Acclaimed humour writer P G Wodehouse was known for his near-pathological fear of interaction with strangers. One day, as his wife was leaving to look for an apartment in New York, he called out to her: “Please find one on the ground floor!” “Why?” she asked. His reply: “I never know what to say to the lift boy.”
Everyone, including extroverts, suffer from social anxiety once in a while. Occasional self-consciousness has little, if any, effect on your life. But there are those for whom it is a bane. For such individuals, shyness is not situational but built into their very disposition. And it often costs them a lot in life—professionally and personally.
For instance, when it comes to academics, regardless of their aptitude and interest, shy men and women tend to choose subjects in accordance with their shy nature, carefully avoiding fields that need them to interact with too many people. Later, when they appear for job interviews, once again their shyness pushes them back as they find themselves less able to express themselves easily. As a result they do less well in job interviews and are promoted less often than their peers. Not only that, according to some social scientists, shy persons may actually decline a promotion, because the higher you go up the corporate ladder, the more people you will need to interact with. In business too, they lose out on sales and other business opportunities, again thanks to their reticence.
Shy individuals miss the boat in social settings too. Many can’t stand up for their rights and suffer silently. In a group, they are restrained in expressing their views and often forced to go with decisions they don’t agree with. On the personal front, they struggle with finding and making new friends and experience loneliness too. Their diffidence prevents them from letting down their guard and having fun. It is also difficult for them to express their feelings towards their loved ones, creating misunderstandings and heartbreaks. Some even lose out on potential marriage partners, all because they couldn’t muster up the courage to speak to them. In short, there are hundreds of other small and big ways in which shyness kills your joy and steals your potential for success, and shy people know them all too well.
In this issue, Michal Stawicki tells you how overcoming his shyness changed his life. He offers three easy steps that will make you more confident and socially comfortable. “Overcoming shyness doesn’t need polished first liners, wonderfully white teeth or a body language that emanates confidence. It takes minuscule habits practised every day with consistency,” he writes, while urging you to act on your hang-ups decisively.
If you suffer due to your shyness, take heart for in this issue you will discover that shedding it isn’t as ominous as it appears. All it requires on your part are three D’s—dedication, determination and discipline.