Shyness can interfere with our enjoyment of life and limit our advancement in the workplace. It is an astonishingly common problem -- 93% of Americans identify themselves as shy in some or all situations. Here’s how to get past shyness at parties, business gatherings and other social events...
Research the guest list. Prior to a business event, ask the host who else will be attending. If the names are unfamiliar to you, research them on-line through a Google search or their companies’ Web sites. The more you know about your fellow guests, the less they will seem like strangers and the easier it will be to start conversations.
Collect three offbeat news stories before any social gathering. Scan past big headlines to compelling smaller stories that other people might have missed. These make great conversation fodder when you don’t know what to say.
Recognize your social strengths. Shy people tend to assume that no one wants to speak with them. The truth is that shy people make great conversation partners in social settings. Unlike “life of the party” types, shy people actually listen during conversations, and they do not scan the room while talking to a conversation partner.
Dress appropriately. Shy people generally become even less comfortable when their attire does not match that of others present. If you are not sure what to wear to a gathering, call the host and ask... or wear an outfit that can be adjusted for the occasion, perhaps by removing a tie or jacket or adding a necklace or scarf.
Arrive on time. When you arrive late to social gatherings, everyone else already is in groups, making it more difficult to join in. It’s easier to arrive on time and position yourself near the door or bar, where you can easily start conversations with other early arrivers before groups form.
Learn to identify other shy people. When shy people enter crowded rooms and no one invites them over, they tend to assume that everyone else is aloof and uninterested in conversing with them.
In truth, people who appear aloof usually are shy themselves. These people would probably love it if you walked up to them and started a conversation.
Point yourself toward the most animated group. It is difficult to just walk up to a group of people you don’t know and join in their conversation. To minimize the odds of awkwardness, select the group that is doing the most talking and laughing. People tend to be at their most open and inviting when they are enjoying themselves.
Stand on the periphery of this group, and when there is a break in the conversation, ask, “Mind if I join you?” You will never be turned down. If you feel you must explain your presence, add, “This group looks like it’s having the most fun.”
Helpful: In general, it is not advisable to attempt to join groups of two. You might be butting in on a private conversation.
Important: For extreme shyness -- that is, if your pulse races and you become drenched in sweat at the very thought of attending a party... or if social fear causes you to avoid virtually all interaction with strangers -- seek professional counseling.