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How to overcome shyness
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No Caption - photo by Kim Giles
Question:

How do I stop being so shy and teach my children not to be so shy? Im afraid of people and most situations and my children have picked up on this and are afraid too. Please help!!!!

Answer:

The good news is scientists have found the gene for shyness. They would have found it sooner but it was hiding behind some other genes.

Just kidding.

But I do have some good advice on this one.

The first crucial step in helping someone change their behavior is making them feel unconditionally loved and accepted for who they are now.

Make sure your child knows its OK to feel shy. It happens to everyone, and there is nothing wrong with him. There are actually some interesting advantages to being shy.

Shy people are usually more polite and considerate to others. They tend to pay more attention to things, because they arent as busy talking. Shy people may create better friendships, because they go for quality, not quantity. Shy people can be better at working independently and solving problems on their own. They may also be smarter, because they think things through more before they act.

Here are a few things you can do (and do with your children) to help you overcome fear of social interactions:

When going somewhere new, talk to your child and prepare him ahead of time. Talk about the anxiety he might feel and what he might feel afraid of. Talk about ways he can cope with his fears and calm himself down. If you are the shy person, you can think these things through and even journal about them. Write out some options for handling situations you think may happen

Plan some safe and successful social interactions. Plan lots of social events with familiar people as often as you can. This will build confidence for branching out to new settings with new people.

Learn some more social skills. You may want to find a coach or counselor who can teach you some communication and relationship skills. Knowing exactly how to respond to different situations gives you a lot of confidence. Visualize using these skills, practice, and role play with them at home. Practice how you would introduce yourself and start conversations. These are things your children also need to learn, so share what you learn with them.

Dale Carnegies book How to Win Friends and Influence People is a great book to teach you some of these skills. Carnegie recommends strategies like asking questions and letting other people do the majority of the talking. This makes people feel important and like you. Teaching children these techniques will empower them to handle social situations too.

Model healthy social behaviors yourself. Shyness is a highly genetic trait. You must show your child good social skills by example. If you avoid social situations or are nervous around people, you are teaching your child to fear people. Get some professional help with your own self-esteem and people skills if necessary.

Never criticize your child or embarrass them in public or around their peers. When they make a mistake, help them understand mistakes don't define them. We all make mistakes. They may have made a bad choice, but they are not a bad person. Mistakes are just lessons and nothing to be afraid of. Teach them to see life as a classroom (where we are learning, but our value isnt in question) not a test (where everything counts on your grade). This one mind-set change will help a lot.

Teach your child that what other people think of him doesnt matter. People are usually not paying attention to others anyway. They are focused on themselves. Help him understand that other peoples opinions cant change or hurt him. They dont mean anything.

Teach creative problem solving. Dont solve problems for your child. Ask questions and empower him to figure out the answers on his own.

Let your child change slowly. Change is a process and happens slowly, step by step. Help your child to set small goals and make a little progress each week. Let him decide what those goals might be. Encourage things like talking to one new person today.

Visualization is a great way to practice social behavior. He can practice handling social situations differently in his head. Teach your child to practice in his mind until he is ready to try it for real.

The best way to encourage another person to change is by encouragement. Tell your child often how confident and capable he is. If you tell him he is strong and brave, he will believe you.

I would strongly recommend some coaching or counseling to help you overcome your social anxiety. It is an easy fix with a professional who knows how to help. After you get your fears under control, you will be able to teach your children a better way of feeling and responding to life. We also have lots of free resources on our website to help you overcome fear. They would really help too.

You can do this.
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