I have always been painfully shy for as long back as I can remember. As a kid for the usual kid reasons, and now as an adult though things have improved somewhat, I’m still categorised as “reserved”.
My career doesn’t help here because the number of hours that go into my training leave me physically drained and mentally exhausted for a conversation. I’m quite used to spending a lot of time alone and sometimes may be guilty of hiding in that space too.
I do, however, realise that unless you’ve committed some unspeakable crime, solitary confinement is not a natural state of things. So I have worked on my weaknesses and put together some thoughts for people who suffer from similar problems. And I can now, quite successfully, write all of these down in ‘Abhinav Bindra’s Guide to Making Friends’ (*for Shy People).
It has always taken me a while to open up, but identifying the type of people who attract you definitely helps. I personally like outgoing people with a great sense of humour. Because, shy as I am, it’s often up to the other person to break barriers, while I squirm staring at my shoes. A positive aura or energy that one picks up on, almost subconsciously, helps. It creates an instant feeling of comfort for the timid at heart.
Sadly, shyness can be mistaken for arrogance. Perceptions are made on other parameters and shy people can often be grossly misunderstood. There are, however, some basic rules. Every now and then you can look up and say something… anything generically polite works.
Ask questions to engage other people and learn about them. Most people love to speak about themselves and this diverts the spotlight from you.In order to overcome the strange lulls in conversations between new people, I now have a few key ice breakers specially reserved for dinner parties and general outings. One that never fails me is “so how do you know so and so?” That normally meanders into some kind of verbal interaction.
The quickest way to make a friend is to smile. When you smile, people think you are friendly and easy to talk to. It may not be easy at first to smile and our demeneaour can give all kinds of wrong impressions. So I strongly recommend all my shy readers use some private time and practice in front of the mirror. I have tried all of the above in some combination or the other and can vouch for them. Somewhere, along the way, I did manage to make some of the best friends that anybody can ask for.