The science of shyness

SIAN PRIOR

Last updated 07:00 28/06/2014

Shy

 HIDING AWAY: Shyness can induce feelings of social anxiety ranging from mildly distressing to severely debilitating.

Shy people have quite a bit to contend with – not least the word itself.

It has a number of different meanings, none of which are flattering. To “shy away” from something implies avoidance; to “shy” can also mean to move suddenly in fright; to “be shy of” something can mean to come up short, or be insufficient.

And to be a shy person in our extrovert-worshipping age can be seen as being inadequate for the task of relentlessly positive self-presentation.

I recently wrote a memoir called “Shy” as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at RMIT University and have been exploring the different definitions of the word “shy” as part of a quest to understand the impact of shyness on my own life story. As at least 40 per cent of us would self-identify as shy, I suspect my deep interest in this subject will be shared by many fellow-sufferers.

Psychologists would say it is a temperament trait, one that can induce feelings of social anxiety ranging from mildly distressing to severely debilitating. I have been relieved to discover, though, that shyness is also accompanied by a range of socially useful and positive character attributes.

Part of my research involved interviewing my mother, Melbourne University psychologist Margot Prior, who has been studying temperament for more than three decades. In her view, all children fit somewhere on a spectrum called “approach-withdrawal,” ranging from the most engaged and extroverted kids to the most withdrawn, fearful and anxious kids.

For the shy ones among us, this fear comes from our biology, specifically from the reactivity of our nervous systems.

American psychologist Jerome Kagan has studied the physical symptoms of so-called “timid” and “bold” children and found in the timid ones a neural circuitry that is highly reactive to even mild stress.

In short, those children were shown to sweat more and their hearts beat faster in response to new situations. Some kids grow out of shyness, but many of us carry this anxiety into adulthood, when this reactivity commonly manifests as blushing, trembling and hyperventilating.

I had two shy parents, so it is hardly surprising that I inherited a large dose of shyness. As a child and teen-ager, I found that this shyness often got in the way of my initiating social contact for fear of rejection. As an adult, I have grappled with social anxiety and been forced to find strategies to overcome my irrational fears.

One such strategy has been to create professional personas for myself, enabling me to function as an apparent extrovert in the workplace. In the memoir I label this persona “Professional Sian” and analyse how she has managed to perform the roles of environment campaigner, choral conductor, opera singer, broadcaster, arts critic and university lecturer.

I now call myself a “shy extrovert.” If I was an introvert, I might be quite happy to remain in the background and avoid social situations. Shy people long for social connections but have to fight through a thicket of fears to make those connections.

Managing anxiety often comes at a cost to the shy person’s body. Swinburne University psychologist Simon Knowles has studied the “brain-gut axis” and its role in the fraught relationship between anxiety and the gastro-intestinal system.

Many of Knowles’ anxious patients present with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), an inflammatory bowel condition caused by the interaction between the gut’s nervous system and the brain. My own digestive system has reacted to decades of nervous stress by developing a broad range of food intolerances.

While the symptoms of shyness can be difficult to control, the distress of social anxiety can be compounded by feelings of shame and embarrassment. We shy people often feel like incompetent idiots in social situations.

English sociologist Susie Scott believes this feeling of relative incompetence is central to the experience of shyness. But she blames these feelings on what she calls “the illusion of competence”: the mistaken belief that we all have to present ourselves as socially competent all the time.

In her 2007 book “Shyness and Society: The Illusion of Competence,” Scott argues that shy people are perceived as failing to pull their weight in social situations and that, while non-shyness is seen as normal and acceptable, shyness is seen as deviant and undesirable.

The misperception of shyness as rudeness or aloofness plagues shy people, but in fact we long for social inclusion and connection.

But the news is not all bad. According to Macquarie University psychologist Ron Rapee, shyness usually comes with a range of positive attributes, including greater sensitivity and greater levels of honesty.

When I interviewed Rapee, he told me shy people were often reliable, conscientious and good listeners who demonstrated high levels of empathy. Many shy people can be found in the caring professions, working in roles that are generally non-self-aggrandising and non-domineering.

The social acceptability of shyness is also somewhat dependent on the culture in which you’re living. According to Canadian psychologist Xinyin Chen, while North American parents typically react to their children’s shy-inhibited behavior with disappointment, in group-oriented societies such as China, shy-inhibited behavior may be encouraged because it is conducive to group organisation.

My autobiographical quest to understand shyness has not “cured” me of this temperament trait, as I had hoped. But it has erased my shame and embarrassment about my social anxiety and reassured me that without shy people the world would be a far less compassionate place.

Sian Prior is a journalist and professor at the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University.

 

This article was originally published on The Conversation

 

Jurgen Klinsmann cita Obama e reforça: “Voos agendados para 14 de julho”

Animado após classificação para as oitavas de final da Copa, técnico dos EUA acredita em bom desempenho nos jogos eliminatórios: “Agora tudo é possível” .

Klinsmann  estados unidos (Foto: Aldo Carneiro / Pernambuco Press)

Klinsmann está confiante no bom desempenho dos americanos (Foto: Aldo Carneiro / Pernambuco Press)

Nem mesmo a derrota por 1 a 0 para a Alemanha, nesta quinta-feira, no Recife, abalou a confiança da seleção dos EUA para a disputa das oitavas de final. O técnicoJurgen Klinsmann é tão ligado ao seu grupo, que acredita não só em uma vitória contra a Bélgica, nesta terça, em Salvador, mas também em uma campanha histórica até as fases finais da Copa do Mundo. Logo após a confirmação da classificação, o alemão fez um discurso contundente a seu grupo.

Conhecido por ser motivador, Klinsmann usou frases de confiança de pessoas famosas e também a foto postada pelo presidente americano Barack Obama, que assistiu à partida dentro de uma sala em seu avião particular, durante viagem até a cidade de Minneapolis. Em conversa pós-jogo com seu elenco, o técnico ressaltou que até o homem mais importante do país está ligado na Copa.

– Agora é o momento. Todo mundo está acompanhando e nos demos conta disso. Se todos forem ao limite, vamos longe nesse torneio. Disse a eles que nossos voos estão agendados para o dia 14 de julho, um dia depois da final. O fim é 13 de julho e queremos estar lá. Passamos pelo grupo da morte, quase ganhamos de Portugal, um dos favoritos, e estamos confiantes para essa nova fase – disse Klinsmann.

confronto com a Bélgica não assusta os americanos. Classificados com 100% de aproveitamento no Grupo H, os belgas tiveram vitórias magras e não convenceram a torcida. Os EUA acreditam que podem fazer história no Brasil.

– Saímos de um grupo muito difícil, e isso nos dá mais fome para querer mais. Todos querem crescer ainda mais. O próximo passo é bater a Bélgica. Passamos por um grupo muito duro. A partir disso, agora, tudo é possível – avisou Jurgen Klinsmann.

A alegria pela vaga foi tão grande que a Federação de Futebol dos EUA promoveu um churrasco para jogadores e seus familiares, nesta sexta-feira, no CT do São Paulo. O grupo treina sábado e viaja domingo para Salvador, local do duelo contra a Bélgica, terça-feira, às 17h (horário de Brasília), na Arena Fonte Nova.

Presidente Barack Obama assiste ao jogo entre Alemanha e EUA (Foto: Agência AP)
Presidente Barack Obama assiste ao jogo entre Alemanha e EUA (Foto: Agência AP)
GLOBO ESPORTE .COM

James Akel comenta a incoerência do PSDB na campanha contra Dilma Rousseff

 

O governador Geraldo está tendo atitudes que espantam os tucanos.

Primeiro Geraldo dá a vice de governo pra um indicado de Eduardo Campos, ou seja, o vice de Geraldo vai aparecer na tv dizendo pra se votar no Eduardo.

Agora o governador oferece o lugar de senador pra Kassabque apoia Dilma, ou seja, Kassab vai aparecer na tv dizendo que vai votar em Dilma.

Os tucanos parecem não precisar de adversários pra campanha.

Eles são seus próprios adversários faz tempo.


 Escrito por jamesakel@uol.com.br às 16h23 no dia 28.06.2014

James Akel comenta que o PT vai usar a rejeição de Serra a seu favor na luta contra Aécio

 

Os petistas estão contentes com a possibilidade de Serra participar ativamente da campanha de Aécio.

Acreditam que a rejeição de Aécio é uma arma a favor de Dilma, que também tem rejeição próxima dele.

O que alguns tucanos não entendem é Aécio declarar que vai dar tanto tempo de programa pra Serra aparecer.


 Escrito por jamesakel@uol.com.br às 16h23 no dia 28.06.2014