Apr 8, 2019
How to Overcome Shyness
In a recent podcast, David and Rhonda emphasized the importance
of specificity--selecting one specific moment when you want help.
This is very true in the treatment of shyness.
Jason, who we introduced in the last podcast, wanted to work on
the intense anxiety he felt in the locate grocery store. He thought
the woman checking groceries was attractive, but he was terrified
about talking to her, or trying to flirt. So he said nothing, and
left the store feeling like a failure.
After this humiliating experience, he filled out a Daily Mood
Log and listed all the Negative Thoughts and feelings he'd had
while waiting to check his groceries. After doing Positive
Reframing, he decided on the Negative Though he wanted to work on
first: “People will think I’m a self-centered jerk if I try to
flirt with her.” David and Jason put this thought in the Recovery
Circle and selected more than 20 techniques Jason could use to
On the podcast, David and Rhonda illustrate how to challenge
that thought using many of the methods listed on the Recovery
- Identify the Distortions. They found all ten
distortions in this thought.
- The Straightforward Technique. This technique
was not effective, since the Positive Thought Jason came up with
was not valid, and it did not reduce his belief in the Negative
Thought. However, this technique did reveal something important
about Jason—he seems to see the world in an adversarial way, and
imagines he is in competition with others who will try to put him
- The Cost-Benefit Analysis. What the are
Advantages and Disadvantages of Jason’s Negative Thought? Jason did
a remarkable job with this technique, and found it helpful and
- The Individual Downward Arrow Technique. David
and Rhonda illustrated how this works, using role-playing. They
were able to identify five of Jason’s Self-Defeating Beliefs that
are extremely common in Social Anxiety, including:
- Perceived Perfectionism
- The Approval Addiction
- The Spotlight Fallacy
- The Brushfire Fallacy
- The Paradoxical Double Standard Technique.
What would Jason say to a dear friend who was also struggling with
severe shyness? Would he say, “People will think you’re a
self-centered jerk if you try to flirt with her.” If not, why not?
What would Jason say to a friend? And would he be willing to talk
to himself in the same compassionate way? This technique was also
very helpful to Jason.
- Examine the Evidence. What’s the evidence that
people will think he’s a self-centered jerk if he tries to flirt
with a young lady he’s attracted to?
- Survey Technique. Have his friends ever
struggled with anxiety when they were starting to date? Would they
think of him as a “self-centered jerk” if he was more outgoing and
flirtatious? This was a homework assignment, to ask his friends.
The information he got was a huge surprise.
- Thinking in Shades of Gray. He thinks he has
to sweep her off her feet or he’ll get totally rejected and
ostracized by the human race. Is there some easier goal he could
- He’s telling himself that if she shoots him down, it will prove
that he’s a “loser.” Are there other reasons why a grocery checker
might not respond favorably to a young man who is trying to flirt
- Feared Fantasy / Acceptance Paradox. David and
Rhonda illustrate this amazing technique, with role-reversals. This
technique will help Jason crush the Self-Defeating Beliefs that
cause his shyness in the first place, like the Approval
These techniques were extremely helpful to Jason, and all of his
negative feelings went down dramatically by the end of his first
therapy session. However, he will have to do more work outside the
office for homework, using Interpersonal Exposure Techniques to
confront his fears of rejection, including:
- Smile and Hello practice
- Flirting Training
- Talk show Host
- Rejection Practice
- Shame Attacking Exercises
These assignments terrified Jason, but he courageously agreed
and followed through. He had his share of rejections, as we all do,
but had some successes, too, and soon was dating a lot and enjoying
it, and his shyness became a thing of the past. The treatment only
required four sessions.