Ask Kayy

Dear Kayy,

I’ve never written to anyone like this before, but I figure it’s worth a shot, and a friend suggested it. I have a problem which I’m sure many people have or have had at some point, but for me it seems more serious. I am naturally kind of quiet, until you get to know me, and girls don’t really seem to notice me, especially when I’m out with my friends, most of whom are much louder and more noticeable than me. And when I try to approach a girl, I become so nervous that I’ll be rejected that I usually spend so much time psyching myself up that I miss my chance. I was just wondering if there’s any advice you might be able to offer, as everyone else I’ve asked has been no help.


Insert clever pseudonym here

Dear anonymous man,

Chances are you have deeply rooted self-confidence issues that make you nervous when talking to the opposite sex. In actuality, 42 percent of American college students claim that they are “shy,” but most eventually overcome this and become romantically involved and eventually married. This indicates that most people exaggerate their own behavior, thinking they’re shier than they actually are.

Research shows that certain variables are extremely common in the “shy.” These include a lack of exposure to the opposite sex in a person’s formative years; growing up in an undemocratic, authoritative home; a lack of well-formed companionships with the other sex; and even the presence of an “inborn inhibition factor.” You say that you are “naturally” quiet – a loaded sentence. Although there may be patterns of shyness in your family, your state is more likely an effect of your social upbringing than your genetics, or is perhaps a combination of both.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t change and better your situation. In many cases, shy people are lacking in the romantic department because they don’t have comfortable opposite-sex friendships.

According to sociologist Anthony Giddens, “Friendship is the process of gradually revealing information about oneself to another.” Because shy people are not comfortable with themselves and afraid to reveal information that they consider embarrassing or too personal, it is harder to form friendships (nevermind intimate relationships).

You say you’re only shy “until you get to know me” – why not let people get to know you when they first meet you?

All friendships start with a conversation. If you could master the initial conversation, making friendships and talking to girls would be a lot easier. Research shows there are great differences in how the “shy” and “non-shy” interact during conversations with strangers, which may account for differences in romantic relationships.

A lot of advice can be taken from how the “non-shy” people behave. When you start talking to a girl, give her your name and ask hers and make a general comment about your surroundings. For instance, comment on your professor’s outfit to a classmate, or joke about the length of the line leading to the keg at a party. Once you make that initial comment, read her face, body language and verbal reaction. If she gives you a side smirk and looks around the room, forget the bitch (why would you want to talk to a miserable or snobby person anyway?).

If she laughs or comments back, now’s your time to move in with a less shallow conversation. Ask her why she signed up for the class and about her major, or how she heard about the party and with whom she came. And don’t be afraid to express your opinions or talk about things deeper than class, partying and majors (trust me, that gets old fast). Don’t be paranoid about rejection. If she thought you were unattractive or annoying, she would walk away or ignore you.

Your lack of talkativeness may actually be what makes you stand out from your loud friends, not what makes you disappear. There’s a big difference between being non-talkative and confident versus being shy and nervous. You can take in your surroundings and opt not to talk, but stand up straight, don’t be afraid of eye contact and smile. Don’t be overeager to start conversation (it’ll just be awkward) – lay back, be observant and move in when you feel comfortable. Chances are she may have already noticed you.

With every conversation, it’ll get easier. All a shy guy needs is a “catalyst,” a strong personality to draw you comfortably out of your shell. I’ve seen many times how an extroverted, outgoing girl has greatly complimented a shy boy in a relationship by helping him become more comfortable and social.

Speaking from experience, a less talkative guy can be seen as very attractive and even mysterious, which adds to, rather than detracts from their appeal. At the risk of sounding hokey, you should worry about being the best you (which I’m sure is pretty great) and not try to be like your loud friends monkeying around. And don’t worry, they have their issues too; some people are especially outgoing because they’re insecure and are trying to hide it.

I’m not too worried about you, bro. I suggest some deep, positive thinking about why you’re so great. You definitely need to gain some self-confidence, but if you could just baby step your way out of your box, you’ll gain more self-assurance with every positive experience you have. Research shows that a lack of friends, girlfriends and/or sexual experience may make you shy; ironically, the perfect remedy for more self-confidence is to meet new people, date and have sex (You knew I couldn’t go a whole article without the S word, didn’t you?)!

Best of luck! And keep me updated; you’ve got my address!

Mad love,


Information from – “Shyness, Self-Confidence, and Social Interaction” by Phillip Manning and George Ray and “Some Family Antecedents of Severe Shyness” by Brian G. Gilmartin