Shyness can be defined as the excessive focus on self. This means that shy people tend to be more self-conscious and to be fixated on how others view them; this may make them hesitant to communicate.
Shyness can be especially problematic in adult life.
Individuals who find themselves unable to start or participate in casual conversations may find their career and social prospects limited. All relationships start with the ability to communicate; the unwillingness to converse can prevent shy individuals from meeting people and from interacting in the workplace.
The Value of Small Talk
By focusing on simple topics, the individual can lay the foundation for deeper conversations later on. Small talk is conversation that deliberately avoids serious, emotionally charged matters so that it is friendly and casual; the point is to show the willingness to interact. Small talk also allows for the sharing of basic information. People can learn about someone else quickly from the conversation itself as well as from nonverbal cues. Topics like travel and food are excellent starting points for sharing deeper information and for asking questions as well.
Tips for Successful Small Talk
The ability to engage in small talk is not something that a person is born with, it is a skill that must be learned like any other. To become successful at it, it is necessary for the shy person to understand the rules and the basic format of small talk.
- Initiating Small Talk
It is a good idea to start with common ground. This is why the weather is such a popular starting point for conversations between strangers. The weather is something that people have in common regardless of age, gender or race. Other examples include comments on immediate circumstances, such as on the length of the wait in a waiting room. The goal is not to discuss deep and personal subjects, but for one person to let the other know that they are willing to converse.
- Asking Questions
These should be questions that most people will find easy to answer. It is important for the person asking the question to remember that the answer is not necessarily the most important thing, but rather where the conversation goes after. An example of a simple question: "How was the traffic on your way here?" A recent local sporting event could also be something that both parties have in common.
- Make Eye Contact
Eye contact indicates sincerity and an interest in what the other person has to say; however, too much can make people uncomfortable. It should be used in moderation and should never be avoided.
Listening helps people engaged in small talk know where to take the conversation. Bad small talkers tend to get stuck on subjects with which they are comfortable and wind up giving lectures instead of paying attention to what the other person has to say. Listening also helps to determine which subjects may make the other person uncomfortable and result in awkwardness.
- End Politely
Ending the conversation on the right note is one of the most important parts of small talk. The best casual conversation endings present the possibility for another conversation later on. The point is to avoid being abrupt and to make sure that the other person is not offended.
Shyness is not an insurmountable obstacle and one of the best tools for overcoming it is the ability to initiate casual conversation.
Honing the skill of small talk takes practice and the shy individual’s willingness to place themselves in social situations.