Thursday, January 16, 2014

Just Shy

"Hello, my name is Nathan, and I'm shy," I mumble at the support group. Except I don't go to a support group, because we shy people prefer to stay inside.

When I have close friends, sure, I'll go out with them pretty easily, but alone, or with most people, even most of my friends, it's more comfortable to just not put too much effort into being out in the world.

Shy people are difficult. I'm difficult. I have a hard time starting conversations. I have a hard time finding points of common interest. I have a hard time even responding in the optimal manner to simple questions like, "How are you doing?"

Of course I'm not just shy, I'm also a bit of an oddball. When I come out of my shell a little I'm full of silliness, odd expressions, exaggerations, and other nonsense. I don't like the normal way the world works. I make my own rules sometimes, so long as they are in keeping with morality. Very rarely I've "adopted" my very best friends as extra siblings, which I take pretty seriously, but I don't think even these great friends understand. I guess it would help if they were coming from the same place (but my home planet exploded, so...), oh well.

But it's not just me. Most shy people are kind of difficult. We're hard to get to talk, we don't reveal things about ourselves easily. Even having the experience of being shy myself I often can't figure out other shy people, or get much out of them.

There are surely many reasons for people to be shy. In any particular person some or all of these may be major factors: A simple introverted personality (focusing more in the mind than out on the world), a fear of rejection, caring too much what others think, a perfectionism that wants each word to be understood exactly as intended, a social awkwardness that tends to cause difficulties in communication, etc. I've got at least some amount of all these myself.

In the worst case it could be an actual dislike or disregard for other people and a complete inability to relate to them. That's why we hear, "Look out, it's always the quiet ones." But it's usually nothing so terrible, and we self-conscious shy people hardly need people suggesting that we're all serial killers. Thanks a lot (you're going on the list).

What can be done then? Well, Christ didn't just call us to love the easy people, so let's put in some effort to reach shy people.

First, try to make time for them one-on-one or when they are with someone else they are already comfortable with.

Ask questions, but be careful about putting them on the spot, especially if you're in a group.

Conversely, try not to let them feel left out of the group entirely. It's easy for that to happen. I usually avoid groups for that reason.

When you find a common interest, remember it, and use it to build common ground. Or even if they bring up an interest that could prove to be interesting with a further look, consider exploring it with them. But don't necessarily limit yourself to that one topic, especially if they are opening up.

Take a little care. Shy people often worry too much about what other people think, so they can be a little sensitive, even if they don't show it.

But if you do get a shy person to open up, and you become good friends, they could be very loving and loyal. They usually don't make friends so easily, so they care a lot about the few they have, and they can be a great gift from God.

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