Many of us were shy at a young age, but still find ourselves held back from achieving dreams or making connections with others due to shyness well into adult years. With a little bit of practice, though, shyness can be overcome.

There are a lot of different terms we use to describe shy people: introverted, aloof, perhaps even socially anxious. But shyness, introversion, and social anxiety disorder are all very different things. Introversion refers to a preference for alone time versus socializing to energize, and doesn’t mean a person is shy or anti-social. Social anxiety disorder, meanwhile, is a diagnosable type of anxiety that can be treated with medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.

For the sake of brevity, then, let’s focus on overcoming shyness, which can happen to anyone. Here are four hints that can help you overcome your fears of social interactions and make talking a little smoother.

Shy You can learn to boost your self-confidence in social interactions. Photo courtesy of Pexels

Expose Yourself To New Things

Even before you begin practicing talking to other people, work on getting more comfortable with trying new things — whether it’s going on a hike for the first time, trying new food you’d normally never experiment with, or going up to say hello to a new colleague. Stepping outside of your comfort zone can help condition you into not worrying so much when entering new territory in speaking to strangers. Little things like trying a vegan dish or making a new friend will soon become less intimidating.

Work On Your Confidence

Lack of self-esteem can be detrimental in many aspects of your life, including in establishing social bonds and relationships. To help overcome your shyness, remind yourself that you’re worthy of maintaining someone’s interest in conversation, even if you may not have much in common with the person. To boost confidence, check out some of these tips, which include practicing things like exercising, dressing well, staying social, avoiding negative thoughts, and improving positive body language.

Don’t Sweat It — Stay Casual

Especially in stressful situations like job interviews or networking, it’s important to remember that while formality is important, just being yourself is the most essential part. Trying to force overly-formal greetings or pretending to be more cocky than you are might place a strain on the interaction. Keeping things casual and friendly will make talking much easier.

Focus On Others (Compassion)

Perhaps the most important thing to do to get over shyness is to remember to focus on the other person rather than yourself and to approach all situations with compassion. Instead of obsessing what people will think of you, remember that pretty much everyone probably feels just as awkward and nervous about talking to you as you are to them. If you focus on asking them questions about themselves, making them comfortable, and being kind to them, you’ll probably help them drop their defenses and make it easier to connect.