Are you now, or have you ever been, a shy person? If you're not sure, here's an easy test to help you figure it out: have you ever: a) had to spend between 45 minutes and four days psyching yourself up just to be able to call up your dentist's office to make an appointment?; b) walked 12 floors worth of stairs rather than take an elevator with someone you kind of vaguely know?; c) attended a party that you felt was "ruined" because some people you didn't already know showed up and tried to talk to you?; d) had a former classmate not remember that you took a class together because you didn't say anything the entire semester, and also always sat in the back row, and also took an "incomplete" because you could not bring yourself to do the oral presentation at the end?
If you mumbled "yes" to any of the above questions while not making eye contact, congratulations: you are a shy person, doomed to live in a social person's world. If you said "no" to all of the above, and then loudly and confidently announced, "Who does this kind of stuff? This all sounds totally bonkers to me!", then I am sorry to report that you are a social person, and this list is not about you.
But before you go, there are a few things that we, the Shy People of the World, would like you know about us. But we have to tell you about it on the internet, because we're not going to, like, say it to your face in public or something. That would be lunacy!
1. We're Not Stuck-Up
Though many extremely social folks have a hard time imagining any reason why someone would be quiet, and thus jump to strange, whimsical conclusions about it — like that you must be silently staring at the floor because you think you're better than them — this is usually quite far from the truth.
We're not aloof, and we don't think we're better than you; we just have a hard time talking to people that we don't already know or feel comfortable around. And we might as well note here that there is no better way to make sure that a shy person never feels comfortable enough to talk around you, than to assume that they're snobby.
2. We're Not Pushovers, Either
Ah, the other perennial shy person stereotype favorite — if you're not quiet and restrained because you're snotty, you must be quiet and restrained because you're a big wimp who will let everyone walk all over her. This, of course, is also not true — shy people come in all flavors, from "total doormat" to "quietly plotting evil genius who will destroy your life in ways you won't even discover until it is far too late." Are you willing to risk mistaking one for the other? Big mistake. Huge. Best to just assume that shy folks should be treated like everyone else.
3. We Have Distinct Personalities
Some people think that if you don't talk much in public, the sum total of your entire personality is "I don't talk much in public;" and that when you go home, you eat a heaping bowl of plain yogurt, then stare at a blank TV until it is time for bed. And I mean, if doing that makes you personally happy, go for it — but don't assume that shy people don't have personalities outside of their difficulties with small talk. We have hobbies, obsessions, best friends, in-jokes, and weird sexual things that we're into. So, basically, we're just like anyone else — we're just not shouting about it at happy hour.
4. We Probably Thought About Talking To You For A Long Time Before Actually Talking To You
There are so many ways that conversation with a stranger could go wrong — saying something accidentally offensive; getting caught off-guard and looking dumb; unintentionally getting trapped in the middle of a monkey knife fight — that we spend a lot of time planning out how we're going to talk to a new person, developing several possible threads of conversation just in case one goes wrong (and practicing our emergency protective anti-monkey knife fight crouch ... I mean, it has to happen eventually, right?)
5. There Are Times When We're Chatty
They just don't coincide with the times the rest of the world is chatty (in a bar, at a party, on the bus SERIOUSLY CAN I NOT EVEN GET A MOMENT'S PEACE ON THE BUS?). But around our real, close friends, you can't get us to shut up (you know, just like anyone else).
6. We've Had Great Rapport with Someone We Met On The Internet, Then Had An Awkward Time with Them In Real Life
Because the Internet does not require eye contaaaaaaaaaaaaaact.
7. The Word "Networking" Makes Us Want To Crawl In A Hole And Die
Can't we just work really, really hard at our jobs and be good at them? Why isn't that enough? Why do we also have to go to some weird place filled with strangers, then stand around awkwardly holding a drink, waiting to be chosen for an inane conversation like it's some even more terrible version of a middle school dance? I mean, at least at a middle school dance, you got to listen to the Spice Girls.
8. Oh, No, Wait, I Meant That "Dating" Is The Word That Makes Us Want To Crawl In A Hole And Die
We can be amazing partners once you get to know us ... but, um, will you take the lead on the whole "getting to know us" thing? Because if you don't, we're probably just going to spend the next two years staring at you, but then looking away when you look at us, and what kind of story is that to tell our kids?
9. We Have a Hard Time Asking For What We Want
Asking for what we want — be it a job promotion, a date, or a slice of pizza from a restaurant whose sole purpose is to sell people slices of pizza — often seems like more trouble than its worth (also, insanely terrifying). What if you ask and then the person you asked laughs in your face? Never mind that there is very little laughing into faces going on in the real world, or actually anywhere outside of telenovelas, really. We've crunched the numbers, and have a hard time believing that the reward will be worth the risk.
10. It Is Pointless To Tell Us "Don't Be Shy"
That's, uh, not how it works.
11. We're Not Jealous of Non-Shy People
Okay, maybe we are during job interviews or when someone cute is around. But being shy isn't always a disadvantage. We don't go around saying things off the top of our heads that we later have to take back. We are secure in the friendships we do have, and know that all our friends have our backs whenever trouble comes our way. We don't waste our time getting caught up in silly social drama or competitions that eat up our time and mental energy. We see everyone, even when everyone doesn't see us, and we've become keen observers of the human condition as a result. So, really, trust us, we're fine.
But if you ask us "so, do you talk?" one more time, we will cut you.