Friday, 15 January 2010

Overcoming shyness

I am painfully shy. I find it incredibly hard to strike up a conversation with someone unless I know them really well (or it's virtual). It frustrates me a lot. As a child, particularly following a move of schools, I was considered stuck up. As an adult, it has stopped me making new friends (although I'm very happy with those I have!) and joining mother and baby groups. At the theatre the other evening, I know the American guy next to me at the theatre would have struck up a conversation but I avoided eye contact on every occassion. Yet I was really interested to learn more about him. I like knowing more about people, so what am I scared of? Looking silly, maybe unintelligent, saying too much (I can't really do small talk). I'm not sure really - probably all of these things. Actually, I think mostly it's that I'm worried that people won't like me.

Yesterday I agonised about speaking to someone. This was part shyness and part awkwardness. Their baby had recently died, 2 days old, completely unexpected. They were back in the office after some time off - it was the first time I had seen him since I'd heard the news. What's the right thing to do?

I was completely unproductive for the next hour (sorry boss) as I agonised about this. I know that grief is very personal. I know that one of the things that I found hard was that very few people spoke of Monkey or what had happened when I returned to work and that made things harder for me (whilst shy, I am also incredibly open). But this was a man... in the office. He might not want to get all emotional. I might make it awkward for him. He might just be trying to carry on, not wanting to dwell. Grief is very personal, whose to say what his preference might be. I weighed it up and decided that on balance the right thing to do was to put my shyness to one side and to acknowledge his loss, if there was an appropriate opportunity.

The perfect opportunity arose, the conversation went well. I think I may have helped a small bit. And I think it was the right thing to do.

My next conundrum. We had a brief chat and he asked me how long it took me to get back to 'normal'. I came up with an answer (which I'll share one day). The thing is I now have a much better answer which I want to share because I think it might be helpful but don't want to appear like this mad, bereaved stalker woman. Hmmm.


  1. I hate it when that happens. The perfect response comes to you hours later and you wish you'd said it!! Maybe now you have opened the conversation he might seek you out to talk about it and then you won't have to bring it up out of the blue?

    As for the shy thing, I wish I was a little more on the shy side sometimes. I hear myself saying things sometimes and just think "shut up you idiot! why are you talking such utter nonsense to strangers??" eek.

  2. Hope you don't mind but I've linked you from my post tonight. x