When I ask for questions and comments from a Filipino audience after giving a short seminar or workshop, most of the people in the audience stay quiet. This leaves me wondering to what extent my audience was able to make sense of the topic I just talked about. Ironically, I often find a beeline of individuals waiting to ask me their questions in private soon after the seminar is over. This is an all too frequent scenario in many workshops I facilitate that prompts me to think that being shy can be an endemic stumbling block in the Philippines.
What I narrated is just one manifestation of what I think is shyness or timidity on the part of many people, particularly in the Philippines. I think it’s really a pity because there is so much that people can share, both in terms of their own curiosity and wanting to know more or in sharing their personal experiences. What I often hope is that the questions being asked of me in private would have been asked earlier in the presence of the others. I somewhat get the feeling that some of these questions are similar to the questions of others in the group.
I think shyness is something that many of us possess as young children. For some of us, this shyness is perhaps something related to timidity—the lack of initiative to exert some effort to go beyond our comfort level and share something of ourselves to others. Of course, in failing to extending ourselves, we keep ourselves safe. However, it also limits us from broadening our horizons as we share with others and gain from the sharing of these people as well.
For a few of us, we learned to retreat to our shells early on when we were somewhat ridiculed or made to feel wrong when we expressed ourselves sometime in the past. This is a real problem, as our shyness come from an earlier negative experience of being punished for having expressed ourselves.
Still for some of us, we are shy because we have little belief in ourselves. We think that we have little to offer others, and think that others have more to say than we do. As such, we prefer to listen to others and let others do the talking. We simply agree and go along what others say. After all, what we think and feel do not really count. This is a problem of self-concept, a rather negative one at that.
Whatever the source of your shyness, I think it is important to get over it little by little, in baby steps, so to speak. The first step in doing this is to convince yourself that you want to change and become more open to sharing yourself and your thoughts to others. This really begins by acknowledging your own experiences as being yours, and they are worth at least as much as any person’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. For some, this might be a difficult first step, but it is a necessary one.
The next step might be to select situations or people with whom you will start to express yourself a little bit more. Avoid judging yourself and focus on what you need to do in order to be more open about yourself to others. That is the goal. You might even like to list down the kinds of things you think of sharing with these people you identified. Apart from writing reminders for yourself, you might also want to practice how you will speak in front of a mirror. You might also want to record your voice and listen to it over and over again. Just get used to listening to yourself.
If you have negative thoughts about doing this, you might want to challenge your disenabling thoughts and replace them with more enabling thoughts (see post on this blog dated 06 August 2010). For example, you might want to challenge your thought that you are good for nothing and nobody would be interested in what you have to say into something like, “I might not have the greatest ideas to share, but maybe my friend would at least be a bit interested in what I have to say.” Remember to focus your efforts to anything that would help you express yourself more.