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“When you’re extremely shy and anxious around new people, how do you go about finding someone who’s interested in a romantic relationship?”

—Graham, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada  

First, some good news: Since shyness is at least partially genetic, that means that somehow shy people have been forming romantic relationships and passing on their shy genes for a long time. The question is how? Whether shy or socially confident, forming relationships involves risk. The key is to manage your fear by playing to your strengths. These tips may help.

Challenge your thoughts and expectations

Shy people tend to be more self-critical than others; they spend a lot more time and energy imagining what might go wrong and anticipating bad outcomes. Acknowledge that there are risks, but instead of dwelling on these, focus on visualizing positive interactions and pleasant conversations.

You may be shy, but you are not shallow

Remember that you have interests, strengths, and passions. These are the things that attract others and become the points around which most couples connect. You may have to work harder than some others do to become comfortable sharing your strengths and passions, but you have much to offer.

Avoid high-risk scenarios

If the thought of talking for an extended period makes you nauseous, then I don’t suggest going for coffee on the first date. Think movies, shows, and games. It’s a good idea to keep initial interactions brief, and remember that no conversation is all good or all bad. Give yourself credit for initiating a conversation, even if in retrospect you might have said something differently. Oftentimes, shy people find group activities a more comfortable way to form relationships. Suggest activities that you enjoy or environments where you feel more confident.

Get out of your comfort zone regularly

This is probably not what you want to hear, but the truth is that the more you stretch yourself, the more comfortable you will become. It won’t happen immediately, but stick with it and lean into your other friends.

Worry less about outcomes

Turning you down for lunch may just mean that now isn’t a good time. Socially confident students get “rejected” regularly, they just don’t take it personally. Focus on what you want and what you can control. Think about what you want to be like next year, not next week. This gives you more time to make adjustments, develop skills, and allow relationships to develop naturally.

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