Are you shy?

I have always thought of myself as a shy person. I can find social interactions difficult. For me, a party is rarely fun, unless I have a “job” – taking photos, handing around drinks, etc. Just hanging out and chatting mostly does not appeal.

However, there is a paradox. On the one hand, I do not like to be the center of attention, on the other I enjoy presenting to an audience …

It was a surprising discovery for me, many years ago, that I could stand up and talk to an audience and even more surprising when I realized that I enjoyed doing this! Furthermore, for a long time I was mystified by people that I met, who were very outgoing and confident in most aspects of their life, but fell to pieces when they had to face an audience.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that shyness was (for me, anyway) a control issue. I felt that, in many social situations, I could lose control and find myself in a situation that I did not enjoy. However, in front of an audience, I really am in control. In fact, the larger the audience, the more control I have (as hecklers etc. are a tiny minority). I have shared this idea with nervous presenters, many of whom agreed that this perspective was helpful.

Another angle on the matter has recently come to my attention. In the past, I would have regarded the words “introvert” and “extrovert” to mean “shy” and “outgoing” respectively. Although there is some truth in that view, it is not the whole picture. The reality is all about how people gain their energy and “recharge”. An extrovert gains energy from social interaction; an introvert recharges by having quiet time. I am, indeed, an introvert. After a busy social time, I crave some peace and quiet. My wife thinks that I am odd because I can find retiring to my office to do my personal financial accounts relaxing.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/embedded-software/2012/11/15/as-you-shy/