How to Talk to a Shy Person

When talking to a shy person, it is important to follow certain guidelines so that you don't intimidate or discourage them while trying to have them open up to you.


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    Approach in a non-threatening manner, with a smiling, friendly expression. Try to make eye contact, but don't expect them to reciprocate, since looking someone in the eye can be very difficult for a shy person. Avoid walking up to them too quickly or suddenly, for this may appear threatening. Avoid smirking, sarcasm, and bringing a lot of friends (it makes you look like a clique).
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    Limit questions. It may seem obvious, but it's amazing how many people don't seem to understand that shy people are afraid of talking to you. They'd rather listen to you. By all means ask questions and show that you are actually interested in what they have to say, but don't belt out questions one after the other without talking about yourself in between. Doing this makes you sound like an interrogator, not a friend.
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    When you do ask questions, avoid ones that are personal. Try focusing on something related to the current location or activity. Ask what they think about different things that come up in the conversation. Try to avoid yes/no questions. Instead of "Did you like the new movie?" ask "What did you think of ..." After covering other topics, it may be more acceptable to ask what their favorite things to do are, but don't open with it.
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    Be patient. It may take some time to get the full answer, so don't be afraid of a little silence. Prompting, such as "go on," or "what are you thinking?" will not help and will likely make them nervous. You should also generally avoid finishing their sentences when they pause momentarily. They may want to articulate their thoughts in a particular way, so give them enough time to do so.
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    Listen carefully to their answers and give positive feedback, such as, "That's an interesting way of looking at it! I never saw it that way." Be sure to give sincere feedback between questions; if they don't think you mean what you're saying, it won't help you.
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    Look for topics that seem to engage your friend. You would be surprised at how much shy people can blabber once you get them onto a topic they care about.
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    Encourage them to feel comfortable with you so they will trust you. Avoid making jokes at the expense of shy people. On the other hand, be judicious with potential compliments; many shy people may feel flattered in a nervous way when someone who interests them compliments them. Compliments can make a shy person feel more comfortable around you if they seem sincere.
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    Invite them to do something with you. If you have discovered an activity that they enjoy, or have one in mind that you think they would appreciate, ask them if they would be interested in meeting with you (and possibly a few of your friends) later for that activity. It may be that the shy person prefers doing things rather than talking about them.
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    Express a positive impression of interacting with them. When it's time for you to part, smile and let them know that you appreciate talking with them. You may want to tell them that they are welcome to talk with you and your friends anytime, but be aware that they will be much more likely to seek one-on-one conversations with you, at least initially. It is best to choose complimentary parting words that you really mean; if you seem insincere, they may feel discouraged rather than uplifted.
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    Don't talk to them like they are stupid or weak. That's annoying and insulting. Some of the smartest people are shy.
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    Don't stare at them or tease them about their shyness. That makes them feel more shy and make them not want to talk to you.


  • Many shy people have another side to them. If you happen to make friends with them, you may find that they are loud, fun, and funny.
  • Don't ever ask a shy person why they are shy because that just makes them feel even more awkward and shy. When you talk to a shy person be patient so they know that they can trust you.
  • Calling attention to the person's shyness can make them feel uncomfortable. If someone is shy, don't tell them that they are; similarly, don't ask them why they are so quiet. They have most likely heard these things many times, and talking about it most likely will be counter-productive.
  • Don't be discouraged if the shy person doesn't seek you out for another conversation. That doesn't mean they dislike you. All it means is that they still aren't comfortable with initiating a conversation.
  • Shy people tend to choose their words with care. When they say something, be sure to listen, and then think about what they said and the inflection they used before responding. There may be several layers and meanings hidden in the folds of that sentence you thought was simple and straightforward. When you respond, know that your shy friend wants you to understand the hidden meanings and layers, in addition to just the words. A blunt or overly simple response from you could potentially be interpreted as a loss of interest or being dismissive of their comments.
  • Some shy people really want to talk to you, but just aren't sure how to approach you, try checking back with them every once in a while, this will help them get used to you.
  • Just talk freely with the shy person. It may seem like they don't want to talk with you, but in truth they very well may, or they would probably just leave.
  • You may have to initiate the conversations before you get to know a shy person. But after you become friends, they'll likely be more open and outgoing with you.
  • Try to stick to subjects having to do with where you are at the time. For example, when at school, it's easier to talk about school. If they are very shy, avoid asking questions about their personal life, and stick to general things when it comes to likes/dislikes.
  • Shy people are usually sweet and nice people and sometimes sensitive. Don't mess with them even as a joke because it might still hurt their feelings. Try to be genuinely nice, and they'll usually be the same way back.
  • Don't pressure a shy person to contribute to a group conversation. If they are not already participating, and especially if they are off to the side not even noticeably listening, abruptly requesting their input will likely make them quite nervous, since several people will suddenly be fixing their attention on them. If they are already part of the group and hesitate to contribute, however, asking a simple question related to the topic at hand may be helpful for allowing them a chance to speak.
  • A lot of shy people prefer to work alone, so don't pressure them to work with someone else. Also, ask the person if they would like to work with you, they will most likely say sure. It's just easier to say sure or okay. Don't be offended if they actually tell you that they prefer to work alone, though.
  • Be confident, but not overbearing. If you do manage to get them talking, be sure not to interrupt them. It will make it even harder for them to talk again if they feel like what they're saying is not sufficiently appreciated and that you may think that what they're talking about is unimportant/boring. Plus they may feel like you don't listen to them and that you don't care.
  • Find out his/her favorite thing and try to find something about yourself that relates to his/her thing. For example: You met a shy girl who loves cats. She has her own kitten, and you do too. So start by asking her name and then bringing up the topic.
  • Keep in mind that shyness is usually not a choice. Some people learn to be shy. Get over your shyness if you truly want to. It will not happen overnight but by doing something socially challenging everyday. The choice is yours.
  • Recognize that almost everyone is shy in some situations. Empathize with your shy friends; think of a time when you had to give a speech in class or talk to a group of people you didn't know. Remember how difficult it is, and appreciate their efforts.
  • Give them space. There is a certain distance for every person that they do not feel comfortable with others entering inside. Shy people almost always need more room, at least until they get to know you. If they tense or flinch when you come close to them, you've crossed the line. Take a step or two back.
  • Have an ongoing joke with this person. This will help them to be themselves around you.
  • Speak in a soft or well-modulated voice, but still be loud enough to be heard clearly. If the shy person is talking very quietly or mumbling, talking loudly to them won't help anything, and it may actually intimidate them into speaking even less clearly.
  • If you are talking to a shy person and they talk don't say "Wow, S/He just talked" "Guys, Guys, did you hear it?" It makes them feel awkward and then they might not even want to talk to you again.
  • Don't use constant eye contact straight away. Shy people don't usually feel comfortable when engaging in eye contact and so by you using it constantly will not help them open up to you or to feel normal around you.yes and we should have to try motivate them with our good sayings because no one is perfect in this world so we have to do friend ship with them and one thing is that umm they have much knowledge then so be careful about this things ...
  • Shy people have difficulty engaging in conversation. However, they are usually more willing to talk online, since they don't have anyone physically looking at them. See if you can get their email, or their username for a texting service, and get to know them that way as well as / instead of in person.


  • Don't say "Why are you so quiet?", "I don't bite", "Just talk. It's not that difficult.", "Don't be shy." or anything like that. It's insulting. When this is said, it always makes it more awkward. It could even make the person mad or hurt their feelings. It will turn them off to you, and the most likely response you will get is "I don't know", or even just a mean look.
  • Especially don't say "Oh my god, he/she talked!" if you hear them say something out loud. Not only is it embarrassing to the shy person, but it's just flat out rude and unnecessary. Just because shy people are quiet doesn't mean you should assume they've lost their voice box to cancer.
  • When initiating a conversation with someone who is shy, avoid approaching them as a group, especially if they don't know any of you well. For a shy person, dealing with several new people at once is more intimidating than just one. Since you want to be friendly and considerate towards them, you should try to have one person get to know them individually before introducing them to the whole group.
  • If a shy person happens to find you attractive, he or she might take your interest in them as being more than just friendly conversation. Make sure you don't give this impression. Some shy people may develop a very long term crush or even fall in love with you and not let you know for months or even years. If you suspect your shy friend might be attracted to you and you do not feel the same way about them, try to make it as clear as possible early on. You will save them a lot of pain.
  • Avoid touching them, at least until you become good friends.

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Categories: Conversation Skills | Overcoming Shyness & Insecurities