When I hear the word shy or shyness I think of children hiding behind their mother’s leg or looking at the ground instead of making eye contact. Rarely do I think of how an adult behaves when they are shy at a party or with an unfamiliar group of friends. When I think of adults who are standoffish I usually think they are full of themselves, or that they want nothing to do with me. Looking deeper into this behavior I realized that being shy and being standoffish are very similar, and I hope that my research can help you detect the difference at your next party.
A shy person is usually someone who has trouble making eye contact or even talking to people in a public setting. This person may get flushed in the cheeks, may stumble or even stutter when speaking, and often looks to the ground and fidgets instead of making eye contact and participating in the conversation. When I think of a shy person I usually think of a child or even a teen that doesn’t like talking or having a conversation with someone they don’t know very well. A shy adult may look very different, and may not be interpreted as being shy at all.
A shy adult at a party may do things like ignore new people, usually people they don’t know. They may seem standoffish, often in the corner or sitting at a table alone. They only talk with certain people, probably people they’re most familiar with or came to the party with and seem uncomfortable when they do speak to new people. Their body language is closed off and sends a warning of “don’t approach”. Most of this behavior signals to everyone else that they’re insecure and feel inferior in the situations. All of these qualities seem obvious when you know that person is in fact shy, but what if you don’t know them? Could their shy qualities be misinterpreted as something completely different?
I’m using the word standoffish here to really represent someone who seems full of themselves. You know the type, they seem to ignore new people, only talk to their friends, and have closed body language. But in this scenario they ignore people because they don’t have time for them, they form a clique because those are the people they want to be associated with, and their body language is closed off because they seem to good for everyone else. These are the people that make you feel uncomfortable, and it feels like you’re being judged. But isn’t their behavior very similar or even the same as a shy person?
Looking at the behavior of someone who’s shy and someone who’s full of themselves it seems that they behavior in a very similar manner. If both of these people were total strangers you may not be able to tell the difference between someone who’s standoffish and someone who’s shy. Chances are you’re judging someone based on their body language and you may be getting a vibe that is very different from the truth. Next time you’re at a party try to talk to someone who seems to act like this and see just how accurate your gut instinct was. You might be surprised.
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