If you are much
more shy, then this business of being aware and saying hello back
is going to be a little more difficult for you perhaps. Because shy
people often avoid being aware in even the most minor of social situations.
They absolutely fucking hate it. They look down when someone says
hello, speak very softly, mumble, squirm, hyperventilate, half-ignore,
and do every fucking thing possible to pretend they are not actually
encountering Another Person who is acknowledging them. Particularly
someone not known to them or who they feel uncomfortable around or
what you have you. They really dislike the whole process, particularly
Greetings, and just wish the whole damn thing would go away. And I
am certainly not here to condemn that dislike. It's perfectly sensible.
It's also fucking killing you.
So we are going
to practice looking up and straight at the person greeting you. Directly
at them and saying hello as a solid and definite indicator of awareness
All right, it
sounds easy, but sometimes habit or circumstances make it not the
least bit easy. So we are going to break this down a little bit and
explain what happens and where things go awry for the Recurringly
Shy. So...the part the shy person often dislikes about being aware
is not that so much that they are aware of the Other Person but that
horrifyingly The Other Person might be aware of them!
Yikes! Shy people often experience this as self-consciousness. They
have a dreadful overwhelming powerful sense that it is completely
fucking dangerous for Other People to be aware of them because they
might attack! And they reason that it will be difficult for anyone
to attack them if they are not really aware that they're there. So
they try avoid being noticed and so on. They dislike the sensation
of attention because it seems absurdly and unrewardingly fucking dangerous.
And so they avoid
eye contact and so on. There are a couple of components to this. Regarding
eye contact, it's not all that uncommon among predators and territorial
animals to react to eye contact and acknowledgement as a threat to
territory, a challenge, or an invitation to battle over resources.
Human beings are both predatory (of other humans) and territorial.
They're big, skinny (well not in developed countries any more, make
that big, obese) unfurry mammals. So the desire to avoid eye contact
is instinctive. What the shy person is attempting to do, usually
unconsciously, is to signal that they are not a threat, using awkward
body language, lack of eye contact, lowered voice, and so on to indicate
that they could not possibly mount an attack.
People often do
this when they feel at a disadvantage in the social situation. Maybe
they have an accent or are from a foreign country, maybe they have
a lisp or a limp, or think they are ugly, or not as smart, or unfamiliar
with the situation. They feel they might not be able to hold their
own in the potential battle all of us fear when encountering others,
unrealistically or not. So they try to signal that they don't want
battle by trying to communicate lack of challenge nonverbally.
of instinctive behaviors can be triggered by Overactive Chemicals,
Dire Previous Experiences, or a combination of both. Sometimes
a person has had plenty of experiences where Other People who were
paying attention to them took the opportunity to yell or criticize
or pounce or spew bad energy or just generally scare the shit out
of them. This can happen fairly easily during childhood when Adults
are Larger and sometimes even Louder and their big insensitive nervous
systems which are used to the world overwhelm your relatively inexperienced
and cautious nervous system. Pouncing parents, mean siblings,
bullying schoolmates, abrasive teachers, you name it, the world is
full of potential attackers. And so some people come to associate
being paid attention to with bad fucking shit. They don't care for
it. And some people's nervous systems are just naturally more aware
to begin with. Shy people often hate awareness because they
have too much of it. Other People with less awareness blunder
around blindly being friendly and unshy all the fucking time because
they basically can't detect chemicals even when they are being blasted
with them like a firehose.
So you, Mr.
Shy Person, may not particularly like having Other People being aware
of you, particularly during the dangerous Greeting Phase. And
if you don't, your mind may jump into the fray, coming up with all
sorts of reasons why it's dangerous, why you're defective (hence the
thought that you're ugly), why it's not a good idea for anyone to
be aware of you because they'll hate you and pounce. This line of
reasoning can seem quite convincing at the time. And then your mind
will realize later - Fuck! This line of reasoning is having us avoid
all human contact. Shit! That's no good. We'll die, or at the very
least, never get laid! And then it will turn to you and shout 'why
aren't you more brave?! why don't you go out there and stop being
shy you wussy pussy motherfucker! Get out there and score some chicks!'
The mind is very fond of being contradictory and illogical when it's
gotten itself into a pickle. You will experience this if you haven't
are now going to come to your rescue and short-circuit all that bullshit.
As you have realized being ugly or what the fuck have you doesn't
really have anything to do with it. What you need to do is avoid that
trap by taking advantage of Step #2 of the Greeting Process. Establishing
You are going
to entirely skip worrying about the Other Person's awareness of you,
by firmly Establishing Friendliness with your responsive hello. Here's
how you're going to do this. You are going to say to yourself a million
billion times 'I am Friendly.' You are going to say this until you
are exhausted. You are going to repeat it to yourself like a mantra,
you are going to treat it like a rosary and act as if it will bring
you closer to God. Because it will.
your brain has to compete for processing space. Right now, fear is
winning. Habits are winning. Deep-rooted autonomic responses to stress
are winning. We are going to shove them out by having you process
something else. The Friendliness Mantra. When you go into work, you
are going to repeat this phrase to yourself until you are sick of
Then, when someone
says hello, you are going to accidentally leap into action by responding
in a friendly manner because your brain is going to have nothing else
to work with, you have stuffed it so full of this helpful and necessary
crap. Chronically shy people often don't realize the incredible
fucking magic of the Friendliness Gesture and how desperately
and pathetically all those unshy people in the world depend on it
to navigate through life with a little bit of safety. You need to
help them out! They are counting on you! Really!
So okay, someone
says Hi and you respond automatically with a Friendly Demeanor because
you have fucked yourself up so badly with the Friendliness Mantra
that you can't do anything else and then magically you will experience
a tiny moment of amazement at how friendly you sound and you will
find yourself accidentally looking at the Other Person full on in
a friendly manner. And then you will experience awareness and your
chemicals will calm down. That simple.
All you have done
is sidestepped the same danger you were afraid of in the first place
with an alternate method of making yourself safe. You have established
your non-threatening identity in a different way. You don't have to
get in a long conversation as a result of this. 'Hello' will do. All
you have to do is let your body experience how the damn process works.
Now for you
advanced students chafing at the bit because this is baby shit...you
need to realize you are going to use this same technique when you
ask a girl out, attend a Dreadful Social Mixer, some godawful Networking
Event, Give a Speech, Speak Out in a Group, or whatever advanced social
horror it is you're afraid of. You are going to go through the steps
of Awareness and Establishing Friendliness by Mastering the Greeting
the chemicals are not necessarily going to subside until after the
Greeting Process has taken place. Your body may still be all hyped
up. It's supposed to be. But because you are repeating the goddamn
Friendliness Mantra like a nervous maniac it is not going to be able
to get into your mind where it can convince you to freeze up or make
an awful fucking fool of yourself. Your mind is going to be taken
up with the Friendliness Mantra and it is going to operate on autopilot
enacting various Friendliness Gestures until you have established
that situation is not dangerous.
Honest to fucking
God you are going to be going around that Goddamn Networking Event
being friendly to people you don't know and are very intimidated by
as if you were a goddamn fucking pro and really were a friendly
person which maybe you would be if you didn't fucking freeze all the
Okay, now Shyness
Students, have you got it? 'I am Friendly' a million billion times.
Remember beginners to practice this first in familiar situations where
people are already talking to you. Soothe yourself by remembering
that you don't have to talk a lot and display your embarrassing accent
or whatever, you are simply learning to feel friendly. A simple greeting
will do. If people are not used to you responding in a direct and
engaging manner and start saying things like 'you seem perky today'
or whatever, don't worry about it. It's okay.
You are Friendly!
Okay, now it's
on to Step 2 where you will actually initiate conversations.