Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a couple of women about shyness. We talked about how we feel going into a group for the first time. Each of us was beyond the half century mark with plenty of life experience behind us. All of us agreed that shyness tended to be a characteristic of our younger years but that something had changed. I shared my own sense that my shyness was really a form of self-centeredness, worry about how I was feeling, how my needs were being met, and what people thought about me. A change came when I began to outgrow this self-centeredness and replace it with other-centeredness.
There is a definite knack for knowing how to make small talk. People so gifted are good at transitioning into new situations. My friends all agreed that my husband Bernie is one of these. “He is the king of schmooze,” one friend said. But getting your mind off how you feel and onto concern or interest in how others feel is the real solution to shyness. Mother Teresa spoke simply to that in the words I read this morning:
“Joy comes to those who in a sense forget themselves and become totally aware of the other.” (Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom)