How to Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy

Three Methods:Making a Good First ImpressionSpeaking to the PublicManaging Your Shyness and Anxiety

Being shy or introverted can be difficult, especially in a work environment. If your job requires you to provide presentations, attend events, or speak at conferences for your industry, it can be stressful. You will have to interact with co-workers, or speak to other industry professionals, clients, and the public. It can seem overwhelming to someone who is shy, but you can break it down to making a good first impression, perfecting your public speaking, and managing your shyness and anxiety. Addressing these factors will help improve your social interactions, and decrease shyness in the workplace.

Method 1
Making a Good First Impression

  1. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 1
    Smile more. When you smile, it presents you to the world in a very non-threatening and helpful way.[1] People will respond much more positively to a person who is smiling than someone who is not.[2] Additionally, smiling helps you act confident through your body language even if you are not particularly feeling it.[3]
    • Smiling will not only help you make a good first impression, but will also help decrease stress hormones helping you feel a little more at ease.[4]
  2. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 2
    Address your personal appearance. Unfortunately people make snap judgments in about one-tenth of a second based on your appearance.[5] Knowing this occurs can actually help you prepare better. To make a good first impression and set yourself at ease, work towards creating the image of the person you want others to see. Knowing you are putting out a professional appearance may give you a confidence boost as well.
    • Make sure your clothes are professional and appropriate for the occasion or situation you will be in.
    • Wear something that you feel comfortable and attractive in to increase your confidence. Remembering to work within the appropriate dress guidelines for that type of occasion.
    • See to it that you are well groomed, showered, and deodorized. Pay attention to your fingernails, hair, and the use of perfume or cologne.[6]
    • Make sure your clothes are clean, neat, and well kept. This means to make sure there are no stains, wrinkles, or holes in your clothing.
  3. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 3
    Make eye contact. When speaking to a customer or co-worker, eye contact is essential to help maintain a good rapport between you and evoke positive reactions from them.[7] Eye contact shows interest, respect, and intelligence, and helps avoid the perception that you are rude, shy, or introverted. Not making eye contact can additionally make you appear distracted or nervous.
    • Focus on making eye contact especially when someone else is speaking to you, or when you would like to connect with your audience during presentations.
  4. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 4
    Have a good handshake. The handshake is so commonplace in the working world that we often forget how impactful it can be on a first impression. Try to develop a handshake that is firm and confident.[8] Make eye contact if you can, rather than looking at your hands to illustrate directness and confidence.[9] As silly as it may sound, find a friend and practice handshakes to get comfortable with the process and help you gain confidence in your handshake. According to Etiquette International a good handshake has the following qualities:
    • Keep your fingers together and thumb up as you enter into the handshake.
    • Your grasp should be firm but not too hard.
    • The handshake should last about 3 seconds including eye contact.
    • Release the handshake even if the introduction continues.
  5. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 5
    Maintain a professional attitude. It can be easy to become flustered or babble when you are shy or nervous in a work situation. Try to be as relaxed and pleasant as you can in the work environment. The more calm and relaxed you are the more your body will respond and help you to actually be calm. Be careful however, not to take your relaxed state too far. Try to avoid:
    • Being overly loud or boisterous.
    • Engaging in unprofessional conversation topics or office gossip.
    • Telling inappropriate jokes at work.
    • Interrupting or dominating any conversations.
  6. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 6
    Let the other individual take the lead in the conversation. Know when to talk and when to let the other person talk. It may help ease some shyness or anxiety to know that, in general, it is a good practice to let other individuals speak first. Maybe they have a question for you that can direct the conversation, or if not, ask them a question about themselves or their job so they can still have the floor first.[10] This will help take the pressure of making conversation off of you.

Method 2
Speaking to the Public

  1. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 7
    Practice relaxation exercises to help you be calm and at ease. It may be difficult due to anxiety you are feeling about speaking to the public, but if you feel on edge others will sense that and feel it too.[11] There are not many people out there that enjoy public speaking, so take comfort in the fact that everyone in the audience understands it is an anxiety inducing situation. Address your stress and fear and its ability to hinder you in presenting yourself as a strong and confident person. If you need help relaxing, try some breathing or relaxation exercises.
    • Sit or stand somewhere with few distractions. Breath in through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and slowly release the breath out through your mouth for a count of eight.[12]
    • Count your breaths as you exhale. Breathe slowly and count up to five breaths. Repeat a few times, while trying to draw your breath from the bottom of your lungs instead of your shoulders.[13]
    • Change the shy or anxious thoughts and actively shift your focus onto others and off of yourself. Instead of thinking, “I am so nervous. How can I be less anxious?” try and think “How can I make everyone else more comfortable?”
  2. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 8
    Pretend you are extroverted. Strangely enough, pretending you are not shy is effective.[14] You may end up convincing everyone else and maybe yourself, too! Many introverted individuals use this technique in order to be able to adapt to stressful work situations. Some ways you can accomplish this include:
    • If you work with or know someone with a charismatic friendly personality that you admire, pretend you are them. Take what you know about their attitude and style and act the part. Working next to others with outgoing personalities can be contagious just like smiling. Use this to your advantage.
    • Walk into a room and say “Hi” to everyone with a lot of energy and smiling. They will get the impression that you are outgoing, friendly, and approachable. The more you act like an outgoing person, the easier it will be to become on in these work situations.
  3. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 9
    Identify your fears. You may be shy, introverted, or you may have anxiety about social situations or speaking to the public that are making it difficult for you to work. Identify if you have any particular fears about working with the public or public speaking. For example, maybe you are afraid you will make a mistake in an important presentation or conference.
    • Know that you will make mistakes, because everyone does. Those mistakes, however, are all teachable moments and ways you can improve your work.[15] Remember that it is often not mistakes that define us, but rather how we respond to them.
  4. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 10
    Work with smaller groups or individuals. Working or speaking with a larger group of individuals has the tendency to make the work more complicated and can increase your stress. You may have anxiety over public speaking or with just speaking in any public situation.[16] A way to cope with this is to adjust the size of the group you are speaking with; reducing it down to a smaller group or just addressing an individual.
    • Break the larger group into a smaller, more manageable group. Separating into smaller groups allows you to focus more on fewer individuals and makes conversations easier.
    • Address one person in the group. If a client or a member of the public asks you a question, focus your attention on them and no one else in the group. This will show that person you are putting extra attention into their question, as well as help you focus and reduce your anxiety.
  5. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 11
    Be aware of or change how you speak. The tone of your voice and the way that you speak conveys a great deal to the individuals listening. One study determined that men with a lower tone to their voice were considered more dominant, and women who alternated the pitch of their voice were perceived to be more trustworthy.[17] Additionally, if you speak clearly and calmly, studies show that you will be taken more seriously.[18]
    • Practice speaking at home or record yourself to see how you sound and adjust your speech accordingly.
  6. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 12
    Be yourself. The problem many people face with social interactions in the workplace (or interactions with the public) is a lack of confidence. Remind yourself you were hired for this job for a reason, because you are good at it. Be yourself and bring your unique perspective and ideas to projects you are working on or individuals you are working with.
    • Additionally, allowing your personality to come out a little in presentations or at conferences makes it more interesting and engaging for the audience. It will also help you connect with your audience. Perhaps they will see something they can identify with in what you say.
  7. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 13
    Prepare thoroughly for your tasks, events, or presentations. If you are speaking publicly, chances are you are already an expert on the topic. Still, it may help your feelings of shyness or anxiety to make sure you are well prepared for your presentation.
    • Make sure to research your topic, prepare your notes or your presentation and rehearse what you are going to say. It is also helpful to give your presentation in front of family and friends first. The more confident you feel, the more confidence you will show to others.

Method 3
Managing Your Shyness and Anxiety

  1. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 14
    Remind yourself that you’re fine just the way you are. Being introverted or shy tends to come with a great deal of negative connotations in our society. You may feel shame or sadness in regards to your experience, or even question why you are the way you are.[19] Remind yourself being introverted is more of a personality trait that has its own set of strengths. The only thing to address is if your shyness is causing you to struggle with work. If that's the case, find a few ways to manage it in that setting.
    • Try to understand and remind yourself that anxiety and shyness in the workplace are completely normal occurrences. Many people have the same feelings you do if their job entails a public focus.
    • Allow yourself time to adjust to being in the public eye more often. If you’re used to spending a lot of time on your own or find speaking in front of others a challenge or draining, remind yourself that you can learn how to work with the public over time. It’s just a matter of practicing the set of skills you will need to perform your job.
    • Practicing new skills can be a bit nerve wracking, but it can also be exciting and fun. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable at first, because it’s new to you. This is the learning process. However, as you take small steps and see small improvements every day, it can be fun too.
    • Avoid putting yourself down. Everyone has to practice new skills in order to do them well.
    • Find resources dedicated to introverted individuals such as "On Being an Introvert at Big Conferences" by Aaron B. Hockley or "Plight of the Introvert" on Wordpress to help you understand you are not alone.
  2. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 15
    Define the difference between introversion, shyness, and social anxiety for yourself. Once you define the differences, decide where you fall and what you identify with the most. Placing a name on it gives you power to change it, own it, or overcome it. Acknowledge any fears you have and make a defined and realistic plan to work on changing them .[20]
    • Shyness. People who are shy tend to feel awkward in certain social situations, so they might avoid them now and then. However, shyness does not usually overtake your life. You can work on overcoming shyness by doing things you would not normally do, such as smiling at a stranger or introducing yourself to a new coworker.
    • Introversion. People who are introverted have a set of qualities that causes them to prefer being alone to spending time with people. Introverts may still be social and present themselves with confidence, but they might need more time to recharge after a lots of social time. If you are introverted, then you can learn how to balance your social time with enough alone time to recharge.
    • Social Phobia. Social phobia is a mental illness that causes some people to completely avoid social situations and it can have severe effects on one’s quality of life. If you think you might have social phobia, then you may want to see a therapist to get help.
  3. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 16
    Make calculated efforts to get involved at work. Getting to know your coworkers may make it easier to work with the public if you are shy. The support that you get from your coworkers may help you to feel more confident in different social settings. It's hard to jump into social or more casual situations at work, but try to get involved as much as you feel comfortable with. Generally, the more comfortable you feel with your co-workers or clients, the less shy or anxious you may feel the next time you interact with them. Take it slow and try the following:
    • Show up to the team building exercises.
    • Go out to happy hour with your co-workers.
    • Try to be helpful not only to customers, but also to fellow co-workers.
    • Spark short casual conversations with clients, coworkers, or the public based on observations. If someone is displaying sports memorabilia ask, “Hey, are you a Yankees fan? Me too! Did you see the game the other day?”
  4. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 17
    Address the energy expenditure. All of the interaction and working to change your experience for the better can have a drain on an introvert.[21] You are working hard to improve your career, just make sure you are taking care of yourself as well. Be prepared and have a recovery plan for yourself if you know a certain day or event is going to be particularly draining.
    • Practice telling yourself positive mantras or affirmations at the end of the day such as, “I faced my fears,” “I am proud of what I accomplished today,” or “Now I will take care of myself.” [22]
    • Create blocks of quiet, uninterrupted time so that you can recharge yourself throughout the day or at the end of the day.
    • Conserve your energy beforehand. If you are speaking at a conference or going to a crowded event avoid going to lunch with your coworkers beforehand or mingling with other conference attendees. Take some quiet time just for you if you know you'll have to push a lot of effort out soon.
  5. Image titled Get Used to Working With the Public if You Are Shy Step 18
    Give it time. The more time you spend interacting with strangers or interacting with the public, the more you'll get used to it.[23] Practice the techniques that work for you, and be proud of yourself for working with your fears and accomplishing your goals. Keep at it. You will find that you'll become more comfortable working with strangers and with interacting with the public in general.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (20)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Overcoming Shyness & Insecurities