Do you sometimes feel shy when you speak in English? Perhaps you don't feel shy all the time. Maybe there's another adjective that you want to insert into this space instead. Let me know your adjective down in the comments below and let's get started!
Now shyness is a deeply personal experience. The way that I experience shyness is different from the way that you do and the way that you experience shyness is different from someone else who's watching this video right now.
So I want to go over some strategies that you can use to feel less shy when you speak to people.
They may not all work for you but I'm hoping that there are a couple of little gold nuggets in there to get you excited about changing the way that you feel. Being shy relates to how fearful you are in social situations so it relates to how you feel when you interact with other people.
Now most of us are pretty relaxed when we're chatting with our friends right but we might feel shy or a little nervous when speaking to our boss. If you're learning a language, it is completely possible to feel shy in some situations where you just wouldn't feel shy if you were using your own language so your level of shyness and anxiety changes in different situations so that means that shyness is not a permanent state. You absolutely have the ability to change it.
If you are disagreeing with some of the things that I'm saying right now then it's probably not worth continuing with this video. We're just gonna have to agree to disagree. You can stop being shy.
Shyness can be overcome and confidence is something that you can learn and you can practise it over time. So I've got some tips to help you do this in today's lesson.
Now you may already know that in addition to the lessons and courses that I create here at mmmEnglish, I'm also the founder of The Ladies Project, a social networking platform for women learning English. The Ladies' Project makes it easy and affordable for women around the world to connect, make friends, practise and speak English with ease.
The reason I'm sharing this with you today is because over at The Ladies' Project, I've created a free mini-course to help you find the courage and the confidence to speak in English. Anyone can sign up to the course and complete it for free. I've linked to it down in the description below.
When you're talking to someone in English and you're feeling shy, what are you thinking about?
What are you worried about? What's going through your head? You might be thinking something like
- I'm gonna say the wrong thing
- I'm gonna embarrass myself
- I don't think they like me.
- I don't think they can understand me.
- I think they think I'm stupid
- I don't know what I'm talking about right now
- I don't know what to say
All of these things right?
But here's the thing. The real reason why you feel shy and you have trouble connecting with others is because in this moment when you're feeling shy you are far too focused on yourself.
1. Stop thinking about yourself!
To feel less shy, you have to stop thinking about yourself. With all of these thoughts going on in your head how can you have a genuine meaningful conversation with anyone?
You're so lost in your own doubts and worries and concerns instead of paying attention to the opportunity that's right there in front of you.
So what we need to do is shift the focus away from yourself and deliberately focus on the person that you're talking to instead which brings me to my next point.
2. Be curious
Be curious about the people that you're talking to right treat any conversation as if it's a mini-investigation.
What can you learn about this person?
What can you find out about them?
If you adopt this mindset, you do a couple of really awesome things.
So firstly, it's going to help you to take the focus off yourself right and you'll feel less worried about what you might do wrong or what you said wrong but the second thing is that it helps that person that you're talking to feel like you're interested in them which is what we all love to feel in a conversation right? You can practise this skill anywhere. It doesn't matter if it's with your boss or with the guy at the corner store, whatever.
Just practise this skill of being curious.
To do this well you need to practise asking questions. Just simple questions and have a few of those simple questions on hand, ready to ask at any moment.
There are so many little opportunities that pop up during a day when you could ask someone:
- Hey, how's your day been so far?
- Have you got any plans for the weekend?
Questions like this are simple but they help to open up a conversation and they help you to start investigating.
I've made a whole video about small talk questions so if you need some ideas and some inspiration for questions to ask, check it out. I've linked it up here.
3. Elaborate on your responses
Now what about when you get asked a question during a conversation because if you're feeling nervous and shy, your natural reaction will probably be quick answer something! Say something quickly! Don't go into detail there's less chance that you'll make a mistake. Quick just say something and get out of there!
But this discomfort, that fear that you feel in those moments is exactly where you need to play. You know, when you get asked a question, recognise that fear when you start to feel it and then challenge yourself to stay there where that fear is and elaborate a little more on your responses.
So if someone asks you a simple question and your answer is yes or no, always, always, always, always aim to give more detail in your answers.
Never provide a one-word answer, always think of a way to elaborate.
4. Have a story to share
Another way to overcome shyness and actually speak up in a conversation is to have a story to share. So stories are what connect us as humans right and sharing them helps you to develop meaningful relationships and connect with people in a more personal way.
So think about the stories that you can share. Think about some of the really common questions that you get asked. I mean, for example, where are you from? You know, you could easily say I'm from Lebanon or you could choose to elaborate and you could say something like
- I'm from a beautiful village in the mountains in the north of Lebanon where it snows on the peaks even in the middle of summer.
And just by sharing that little extra bit of information, I'm instantly intrigued. I'm much more likely to ask you another question since you've been so open and so generous with your response.
So I'm asking you now, can you think of a story related to your hometown? If you can, just practise telling it, what words can you use to describe the people or the smells or the food or your family traditions, just rehearse that story. Write it down, get it in the right order.
Get all the right bits in there and just practise it over and over again until it comes naturally.
This is one of my tactics that I use because for a long time. If someone asked me: “Tell me about your business”
I'd get really stuck and I'd freeze and I was kind of embarrassed about it like why can't you just explain what you do really easily? Why is it so weird?
So I decided that I was going to write it down and I got all of the right bits of information that I needed in there to help explain it, got it in the right order.
Then I practised it, I practised it in front of the mirror I practised it when I went walking and over time it started to come more naturally and now I've got no problem in sharing a quick answer about what I do in my business.
By doing this, I created more confidence in myself so that when someone asked that question, I didn't freeze you know, I thought okay I've done this before you know, there's nothing to be worried about here.
Just share what you've already prepared.
Now if all of this sounds a little staged and a little prepared, well that's because it is and this is a skill that you need to practise, right?
It's a strategy to help you overcome shyness so we're starting by preparing and organising your thoughts on paper and practising them and over time, doing this again and again and again is going to help it to come more naturally from you.
5. Talk to as many people as possible!
Another strategy to help you overcome shyness is to talk to as many people as possible which sounds like awful advice for a shy person right but the reality is that practice is what will help you to overcome your shyness.
Watching other people talking to each other is not going to help you. You have to find a way to do the hard work yourself and I promise that little by little, it's going to become easier. One of the biggest tips that I can share with you right here is to practise speaking with strangers.
So if you're shy about speaking English and you're worried about making mistakes and looking silly speak to people you don't know. They are the best ones to make mistakes on because you will likely never see them again, right?
So even if you do make a mistake and you feel bad for a second, it doesn't matter.
Even if they realise you made that mistake, even if you think Oh my god that was ridiculous, you're not going to see them again, it doesn't matter.
6. Notice your progress!
And lastly, notice your progress. After any English interaction that you have, take a moment to focus on the positives.
- What are the things that went well?
- Did you maintain eye contact?
- Did you manage to smile and feel a little more relaxed?
- Did you ask a question that got a really interesting answer?
These are all little wins you know and these are the things that we often overlook, especially if we make a mistake.
The mistake is the thing that we think about all the time because it's what hurts but there are really positive things happening all around you if you take a moment just to appreciate them.
So I want you to intentionally recognise and celebrate what went well. Becoming more confident and less shy is not something that you can make happen instantly like that, you know.
You have to accept that it's a process and it's going to take some time and to keep going, to stay focused, you must celebrate every step that you take in the right direction.
Hopefully, I can keep nudging you along in that direction as well you know, a little further away from fear and doubt and a little closer to confidence and you know, feeling really good in your English interactions.
That's it from me today.
I hope that this video has given you a few new ideas and maybe inspired you to take some action. Don't worry if the steps that you're taking feel small. As long as those steps are all going in the right direction, you're in a good place.
Lots of love. See you soon!