Dear Dr. Norquist:
I wonder if you can give me some advice on how to feel more comfortable socializing with others. I’ve always been a little shy. When I was a child I was extremely shy. Now that I’m older, and have kids of my own I find it’s not as difficult as it used to be, but I’d like to feel more comfortable talking with the other mother’s I meet at the park and around town. I admire how easy it is for some of them. I’d like them to think well of me and to like me, but, I never know quite what to say. Could you give me some advice?
Dr. Norquist responds:
It seems that you think it is bad to be shy. This world is made up of people at all points on the continuum of “shyness.” It’s OK to be shy. I do hear what you saying, however, regarding your desire to feel more comfortable relating with others, and I think it is an important question to address. I also come from a history of extreme shyness, so I can empathize with your experience.
Let me give you an inner game that you can practice to help yourself feel more at ease with others. First, recall the inner experience you have when relating with someone that you are extremely comfortable with – family or close friends. Now, practice conjuring up this feeling whenever you are around others. See your daily world as full of others who you know very well. This allows you to be at ease with yourself when you are relating with others – which helps others to relax and be comfortable around you. The more you open up inside yourself, the more you will easily enjoy the company of others.
We all have a tendency to be more self-conscious around those we don’t know well. This manifests in many ways – being more attentive to how we look, what we say, and what impression we are making. Once we do this, we become someone we are not, and start relating to others self consciously, through a certain persona, or “false self” we have created. This makes it very hard for others to feel at ease with us, or for us to feel at ease relating with others. Trying to please others or trying to make a good impression on others robs us of our inner power. I’ve heard it said that the impressions that ultimately affect us are not those we make on others, but rather, the impressions we allow inside ourselves as a result of our habitual feelings and beliefs about ourselves and the world.
Practice accepting yourself as you are, without judgement. This will make it much easier for you to feel at ease with others. Be real, direct and sincere in your interactions. The best way to relate with others is to accept and respect them as they are, and to treat them as someone you know very well. Others are not there to determine your worth, they are there to share life in this world we share in common. My advice is to practice the inner game I mentioned earlier, and to try the approach of enjoying each other’s company.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanyacounseling.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2017 Chaitanya Counseling Services