. Practice will keep you from falling into your old ways.
  • Be wary of social skills classes. Many of them are designed to teach basic social skills, such as reading other people's emotions by their facial expressions or asking for directions. If you already know the basics, avoid these classes. They will waste your time and will not help you make any progress.

Article Info

Categories: Autism Spectrum | Overcoming Shyness & Insecurities