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Shaking shyness: just in time for the holiday social rush, we show you how to break outta the shy shell. The best part is that these are shy-busting tips you can put to use all year round.

That cute new guy only wanted directions to the guidance counselor's office. Duh! You could have told him where it is ... or even offered to walk him there. That is, if you could manage to get the words to roll off your tongue--the tongue that always seems to stick to the roof of your mouth whenever someone talks to you.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened. You've heard that some of the girls at school think you're snobby and stand-offish. It's true that you don't talk that much, and you only hang with your BFF. But what people don't get is that you're just plain shy.

You may feel safe in your silent bubble and, sure, being a timid chica can sometimes save you from some pretty dorky maneuvers. No broadcasting your crush to a suddenly silent cafeteria or plunging into the orchestra pit during the school play for you!

But the problem with being introverted is that you could miss out on a lot of the exciting experiences more outgoing gals get to have. "I'm not shy at all!" Kiah, 13, tell us. "I could be in front of Tobey Maguire and a whole audience of stars and I would be nervous, but I can talk to anyone about almost anything." Wish you could chat it up with Tobey like Kiah would?

Says Susan, 12, "I have these friends who are just sooo shy around other people. Why would I want to act like that and miss out on so much great stuff?" Good question, and here's our answer: Shy girls don't choose to be that way--it's just part of their personality-trait blueprint. But shy-bees can make a choice to beat the bashfuls they were born with. Keep reading, coy ones....

PRACTICE ON YOUR PEEPS Too scared to speak up in class or (gulp) talk to your crush? Even the not-so-shy often get tongue-tied in pressure-filled situations like class participation and crush-convo initiation. But there's absolutely no need to throw yourself out there in a big way. You wouldn't run laps without stretching first, would you? So start small.

There are plenty of people in your daily world, like your folks and BFF, you're comfortable gabbing with on a regular basis. Rehearse your lines on them. Ask the bus driver for the time. Tell your neighbor how cute her pooch is. Become a champion at exchanging words with familiar faces and, before you know it, you'll be able to apply those small-talk skills when, say, you ask the cute deli guy for extra pickles on your ham-and-cheese.

JUST SAY 'HI' Stephanie, 14, gets the shakes around the "in" crowd. "Even though it doesn't seem like they would judge much, I still feel like I am being X-rayed," she says. But who says you have to strike up a full-on, long-drawn, in-depth conversation? Make it simple--just smile and say, "Hi," to one new person every day--your neighbor, the new kid in class, the cafeteria lady or, yes, the most popular girl in school.

You'll be surprised how far that one itsy-bitsy syllable can go. Not only will it help break you into talk mode, but it'll give people the impression that you're socially accessible. Remember those rumors about you being a snot? Not!

PLAY SECOND FIDDLE All right, we know--the last thing you want to do is stand in the spotlight. But that doesn't mean you have to live under a rock. If you can't bring yourself to try out for the talent show, sign up for the backstage crew and learn about lighting. If your youth group is organizing a Hanukkah bash, offer to flip latkes, fill gelt bags or decorate the party space.

Taking part in group activities, even in a small way, lets you socialize without all that in-your-face stress. Why less stress? Because you're busy with your task at hand, not standing around a punch bowl trying to figure out what to do with your hands and worrying about coming up with something incredibly clever to say. "Can you hand me that extension cord?" will nicely suffice.

FEEDBACK ALERT! It's perfectly acceptable to ask people you trust to give you pointers. Have an oral report in history? Let Mona or Dad be the judge. Got a crush who makes you blush? Run through some how-to-approach-him possibilities with your BFF. Consider it a dress rehearsal of sorts.

The people who care about you can help you fine-tune your delivery. They can tell you where you could use some improvement as far as all those important extras that go along with being outgoing--good posture, articulation, eye contact. Once you're down with all of their awesome suggestions, you should be more than ready to let loose in the real world.

SEEK SPEAKING PARTS No, no, we don't mean to audition for the lead in the school play (yet). But speaking out regularly in a structured environment will take the sting out of shyness on the social scene. So how about taking over your dad's PTA phone-tree for a few weeks? Or being the one to give the waiter your table's order when it's family night out at Chili's?

Or make a private vow to always raise your hand to answer questions--but only in English class. It's your best subject, so no chance of embarrassment for doling out dumb answers. And who knows? Maybe that hottie who sits next to you in class will be so utterly impressed with your language arts smarts that he'll ask you to tutor him in the specifics of sentence structure. Hey, we believe in miracles.

KEEP THE QUESTIONS COMING If you're at a holiday party with your 'rents and you're stuck at the kids' table, don't feel like you have to be a brilliant conversationalist to break the awkward silence. Learn the value of being inquisitive. Just turn and ask your third cousin twice removed what school she goes to or whether she likes the new Lillix single. If you can gently get her to open up, soon the whole table should be engaged in back-and-forth banter.

A word of caution here: Being inquisitive does not mean being nosy. It's fine to ask harmless questions like, "So, have you seen Elf?" But digging into someone's personal biz is just plain annoying...rude even. Avoid subject matter that could put somebody off. "Hey, have you gotten your period yet?" is completely inappropriate. "Didn't I hear that your mom and dad are getting a divorce?" is even worse.

DO YOU WANT FRIES WITH THAT? Scoring a part-time (paying!) after-school gig is a surefire way to force yourself to snap out of shyness mode--and quick! You'll have no choice but to communicate and interact with co-workers, customers and head honchos. Scoop ice cream at that place in the mall. Be a junior counselor at your local rec center. Bag groceries.

Can't get a work permit? So volunteer to stack glass at the recycling center. Be the designated dog walker for your entire block. Do an internship at your dad's law office. That's right--work for free! It'll pay off in a big way. Promise.

AS IF! Sometimes, ya gotta fake it. Olivia, 13, pretends she's an actress and pulls off quite a convincing performance of bogus social grace. (Nobody needs to know her heart is rapidly racing.) When a guy comes her way, Regina, 11, just imagines it's one of her best friends. "The key to faking it," Johanna, 12, says, is putting your foot down: "Refuse to be lured into nervousness!"

So if the cutest boy in school just happens to have his locker next to yours, pretend he's an adorable puppy and give him an easy, "Hi, there." (No patting him on the head, please.) Flash him that nervous smile, then turn on your heels and walk away with an air of rock-solid confidence. And as soon as you turn the corner, gasp for air and feel free to sweat bullets. That's a wrap!

there steps to sparking a conversation with anyone

1. Be Environmentally Conscious. Make a plain statement about your surroundings or the weather, even if it's a nothing-statement like, "Ugh. This classroom's so hot," or, "This is a really cool basement for a party." You don't have to blow anyone away--you're just breaking the ice.

2. Look for the Smile. If you get a friendly look back, go ahead and try another statement. You can even connect your idea to your first go with something like, "I hear this teacher gives really hard tests," or, "Emily's parties are always fun." Look for subtle physical clues--smiling, turning toward you, nodding--that indicate this person wants to stay in the conversation. If you don't see any of these, it's OK to politely ditch. No sense chattering when the other person doesn't seem interested.

3. Get Personal. Just not in a bad way! Ask the obvious: "How do you know Emily?" or, "Have you already taken algebra II?" If the conversation goes well, eventually, you'll be chatting away like old pals. If you don't really click, you've still made a contact--and you've added one more friendly face to find in the hall.


Don't let shyness be a show-stripper. These once-shy sisters turned out to be shining. Check it out....

"I am shy. I'm not that great at meeting new people and having to, well, talk. I'm not good at small talk, conversations with strangers. The most amazing thing is that I never thought I could do this as a career and here I am."--Kristen Kreuk

"Mia's shy. All of us Hamms are."--Mia Harem's room

"As I've gotten older, I've been able to overcome what for me as a young girl was incredible shyness, which I think people took as aloofness."--Julia Roberts

"Acting always seemed like an odd choice for someone as shy as I am. I don't really start conversations with strangers. I am a big homebody. But I get so excited about bringing a character to life and imagining what their world is like that I forget to be nervous. I guess I hide behind a role."--Alison Lohman

"I'm still a shy person. I'm still who I am, so it's not like I got over it, but I think in an effort to become like a professional person, a lot of times you just have to put that aside and do your job, and my job just happens to be one where you can't be shy."--Alexis Bledel
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Author:Singer-Klein, Raquel
Publication:Girls' Life
Date:Dec 1, 2003
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