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Question
Posted by: Annie | 2010/01/26

Shy

I find it hard to make small talk. I find it harder to start a conversation &  maintain a conversation. I shy away from people &  duck in shops when I see someone I know so that I don' t have to say " hi"  or make silly small talk.

I' m quite a quiet person but this is driving me up the way as NO ONE notices me!! Let me just say again, I don' t know how to be sociable, start or maintain a conversation.

What is wrong with me?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Many of us are shy, some to such a severe degree it gets called Social Anxiety Disorder. But it generally responds really well to CBT style counselling, to help one grow in self-esteem and self-confidence. And to learn some simple social skills - for instance, recognize that most other people will consider you a great conversationalist if you actually say very little, but ask a few open questions and just listen a lot. It's much harder, and more desirable for most of us, to find a good audience, than to find someone to talk at us !

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3
Our users say:
Posted by: Linus | 2010/01/26

Annie - if you don' t know how to be sociable it could be that you cannot pickup social cues. Have a look into Aspergers Syndrome - a condition one eminent Prof of neuro pyschiatry commented recently as the most pressing pyschiatric problem in society today.

Reply to Linus
Posted by: Purple | 2010/01/26

Shame, that sounds quite tough. I' m fairly extroverted so don' t suffer from this but I have a very introverted husband and quite an introverted child, so I do understand the cripplying fear you seem to feel about speaking to people.

The problem is though, that if you hide away from people you know and don' t want to initiate conversation ever - people don' t understand that you are feeling shy and uncomfortable, they just think that you are either rude and don' t have manners, that you were brought up badly or that you are a snob. I don' t think its that people don' t notice you, they are probably angry with you because of your behaviour, as it is making you very noticeable.

There' s no need to have a long chat and share your lifestory with everyone you see in the supermarket, but a wave or " hello"  will be well received, and people will think much more kindly of you. As you get to know people better (once they warm to you again), you can ask how they are, and say things like " isn' t it hot today" , " that' s a lovely shirt you are wearing" , " I can' t decide between vanilla or chocolate ice-cream, choose one for me"  - that' s if you don' t really mind which one you eat, they might choose something you hate.
If you ask people questions about themselves, their children or their pets they usually chatter away and you don' t have to say anything, so they probably won' t even notice you are cringing with embarassment next to them. If you have somesthing in common with them it gives you a conversation opener. If the conversation goes silent, don' t try to fill it, start moving your trolley and say " sorry, got to dash, need to get to the vet / hairdresser/fetch timmy from school / make lunch etc.

Prepare a couple of stock questions like these and practice them in front of the mirror so that you are ready when you see people you know.

Most peolple hate small talk - there is a reason we all chat about the weather and not much else when we bump into someone.

My son is 5 and I was worried that he felt just like you do. By practicing a lot at home, he now greets people and asks how they are. He doesn' t say more unless he knows them well, but that' s fine by me. (when he knows them well he shares all sorts of embarassing things with them, but that' s children for you).

Reply to Purple
Posted by: cybershrink | 2010/01/26

Many of us are shy, some to such a severe degree it gets called Social Anxiety Disorder. But it generally responds really well to CBT style counselling, to help one grow in self-esteem and self-confidence. And to learn some simple social skills - for instance, recognize that most other people will consider you a great conversationalist if you actually say very little, but ask a few open questions and just listen a lot. It's much harder, and more desirable for most of us, to find a good audience, than to find someone to talk at us !

Reply to cybershrink

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