Self-presentation and what to do if you’re shy

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Today’s concept is really close to my “heart”. Around five years ago I did my first research on very interesting thing called PUA – Pick-Up Arts. Basically it is a community (or set of methods) devoted specifically to crack the code for perfect self-presentation aimed for, plainly, getting the girl. Beside from all discussion over PUA itself, it is a part of broad impression management concept and it was a straightforward catapult for me to whole new and exciting research field.

We do self-presentation all the time when someone can “sense” us in any way (see us, hear us etc.). We like it or not. It doesn’t even require awareness from us – some kind of impression is made. Erving Goffman in his brilliant analogy stated that “All the world is not, of course, a stage, but the crucial ways in which it isn’t are not easy to specify”, which means that our interactions with other people can be perceived and analyzed (roughly) as acting, adapting into certain role or trying to project some sort of image/impression.

This does not mean that people aren’t honest and we’re constantly deceived. The most loving, kind and honest mother is, within this theory, adapting into role of caring mom. She’s on a “stage” with her child. But when she’s alone, in her intimate space (or “backstage”) she might be again “just” Jane, doing private things. This does not mean she isn’t caring and loving in general. The roles can change as well and in workplace she may adapt into image of “Jane – the manager” bringing out qualities of her personality which she estimates effective in such social conditions.

First point that I want to make is simple: Try to get yourself when you assume something about someone’s personality just by knowing her/him in only one “role”. There is pretty large chance you’re making false assumption in both cases – positive or negative. Let yourself be uncertain.

Second point: People around you do not know very much about your personality either, but you can convey deliberately those qualities you like about yourself and actively avoid other. Subtleties make big difference in impressions that are working on your image. Let’s say you’re shy in social situations, calm and polite. Well, you don’t have to break your shyness in such manner you won’t feel very comfortable with, or even ill. Make use of your calm attitude and politeness. Chances are you hunch your shoulders in company of others – let’s make subtle step, just stand straight. You can hold your drink in front of your chest, you don’t have to “take more space” than usual, but just maintain good posture. Second subtlety – smile lightly. Now, to others you look polite, calm and… Mysterious. Your posture and smile make this sweet contrast with overall shyness of your body language. Such mystery is interesting. You are still perceived as polite and calm as you were earlier – effective space you take hasn’t changed so you can feel comfortable. You don’t have to start a conversation if it’s something that brake your nerve too harshly, you may just grant bigger smile to people you like – this will invite them to talk to you.

So now your posture and smile work on impression you make in beneficial way – more outgoing people now are invited to talk to you. If your mind goes blank in such situations and you don’t know what to say, stay calm, there is a way. A routine – choose some story from your memory, work on it for a while before going out. Maybe something you’re interested in recently. Good rule of thumb – if you would accept listening to such story from someone else – it’s good enough. It doesn’t have to have big punch line at the end or even be funny at all. Write down bullet points and you’re good to go. Whenever your mind goes stall, fire up your “routine” with simple “Hey, I just recently…”. You can have few of such stories as well.

What is your point of view on this? Maybe you have some questions or have your own way of coping with shyness? Please, share it in comments.
Take good care
– Przemek Kucia

As always I post a talk related to topic – this time it’s Susan Cain and “The power of introverts”.

3 thoughts on “Self-presentation and what to do if you’re shy

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