What is It, How Can It Affect Your Career and How Can You Overcome It?

Shyness may affect his career
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Shyness. Most of us experience it at one time or another. It may be when you walk into a business meeting or party and can't find a friendly face. You may feel shy when you have to call someone you don't know because a friend suggests you network with him or her. Most of us feel inhibited in certain situations, but there are those of us who experience this feeling in most cases. It is these people for whom it can be a serious impediment.

What Is Shyness

According to the Encyclopedia of Mental Health, "shyness may be defined experientially as discomfort and/or inhibition in interpersonal situations that interferes with pursuing one's interpersonal or professional goals" (Henderson, Lynn and Phillip Zimbardo. Shyness. The Encyclopedia of Mental Health. San Diego: Academic Press.). "[Shyness] may vary from mild social awkwardness to totally inhibiting social phobia," also from this source.

Many scientists believe shyness is a genetic predisposition caused by the wiring in our brains. That is to say, if our parents are shy we are more likely to be. Psychologists Bernardo Carducci and Phillip Zimbardo say that there seems to be an increase in the number of shy people. They feel that this increase is due to technological advances that allow for fewer interpersonal interactions. These technological advances include automatic teller machines, voice mail, and the internet (Hendricks, Melissa.

"Why So Shy?"​ USAWEEKEND.COM.). The same article states that other shyness experts don't blame technology for this increase but rather think it can be helpful. They feel using the Internet helps those who are socially inhibited improve their interpersonal skills.

Career Damage

If you are shy, your career may suffer.

There are, of course, some obvious reasons. If you are shy, you may not present yourself well on job interviews. You aren't likely to be good at networking and will not be assertive enough when it comes to pursuing opportunities. There are also some less obvious reasons. Researchers have found that people who are shy tend to begin their careers later than those who are not. They are also more likely to refuse promotions than their counterparts who are more outgoing. They choose careers which are less interpersonal and are more undecided about which field to pursue (Azar, Beth. "When Self Awareness Works Overtime." APA Monitor. November 1995). Once in a career "shy people have a harder time developing a career identity—an image of themselves as competent or successful within a career track." So, while you may worry about how others perceive you, it is the way you view yourself that can be the biggest problem.

Overcoming Shyness

According to Richard Heimberg, Ph.D., an expert in social phobia at Temple University, the origins of shyness are similar to those of social phobia, which is a more severe disorder (Azar, Beth. "Social-Phobia Treatments May Also Work for Problem Shyness (1995)." APA Monitor.).

Dr. Heimberg describes social phobia as "shyness gone wild," and states that it "cuts people off from the good things of life—social interaction, love, family." He has researched effective treatments for social phobia that may eventually be used to cure shyness. A recent study conducted by Heimberg and psychiatrist Michael Liebowitz, MD, found that many patients who received either cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or a specific drug used to treat depression showed significant improvement. While many of those who received the drug relapsed, only a small percentage of those who received cognitive-behavioral therapy did. Several sessions with a therapist who specializes in CBT may remove a significant impediment and allow you to move forward in your career.

Some people who suffer from shyness require more simple treatment than therapy or drugs.

For example, just exposing themselves to social situations can be effective. Some take jobs that force them to interact with other people despite their reservations. The following resources can help you understand shyness and can also help you find ways to overcome it.


The Quiet Disorder

Shy and Free

The Shyness Home Page