For many people the thought of meeting people, or spending time in close contact with people they don’t know is a very stressful experience, and they will try to avoid such contact. For many, this kind of contact causes extreme anxiety.
I am by nature a very shy person. I grew up being fearful of crowds, but mostly I was fearful on eye-to-eye contact with a person, whether it be a stranger, a teacher, or even a friend. I would always find myself looking past the person, rather than at the person, so I was talking at the person, rather than to a person. I found a way to stop this in myself and I have taught it to others. My daughter also suffers from this same type of shyness, so I have taught her how to combat her fear.
The key to combating the fear is practice! Yes, I said practice. When I know I am going to meet someone new, I practice before ever meeting him or her. First, by myself I pretend the person is in front of me, and I say aloud, “I am so pleased to meet you.” and I am pretending to look the person in the eyes and smile as I speak. I have even done this looking in the mirror at myself to see my facial expressions. I want them to come across as real and not forced.
Next, I get someone in my family to role-play with me. I pretend I have just met my son (stranger) for the first time. I take his hand and grip it with one or both hands and look him in the eye and tell him how pleased I am to meet him. Then I precede to introduce him to the other members of my family.
This technique has helped me greatly to make eye contact with people and to be able to maintain a flow of conversation. I have learned to ask people about themselves. I learned that people loved being asked to talk about their families and their lives…and that is how we get to know one another. If we never share and think we must mind our own business all the time, we will never get to know anyone else.
A very shy mother and father brought me up, and my mom said never to ask anyone anything. Can you believe that? She said, “If they want you to know something they will tell you.” I found out by mixing with other people, that they do ask…”do you have children?” “Are you married?” “What do you do for a living?” etc…etc… I found out that people love it…and that is how we get to know one another.
I have always been afraid of fancy banquets, you know…like corporate Christmas parties and the like. I never knew what fork to use, or what to do with my napkin. I learned to watch what others do, and then I would do the same.
So, my advice to anyone would be to just loosen up, and get over ourselves and know that nobody is going to hurt us. Nobody is going to think we are stupid if we open our mouths to speak to someone, or join in on a conversation.
With practice it all comes to be natural. There is nothing to fear. Now get out there and have some fun!