A shy person usually isn't introverted by choice, and usually is suffering as a result of a degree of social anxiety or social phobia. Because of that, getting a shy person to open up and become comfortable around another person can stir up nerves for both parties. If you want to get to know someone who has a shy nature, learn how to get that person in a comfort zone so that she can talk to you with freedom and relaxation.
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Lead the discussion. When you're trying to make a shy person feel comfortable enough to talk to you, do not expect him to take charge. Asking a shy person to steer a conversation will probably cause him to feel uncomfortable, pressured and self-conscious. Make him feel comfortable by orchestrating the conversation. Ask him open-ended questions. Tell him things about yourself. Avoid allowing uncomfortable silences to occur as much as possible.
Connect with the shy person by finding common ground. People may act shy because they feel judged by other people or because they feel like they have nothing in common with the people around them. In the case of the latter, try to establish a bond with a shy person by figuring out what you may have in common. If someone is comfortable with a topic and isn't in constant fear of running out of things to say, it could put him at ease and allow the conversation to flow without disruption or awkward pauses.
Find out the root of the person's shyness. If you want to make someone feel comfortable, learning the cause of his behaviour will help you identify methods of changing that behaviour. Get a shy person to open up to you by gently asking (without prying) about her life. Assure her that you are not trying to judge her but that you simply want her to be able to relax about you. Conduct this conversation privately so the person doesn't feel humiliated or monitored by others. Ask her what her biggest fear is, whether it's saying the wrong thing or other people thinking that she is ignorant.
Refrain from rowdy behaviour. Keep your demeanour courteous and amiable, but refrain from behaving in an over-the-top way (such as telling loud jokes and yelling). Too much energy can simply be too much for a shy person, who may feel uneasy by the loud demeanour.
Listen closely. To get a shy person comfortable and out of his shell, listen to him. Give him a chance to speak without interruptions. Put all of your attention on him and do not behave in a distracted manner. Indicate that you are listening by asking questions and using facial expressions.
Allow a shy person some time. When someone is socially anxious, she'll require time to get comfortable around another person. Do not expect a shy person to feel relaxed around you in mere minutes (and in some cases, even in hours). Be patient if you want a shy person to enter a comfort zone with you, as the process can be gradual. Never force a shy person to do something that makers her uncomfortable, whether you want her to talk to another person she doesn't know or sing in front of a crowd.
Encourage counselling. Some shy people simply are not aware that professional help exists for their problem. A person suffering from social anxiety disorder may not understand that he has a real problem that can be helped. Talk to a shy person about the possibility of seeking social phobia counselling, which can help in life situations such as encountering new people, going on job interviews and etiquette for social events and gatherings.
Tips and warnings
- Stay away from critical behaviour. One quick way to put a shy person on the defensive is by making a remark like, "Wow, you never talk!" or "I've never heard you say a word and I've seen you around here for three years."
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