Tech & Work

Shyness hurting your career? Here's some help

If you're an introverted person, IT is not a bad field to be in. But sometimes if, for example, you'd like to move into management, you might wish you were more comfortable with social interaction. You can always bone up on your technology skills, but is it possible to overcome shyness?

I'm not sure it's ever possible to completely change your nature and overcome a trait that may be an entrenched as shyness usually is. But you can employ some conversational strategies used by more socially comfortable people that could become habit to you eventually. They probably won't change your core shyness but they may help you get around it.

First of all, know that you don't have to be Winston Churchill to be considered a great conversationalist. In most cases, all it takes is just the ability to ask others questions about themselves and then listen to their answers. In other words, you don't want to whip out a list of questions and plow through them like an interrogation. Look the person in the eye as he or she is answering. (This is a real challenge to some shy or self-conscious people, but it may come easier after a while) and then follow up an interesting point with a comment of your own or another question.

Use the person's name in your conversation. "So you moved across country for the job? Wow, Sam, that's great!"

You'll want to keep your questions superficial at first and in the safe realm. Start by talking about the weather, food, or sports. Don't ask anything inappropriate ("So how much did you pay for that shirt?") and don't get into anything controversial ("What do you think about our President?"), at least until you know each other better.

In my first-grade report card, my teacher wrote in the comment section; "Toni is bashful to a fault." I only started to grow out of the paralyzing bashfulness when I was in my teens. The cure was partly forcing myself to conversate with others and partly my inherent nosiness. I really WAS interested in other people. 

Now I'm going to throw it out to you. Are you a born-shy person who has had to fight the tendency? If so, what techniques do you use?


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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