We all know at least one person who is a social fringe dweller. Perhaps it is you? The quiet person with the downcast eyes, nervous mouths, and hunched shoulders. They are simply shy. In our overtly social society, shyness can be seen as an affliction. And certainly it makes social situations more difficult, even excruciatingly painful sometimes for all involved. But shyness, is a cognitive difference that occurs to 30% of people, and it isn’t a plague, it’s just a different way of being.
Shyness has been associated with negative outcomes — characteristics like difficulty maintaining eye contact, feelings of humiliation and sometimes even detachment are all known to be part of a shy person’s M.O. ‘It’s these traits that tend to affect some shy individuals’ ability to connect,’ says C. Barr Taylor, a professor of psychology at Stanford University.
But while shyness can often be seen as a bad thing, there are ways to use the personality trait to your advantage, Taylor says. “We tend to ‘medicalize’ everything,” Taylor explains. “Shyness shouldn’t be seen as a medical problem — it’s a pattern where you feel uncomfortable, but it’s very common.”
Shyness and introversion, while often used synonymously, aren’t the same. Society tends to look down on both introversion and basic shyness — however, there may be a slight benefit to them. In an opinion piece published in The New York Times, writer Susan Cain calls into question our culture’s aversion to these distinctive personality traits, citing that many view mild shyness as a social disorder and illness. General shyness, she argues, isn’t an illness but something biological — and a trait that’s completely underrated:
This does us all a grave disservice, because shyness and introversion — or more precisely, the careful, sensitive temperament from which both often spring — are not just normal. They are valuable. And they may be essential to the survival of our species.’
We should be celebrating the traits of shyness — and start looking at some of its aspects in a positive light — there are certain behaviors we can all tap into. Below, find common shy habits and how you can learn to make them benefit you.
People who are shy tend to be:
1. MORE THOUGHTFUL
Shy people are less reactive then the many extroverted socialites around them. Their cautiousness in social situations allows them to not only develop thoughtfulness, but critical thinking as well. Coupled with their excellent listening skills, shy people can have a vast and rich internal world. Most importantly, shy people think before speaking, avoiding a lot of hurt, misunderstanding and unfortunate social faux pas. Because shy people fearfully avoid social mishaps, they become more mindful of their words. They are therefore appreciated as being polite and considerate by other people. This in turn makes the shy person more likable and appealing in the eyes of others.
2. MORE ATTENTIVE
One benefit of being shy is the development of listening skills. Sure, shy people may not be the self involved chatterboxes of the party, but they are something vastly more beneficial. Their shy silence allows them to open their ears. To be attentive. To be keen listeners. This is a life skill that comes easily and naturally to shy people. Furthermore, those that are heard and payed careful and silent attention feel a sense of acceptance. Shy people help others feel appreciated and happy they are heard.
3. MORE INSIGHTFUL
Being shy allows you to understand people in a deeper way. Many shy people soon learn to become pro’s at people watching, or the observation of human behavior in social settings. This allows them to gain greater insight into the behavior, motivations, masks and minds of those around them. This enhanced ability to become insightful only comes with silence and reflection – the very skill shy people possess.
4. MORE INDEPENDENT
Shy people quickly learn to rely on themselves. Gone is the need for what Susan Cain, the popular author of “Quiet”, terms groupthink. Shyness naturally results in autonomy, independence, and self reliance. This is a great skill, allowing the shy person to function without the prerequisite need for other people. Therefore, shy people rarely become needy burdens to others, but learn to evaluate and motivate themselves, by themselves.
5. MORE APPEALING
An air of mystery surrounds many shy people. Because they are quiet and guarded, the mysteriousness of shy people can become an attractive quality. This can be beneficial for those seeking romantic partnerships. Shyness can serve as a hook that reels people in. After all, many people love the challenge of decoding, deciphering and breaking through the walls of mysteries. Shy people also possess the appealing quality of quietness. In the midst of chaotic situations, shy people can provide the calming and grounding effects needed to anchor others.
6. MORE APPROACHABLE
Shy people have a wonderful advantage in appearing non-threatening to others. Their social reserve and timid appearance reduces their chances of aggressive confrontation in social situations. Unlike their obnoxiously loud-mouthed, and unapproachable counterparts, shy people are more likable. Consequently, their likability can result in a lot more positive social encounters compared with other non-shy people.
7. MORE FULFILLING
Consider this thought: without the color black, there would be no contrast to white. Similarly, if there were no “bads”, then there would be no opposite to good. Everything would always be good, and good would be the eternal static norm. We couldn’t appreciate good without bad. There wouldn’t even be a concept of good without the concept of bad. Shyness is only a contrast to sociableness. It is the black to the white. Shyness provides an opportunity for personal fulfillment. It provides a challenge to overcome, and an obstacle to surpass.
Shyness can be seen as a miracle when traditional ideas are challenged. With shyness comes attentiveness, independence, thoughtfulness, insightfulness, and approachability. In many cases social reserve is a benefit, causing the shy person to become more appealing as well as opening a door to greater fulfillment.