ASKED BY: ANONYMOUS
DAN’S ANSWER: The trick for getting my shy friends out of their shells is, always has been, and probably always will be alcohol. They don’t call it the great social lubricant for nothing.
If alcohol isn’t an option, there are other tricks.
First, it’s important that you don’t confuse being shy with being introverted. Shy people can definitely be extroverts and boisterous people can definitely be introverts. I bring this up because you’ve gotta remember that not all introverts want to “come out of their shells.” Many of them are very happy and content hanging out on the side and enjoying the shit show being put on by everyone else who can’t get enough attention.
I chose to answer this question because, believe it or not, I used to be so shy that I couldn’t even talk to any person I didn’t know. Approach a girl on my own? Forget about it. Speak up and have fun at a party? No fucking way. I couldn’t even raise my hand in class without paralyzing fear.
I was just shy as all getup., but I am actually just about as extroverted as they come. I was always dying inside, wishing my true funny, happy, awesome self would find a way to get the courage to come out and play. For so many years of my younger life, something would always stop me.
Eventually, I found a way to break out of my own shyness shell without the aid of alcohol, which I didn’t drink at all until I was 30. I honestly don’t know how I did it. I was just so determined to finally be seen and heard that my own desperation pushed me out of my comfort zone, I guess.
I have many shy friends, and I invite them to hang out often. When we’re hanging out one on one, it’s obviously easier to get over those walls. I just ask them tons of questions about their lives and get them talking about things they feel comfortable talking about. Once the floodgates open, it’s often hard to shut my shyest friends up. In big groups, though, it’s an entirely different ballgame.
The first thing I make sure to do when shy friends are hanging out is to never pressure them to join in and be a bigger part of the fun going on faster than they are comfortable. Pressuring them will always have the opposite effect. Shy people need to do things at their own speed.
And I do what I can at my speed. As quickly as I can, I offer them a beer. Or a glass of wine. Or a shot of something delicious. There is no doubt that a couple servings of alcohol, if imbibing is something they enjoy, will almost always remove their inhibitions so that they can be more free.
And isn’t that what shyness really is? Inhibition? Isn’t something getting in the way? Fear of being judged, perhaps? Fear of saying the wrong thing? Fear of being rejected? I’m sure every shy person has their own reasons and fears.
If someone is in the room who wants to join in the fun, alcohol honestly does do the trick close to 100% of the time.
Alcohol has a dark side, sure, but it also has an incredibly powerful and positive side if consumed responsibly. The reason I have as many close friends as I do is because of alcohol and the gift it gave us all to get to know each other on far more connecting levels than we may have been able to reach without it.
I can honestly say that I wouldn’t even be friends with some of my friends if it weren’t for alcohol because it was only the alcohol that let them take their own guards down long enough to become friends with me.
But what if they don’t like drinking or don’t want to? How do I usually get them out of their shells then? Alcohol isn’t always an option, and I certainly can’t force it down their throats.
The truth is that the only thing you can do is not worry about it, and slowly find another way to help your shy friends let go of their inhibitions.
The only way any shy person ever lets their guard down is if they feel safe with the people they are with. So… Help them feel safe.
Show genuine interest in anything they have to say, and don’t just nod and move on to more exciting conversations once they finish. Ask follow up questions. Dig deeper. Get them talking and sharing and keep your interest sky high until something triggers them in a way that they, too, can’t shut up about it.
In addition to follow up questions, relate to your shy friends and the fears they may have as much as possible. If you think they are scared of being judged, find a way to nonchalantly work a story of you having the same fear into a story you tell. If you think they’re scared of saying something stupid, find a way to laugh at a stupid thing (or ten) you’ve said lately. Subtly let them know that it isn’t easy or hasn’t always been easy for you, either.
There isn’t much in this world that is more powerful and liberating than feeling accepted by the people you care about, flaws and all. If you want to get past the inhibitions, accept your shy friends in all their shyness and with all their fears. It is only when they feel truly accepted as they are that they will finally show you who they really are. Remember that.
In conclusion, let me just remind you to not stress much about it at all.
There is nothing wrong with being shy. A lot of people are. It’s not your job to release your shy friends from some mental prison you perceive they are living in. Just care about them, accept them, and don’t pressure them. Shy people do things on their own terms and on their own timelines.
If you can remember that, you will naturally see the side of your shy friends that you’re hoping you will.