Dear Dating Coach,
I am incredibly shy. It’s hard for me to make conversation with people that I am not comfortable with and the guys I have been dating all say that I don’t talk enough! I have a lot to say, it just takes me a while to open up. Now a shadchan suggested a Zoom date and I know that it will be even more difficult for me. Can you help me break out of my shell?
Why do people say “C’mon, don’t be shy!” What a presumptuous directive. Has it ever happened that someone offered the brilliant “Don’t be shy!” and shy people everywhere replied, “Wow! Thanks, we are cured now! We are no longer shy!” I think not.
The Real Deal
My mother is the most outgoing person I know. She never met a stranger, has deep conversations with the saleswoman at the makeup counter, and can walk into any room and make a lasting connection. Her clients all become her best friends, her manicurist confides in her, and she is always the first to approach someone sitting alone at a party. My mother also swears that she used to be desperately shy, insisting that as a child she couldn’t help but hide behind her mother’s skirts so that she wouldn’t have to interact with people. Have you met her?! I know, I know… we also have a hard time believing it.
There is nothing wrong with being reserved. We have all been gifted with different personalities and abilities, and your quiet ways are a part of what makes you who you are. Sometimes though, shyness can be debilitating, forcing you to stay in the shadows, losing out on opportunities and new relationships. In shidduchim, being an introvert can hold you back from forging connections with potential life partners. While some of us have an easier time meeting new people, we have all experienced that dreaded awkward silence – where the quiet makes you want to run faster than a bunch of teenage boys at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
There are however, things that you can do alleviate your inclination to stay silent on a date.
While you may struggle to talk and share, you can be a great listener. Prepare open-ended questions before the date and really listen to the answers given. His responses will allow you to offer your opinion, feedback, and bits of information about yourself. Make sure you show interest in what he has to say and are engaged in the topics that come up. Your body language and your ability to truly listen will tell him that you are completely present and focused on the date.
Before the date, prepare a list of topics (In your mind! Not actual notes!) so that you have ready conversation for a quiet moment. This can be interesting current events, funny family tidbits, or someplace that you’ve traveled or would like to visit. You can even rehearse something that you would like to share before the date so that you feel ready to discuss it should you have the opportunity. Bringing up a favorite place that you have traveled to may lead your date to bring up a favorite of his, sparking easy and relaxed conversation.
Nobody expects you to completely open up from the very beginning. Give yourself a break and a pat on the back and don’t pressure yourself to offer more information than you are willing to give from the start. Your efforts will go a long way in showing your date that you are excited to be out with him and give yourself permission to relax. The less stress that you put on yourself, the more likely it is that you will feel comfortable enough to contribute to the conversation.
Don’t let being shy hold you back from making a connection with someone new, in person or through a computer screen. Listening to your date, being prepared with easy conversation topics, and allowing yourself to relax will showcase your desire to get to the know the person you are out with- without the need for constant chatter.