Don't Be A Wallflower--How to Overcome Shyness at Work 1


There are some people who can walk into any room with an air of confidence and instantly become friends with everyone. Those people are called extroverts, and many of us introverts often envy them in the workplace. However, even extroverts suffer from shyness at one point or another.

Whether you’ve been on the job for years, or are just starting in a new position, shyness can severely undermine your professional success. But your situation isn’t hopeless–you just need the right tools! Use these ideas to come out of your shell, achieve more, and even use your natural personality to your advantage.

Know what’s causing the shyness.
You’re not shy 100 percent of the time. When you’re away from work with close friends or family, you have probably noticed that you’re more open and comfortable. Only certain situations trigger the shyness, and it helps if you can identify what they are.

Think about a few instances when you’ve been socially anxious and shy, and analyze those situations. What do those situations have in common? Shyness is the result of feeling insecure. Pinpoint what you were feeling insecure about those times, and take action on it.

Identify your strengths.
When you get nervous and shy, you tend to focus on what you’re not good at instead of recognizing what you are good at. This just leads to more anxiety and dwelling on the negatives.

Stop selling yourself short and focus on your strengths. Make a list of all your achievements and the project goals you’ve accomplished. Then read your list before going into a situation where you usually feel shy. By keeping your strengths top-of-mind, you’ll be more relaxed and confident in yourself.

Ask more. Talk less.
This is a great trick to get the focus off of you and onto the other party. While the other person is answering your question, you can take a moment to recompose yourself. Here are a few simple questions to keep the conversation going and put you in a great position to continue the interaction:

  • What do you think about this?
  • Why do you say that?
  • Could you tell me more about…?

Speak up during meetings.
Speaking up during meetings will help you get more comfortable around co-workers. It’s easy to just sit and listen during meetings, but speaking up will help show that you’re engaged in the discussion. If there are many action items, summarize your notes back to the meeting leader to confirm that you have all next steps and due dates accounted for. This will show that you’re proactive and on the ball.

Don’t procrastinate.
When you know you’re going to have to speak or present, don’t avoid thinking about it until the last minute. This will only make you feel rushed and more anxious. Procrastination also leads to making excuses to yourself for why things didn’t go as smoothly as you wanted. Take time to prepare in advance so you’re more relaxed.

Practice, practice, practice.
If you have to give a presentation or speech, and know that public speaking isn’t your greatest strength, set aside time to rehearse. According to one psychologist, nervousness is determined by the importance of an event’s consequences and your level of confidence in your success. When you practice your speech ahead of time, you will have a much higher level of confidence in yourself. If you are giving the presentation at your office, try to practice in the room you’ll be speaking in. Being comfortable with the room ahead of time will make you less nervous the day of.

Set goals.
Make a list of all the issues that cause you anxiety before an important job interview or presentation. Then, narrow down the list to the issues that are within your control. Make it your goal to address the factors you can control, one by one. Working through these issues will make you more confident and help minimize your fears.

Road map your conversation.
According to psychologist Bernardo Carducci, we tend to have a conversation in five stages:

  1. Opening line
  2. Introductions
  3. Trying out topics
  4. Exploring common grounds
  5. Closure

Keep these steps in mind during an interaction with your boss or other co-workers. Knowing these steps will help you recognize where you are and where the conversation should go next if you start getting choked up due to nerves.

Use being introverted to your advantage.
Last, but certainly not least, know the benefits of being introverted. Being shyer than your extroverted co-workers can actually be a positive attribute in the workplace:

  • When introverts make mistakes, they’re often less visible and out of the public eye, compared to mistakes of their extroverted counterparts.
  • Introversion can also help you avoid conflict at work. If you’re not sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong, you’ll likely stay out of unwanted drama.
  • Introverts are often viewed as collected and thoughtful. Your boss and co-workers will know that when you do speak up, you have something important to say and are not just talking to hear yourself talk.

Using these steps will help you calm your nerves and appreciate your personality more. With a little bit of confidence, and just a touch more assertiveness, you’ll be achieving more in the workplace in no time.


If you need help building a great team at your company, connect with the group at Harvard Resource Solutions. We provide the talented candidates your organization needs. Schedule a meeting with us at your earliest convenience.

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