My name is Karen. I'm writing to you today because I have a problem and I'm hoping you could help me. I need some serious advice. I am a nice-looking, fairly intelligent young woman. I am very shy, not outgoing and not sociable at all. That's my problem. I need to learn how to improve my communication skills. I just started a job and realize that communication and interpersonal skills are very important and I'm not good at either. When I am in a social setting and I have to speak, my mind goes blank; I cannot think. It's like I cannot find the words to speak. It's very frustrating when you want to socialize and be a part of a conversation but you can't because you don't have anything to say, and if you do, you are scared to say it because you don't want to sound stupid.
I know why I'm this way: It is because I'm shy and stick to myself most of the time. I am a single mom and have spent a lot of time with my 2 children, talking to them and only them most of the time. I really don't have friends to socialize with and I really don't get out much to interact with other adults, so I literally don't know how to interact with other adults comfortably. I have a fiancé and he thinks I'm over exaggerating, but he's not there when I'm at work hoping no one talks to me, or when I'm trying desperately to explain myself or a situation to a co-worker and it's not as clear as It could or should be.
I need to know what I can do to improve my communication skills. Please tell me what I can do. I am ready to try anything. Thanks a million.
Dealing with the problem of shyness is one of the most common fears humans experience. The causes for shyness are numerous. There is evidence that general shyness is a problem of genetics. There is a difference in how comfortable babies and young children are around people. As a clinician I have noticed that when I work with people with Attention Deficit Disorder and refer them for medication the more typical symptoms of ADD go away as expected. These would include irritability, impulsiveness, inattention, and hyperactivity. However, I have often been pleasantly surprised when the clients have reported an increase of self-esteem due to feeling more comfortable around people. Their "shyness" seems to melt away when they are able to concentrate and be less distractive.
The same spontaneous improvement with shyness and comfortableness around others has occurred often when someone is suffering from depression and/or anxiety. In certain forms of these disorders the neurotransmitters, which are the chemicals in our brain that allow us to think and feel, are not at the right levels or proportions to each other and this can cause depression and anxiety. There is a strong hereditary component to these problems. Once a person receives the appropriate medication the typical symptoms for these disorders such as sleep and appetite problems are relieved. Often the "shyness" is relieved as well.
Shyness also is seen a lot with people who grow up in dysfunctional families. When growing up in these families children often don't feel good enough about themselves because they have been abandoned and feel it must be their fault. The result is a feeling of shame, not being worthy, and this is especially prevalent when in public. Often intellectually the person knows there is nothing bad about them and that the feeling of shame is irrational. However, it is hard to reduce the shame without treatment for the early family problems. After treatment the "shyness" is often greatly reduced or eliminated.
I think you are probably suffering from general shyness and possibly from some shame issues from what I can glean from reading your letter. I did want you to be aware of the other possibilities as well. I agree with you that when you are home with the kids all day and not around social situations with other adults your general communication skills can become rusty and any other problems with people can become exasperated. Other than what I have already talked about I would suggest a lot of practice. The way I have had to deal with a fear of public speaking is to get out there and do it. Over the years it has become a lot easier. Try to get involved in a speech group. In the states we have Toastmasters, which is a group where people can practice speaking in front of groups. I am sure other countries have similar facilities if you do not live in the U.S.
There are a number of good books on communication such as Your Perfect Right: A Guide to Assertive Living by Alberti and Emmons. There are also videotapes available for teaching purposes. I am sure that most of the clinicians on Queendom offer a number of these on their individual websites. You might also take an Assertiveness or communication class at a community college. However, it is also possible that from the test you took and what your fiancee says you are probably a much better communicator than you think and are just nervous underneath.
Take care and good luck.
This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.For more information visit: http://www.asktheinternettherapist.com/