The grim news, as handed down from the human genome project: Shyness may very well be genetic, an inescapable condition passed out at birth to thwart, among other pursuits, your career.
For the hopelessly shy, the contemporary workplace can be a dreadful and alienating environment — full of perceived slights and projected criticism.
“You live in a private world when you’re shy, a world that is full of projections about what everybody else thinks,” says Steve Flowers, author of “The Mindful Path Through Shyness.” “It isolates you from other people and leads you to be self-critical and harbor self-doubts. You begin to suspect that you’re not as good as others.”
Properly played, however, a touch of timidity can be a workplace asset. Super self-conscious workers are often more attentive to others’ needs and more understanding of their faults.
“Social anxiety makes you feel a little sense of compassion for what others might be going through,” Flowers says.
Moreover, he adds, it’s a condition that can be addressed through nonpharmaceutical means far cheaper than the selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors peddled on antidepressant ads.
The psychotherapist recommends that workers with social anxiety take time out before important meetings or high-pressure situations to simply be.
“Spend the first 10 or 15 minutes before your big business meeting doing your best just to be in the moment,” Flowers says. “Listen to the sounds of the office. Shift away from this whole notion of trying to impress people, which is a mental state, to a physical world of sensation.”
Ultimately, he says, “if you can find a way to work that worst of all critics, the one inside of you, you’ll find you’re a lot more capable of working with those critics that are outside of you.”