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~Wellesley College Shyness Expert Talks About Overcoming Social Anxiety~

For immediate release:
June 14, 2002

Arlie Corday,
781-283-3321 or 2373

WELLESLEY, Mass. - Despite what the extroverts of the world may think, shy people are not unsociable. They want to make friends, but anxiety keeps them from being friendly.

Worse, studies show that shy people, who make up 40 percent of the American population, are too hard on themselves, adding to the problem.

"Shy students rate their performance much more harshly that a panel of objective observers," said Wellesley College psychology professor and researcher Jonathan M. Cheek.

Despite a recent flurry of self-help books celebrating shyness, Cheek says shyness is more than just a social inconvenience. Shy people miss out on too many of the good things in life.

Cheek will teach a Wellesley College summer school seminar, "Psychology of Shyness," June 17-July 12, in which he and his students will study the real cost of shyness, including:

- a feeling of alienation in our increasingly impersonal culture

- the risk of medical problems, even early death, related to loneliness

- misunderstandings by people who think shy people are snobs or pushovers

- the loss of opportunities in love, social situations and careers

These problems result from the shy person's inability step forward to take advantage of opportunities.

Shy people, Cheek said, can learn to become more self-confident. "It takes vast amounts of energy-not to mention frustration-just coping with life as a shy person," he said. "Why not channel that energy into becoming a more confident and outgoing person?"

Here are Cheek's suggestions to help the chronically shy:

- Set goals each week to become friendlier by saying hello to others or asking about their work. Reward yourself by mentally patting yourself on the back or treating yourself to a bouquet of flowers or a new CD once a week. Practice followed by a well-earned reward reinforces that talking to others is pleasant, not a dreaded chore.

- Learn relaxation techniques to relieve physical and mental anxieties that accompany shyness.

- Change your attitude. By concentrating on negatives, shy people reinforce a negative self-image. Focus on turning negative thoughts into positive ones to think like a winner.

- Cultivate self-acceptance. Make a list of the things you like to do and do those things more often. And remind yourself you are your own best friend.

Just as hotheads may lose friends, jobs or a lover if they don't learn to control their tempers, Cheek said, shy people stand to lose the same things if they cannot overcome their fear of social situations.

For more information, contact Wellesley College Office for Public Information at 781-283-3321 or e-mail


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  • Date Modified: June 14, 2002
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