Getting Two Shy People to Talk to Each Other

Mention a shared interest to get shy people talking.
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Perhaps you know two people you think would get on famously -- if only they would speak to each other. Your shy friends aren't intentionally avoiding one another; it is just not in their nature to strike up a conversation. You can help things along by greasing the wheels of social interaction. Don't worry that your shy friends will feel that you are meddling. In fact, they might both be grateful that you helped them get past the initial awkwardness of an introduction.

1 Make Introductions

The first step to getting two shy people to talk to one another is to offer an introduction. Most shy people are hesitant to offer a handshake or a name, preferring to wait for the other person to take the lead. If you see two shy people sitting together but not talking, walk over and offer an ice breaker, such as "Hey, Tony, have you met Lisa? I think she is in your calculus class." A brief introduction with a piece of information that ties the two shy people together will be most helpful.

2 Ease Anxiety

Some shy people are their own worst critics. As they talk, an inner monologue tells them that they are not good enough, smart enough or funny enough. They think that everyone else is judging them and that they never measure up. You may be able to help two shy people overcome this social hurdle by building their social confidence and belief that they are mutually liked. Sarah and Amy need to know about the good things they say about each other to you. Facilitate the conversation by easing the anxiety shared by your shy friends.

3 Find Mutual Interests

Give your shy friends a reason to talk. Figure out what they have in common and let them know about it. For example, if Josh and David are both into watching the UFC, make an introduction and a comment about the latest fight. You might need to include yourself in the conversation while it gets started, but once the two shy people become engrossed in their favorite topic, you can quietly slip away. Getting to know the likes and dislikes of your shy friends will make this easier.

4 Get Active

Shy people have trouble living in the moment, says Indiana University Southeast psychology professor Bernardo J. Carducci, Ph.D., in the "Psychology Today" article "The Cost of Shyness." They tend to think about past foibles or worry about future social gaffes rather than focus on the current situation. Put your shy friends in a situation that forces them to stop thinking so much and have a little fun. A game of Twister, an afternoon of paintball, or participation in an adventure race won't leave a lot of room for overanalyzing. Ideally, your shy acquaintances should have to work together to overcome an obstacle -- similar to what happens at company retreats. They will come away with a shared experience and hopefully a tighter bond.

Arlin Cuncic has been writing about mental health since 2007, specializing in social anxiety disorder and depression topics. She served as the managing editor of the "Journal of Attention Disorders" and has worked in a variety of research settings. Cuncic holds an M.A. in clinical psychology.