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    Holiday Survival for the Ultra Shy

    Just because you're shy doesn't mean you have to dodge the mistletoe this holiday season.

    Respect Your Shyness Comfort Zone continued...

    "One thing shy people can do is pick out a friend or family member as a coach," Cheek says. "That person can then act as a bridge to the social world."

    When considering invitations outside your comfort zone, focus on the possible benefits rather than the risks. "Going to an office party might make you feel anxious, but it has the potential for the rewards of human connection," Cheek says. He advises shy people to avoid the "all or nothing" trap. "They tend to think, 'Either I've got to stay home or I've got to be the life of the party.'" Showing up at the office party doesn't mean you have to hang out under the mistletoe. Give yourself permission to enjoy being an observer.

    Forget "Fashionably Late"

    In the days before a big party or daunting social function, do some reconnaissance. Find out where to park, who will be there, what type of food will be served and how much money you will need. Knowing what to expect may remove some of the stress on the day of the event.

    When the date arrives, don't make the mistake of showing up late. Carducci explains that shy people need time to warm up to a new situation. "Shy people think, 'I'll go to the party late so there will be lots of people there. I'll blend in.' But it's harder to break into ongoing conversations. Rather than showing up late, we tell shy people to show up early. You get to meet people on a one-to-one basis."

    Another common mistake is leaving the party after just 15 or 20 minutes. Carducci says that while putting in a quick appearance may seem like a good compromise, it doesn't give you a chance to get your bearings. Those who tough it out longer may find their initial discomfort fades. This strategy works well for Nan, who is back on the social circuit with the help of counseling and medication. "When I get to a party, I give myself a few minutes to survey the situation and see where I can ease into a conversation. I usually find the people I know and talk to them first."

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