Don't Let Shyness Spoil Your Holidays
Experts offer tips to overcome shyness, especially during the holiday season.
Conditioning for the Holidays continued...
A part of your homework is what he calls "social reconnaissance."
Know who will be at the party and what their interests are. If it's a charity
bazaar, learn something about the vendors so you can make a constructive remark
to a stranger at the wine-and-cheese table.
One other thing: become a volunteer, if you're not one already, Carducci
tells WebMD. "There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer at the
holidays, and it's something you should do year-round. I believe that the
solution to shyness is in the heart. The more one focuses on others, the less
focus there is on one's self. Another benefit is that wherever you volunteer --
at the animal shelter or kids' club -- it's something you can talk about at
Tips for Making Small Talk
Carducci, author of The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk:
How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything, says there are
rules of engagement and a structure for making small talk. The Shyness Research
Institute web site offers five steps for being a successful schmoozer:
Step 1. Setting Talk: Getting Started. Make a comment about
the weather or your environment, such as, "Boy, this line is long," or
"How do you know the host?" You don't have to be witty or brilliant.
The purpose is to show a willingness to communicate.
Step 2. The Personal Introduction: who you are, what you
do. Anticipate being asked what you do for a living. Instead of a
terse response, such as "I work at the mall," a more fruitful response
would be, "I work at the mall selling cell phones, and you would not
believe the reasons people give me for wanting a cell phone." This will
invite the other person to engage.
Step 3. Pretopical Selection: fishing for topics. Toss out
a topic for discussion, such as, "I really liked this movie." If the
person isn't responsive, offer another topic. The rule of successful small talk
is that when someone throws out a topic, you should support it by asking a
question or commenting.
Step 4. Posttopical Elaboration: expanding the topic.
Associate the topic of conversation to other related topics. If the topic is
vacations, say, "Speaking of vacations, we had some great Caribbean food.
Have you ever had Caribbean food?" It's the give-and-take than makes
Step 5. Conversation termination: a gracious ending that creates the
connection. Let the person know you'll be leaving soon, express
gratitude for the conversation, summarize some of the major points, and set the
stage for future conversation. You can say, "I really must be going soon,
but I had a great time chatting with you. I really appreciate your comments
about that new movie. Here's my card. Call me if you know of any other movies
you think I might enjoy."
"Shy people often get stuck on 'setting talk,' or they have a favorite
topic and dominate the conversation," says Carducci. "They talk at
people, not with them. You don't have to be a brilliant conversationalist; you
just have to be kind."