Reality Check: Overcoming Shyness is an Employability Skill

In recent posts, I’ve suggested that the ability to get along with co-workers, bosses, and customers is a valuable employability skill. Unfortunately for some folks, shyness makes it difficult to get along.
Have you ever perceived that the “sweet talkers” get more opportunities, better jobs, and more easily make friends than others? It’s not necessarily because they are the best qualified or the best friend-material; it could simply be that they present themselves with confidence.
It may seem unfair if you are saddled with shyness while others are blessed with self-assurance. They don’t get tongue-tied, self-conscious, or embarrassed. Everything comes easily to them!
Some degree of shyness can be helpful. When you start a new job, for example, you’ll make a more positive first impression by exhibiting some restraint rather than making it all about you. Few people like a boastful know-it-all, and excess confidence or bravado can be perceived that way.
However, too much shyness isn’t helpful. And while there are shy men and shy women of all ages, here’s a piece of painful information intended particularly for shy young men. Are you ready?
Unfortunately, some of your naturally shy behaviours may be interpreted by the people around you not as shyness, but as annoyance or hostility.
I know that’s not what you intend. However, when your face is half-hidden by your hoodie, when you seldom look anyone in the eye, when your natural expression looks like a frown, people can get the wrong impression!
If you believe, “I was born shy; this is who I am and there’s nothing I can do about it,” you may be right. However, if you evaluate how that’s been working for you and find that shyness is holding you back, particularly in your workplace, here are some suggestions.
1. Try focusing outward rather than inward. People are interesting, and many will happily talk to you if you ask them about themselves. Who knew that Sally in the next office is a dog-breeder or that Joe is an accomplished beer maker? Bonus: conversations can be a fantastic way to learn.
2. Get involved. Contrary to what you might fear, everyone isn’t looking at you, laughing behind your back, or hoping you’ll make a mistake. Really. Choose to be interested and engaged in your work. Ask genuine questions: what you need to do, how and why things are done, what improvements could be made.
3. Use people’s names. (And get the name right.) Saying “Good morning, Sarah” builds a more effective connection with Sarah than just saying “Good morning.” But if the name escapes you, saying “Good morning” is better than saying nothing at all.
4. Smile. Even if it feels odd on your face. Even if other people don’t smile back. You can’t control what they do, but you can control what you do. Smiling helps.
Particularly when the workplace is new and you’re unsure of yourself, the need to work closely with people can seem excruciating. Rather than choosing aggravation as your response, try treating your shyness as an attribute that you can control. Let me know how it works…

This entry was posted in Workplace and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.