By request: How to help shy teens build confidence and conversation skills.
How to Help Shy Teens Build Confidence and Conversation Skills
There is nothing in the world wrong with being shy. God created all kinds of personalities and each is wonderful in His sight. However, every personality has its strengths and its “opportunities for growth”.
No matter what personality style a teen has, part of their work as budding adults is to learn their strengths and learn tools they can use when they need to compensate for those opportunities for growth.
For shy teens, opportunities for growth often include:
- Wanting increased self-confidence
- Needing tools for networking and conversations
The cool thing about homeschooling high school is that you can make learning these skills part of their Health, Psychology or Human Development curriculum. Teens can log hours learning skills and practicing them- perhaps even leveling up their credits for their transcript!
Let’s talk about some skills for shy teens (or any teen, for that matter)
Sometimes, teens who are shy doubt their ability to do well in social settings. Let’s give them some tools that will build their confidence. I regularly have taught these skills to my own teens and clients and they definitely help build confidence!
When preparing for a social setting, develop their brands or role to play
This is how a developing a branding role. Have your teens imagine that the event is the stage of a play and they are one of the actors. I learned this trick long ago from 7Sister Sabrina when my teens attended her annual summer drama camps. She would have the young people write out the backstory, or background information, about the characters they would be playing.
Your teens can do this, too, only instead of inventing a background story about themselves, they can write out some positive truths about themself. Have them spend a little time writing out a description of themselves. For instance:
- I’m a quiet but intelligent gamer…
- Or: I’m a compassionate and helpful future Psychology major…
- I’m a wise and thoughtful English major…
Developing that branding role is sort of like developing a “confidence infrastructure”. It will strengthen their confidence over time. One excellent way to develop their branding role is by doing their personality tests. Here’s a link to a freebie download at my coaching website: Personal Discovery Links. The download contains links to free versions of some classic and some fun personality tests.
Just before they enter any social event, teach teens to try these confidence-boosting, non-verbal “magic tricks”:
We call these, “magic non-verbal tricks” because it almost seems magical because they work so well.
- Before they go to an event, have them stand for fifteen seconds with their arms akimbo (hands on hips, elbow out).
- Believe it or not, this posture lowers their stress hormone levels and increases your confidence-boosting hormones!
- When they arrive at the event but before they enter the room, have them pull their shoulders back and their chin up. Then instruct them to plaster on a “Mona Lisa smile”.
- This is an invitational non-verbal; it draws people to them. (As opposed to “nervous non-verbals”- shoulders hunched, chin tucked, frown- which says, “stay away!”.)
- If they are able, have them keep something in one hand, such as bottle of water. It can help them look more confident. (Who knows why that works, but it works!)
While at the event, suggest to your teens to give themselves a job
One job is the job: Facilitator. That is fancy wording for “Someone who makes someone else feel comfortable”. Teach your teens:
- When they arrive, scout the room. Have them find someone on the fringes who looks shy and alone.
- Tell your teens to introduce themselves and ask a question.
- In helping someone else feel welcome, your teens will have gained an acquaintance and maybe even, a new friend.
- Not only that, but they will have created some goodwill.
- In order to do this confidently, help your teen to come prepared with some memorized general-interest questions.
- Some examples might be:
- “I’m new to the group, how about you?”
- “How long have you homeschooled?”
- “Are you new to the group?”
- Some examples might be:
- In social settings where there are mostly adults, have them prepared to shake hands, if hands are offered.
- Have them practice their handshakes so that it is gentle but firm.
- Note that because of Covid, traditional handshake greetings are not as common as they once were.
Encourage your shy teens that listening is a social skill, too!
Sometimes shy teens feel that being rather quiet in a group is a bad thing. However, that is NOT true! In fact, being quiet simply means your teens are listening. People LOVE to be listened to.
- Have your teens show listening non-verbals:
- Occasionally nodding their head in agreement
- Smiling or laughing at jokes or funny stories
Practice, practice, practice positive self-talk
- Have your teens practice talking well to themselves.
- “You can do it!” is a powerful, positive self-talk statement!
Also, practice all these skills
Literally, you can practice each of these skills with your teens. Then have them practice with a close friend or relative.
NOTE: There are more tips in our Social Skills for Children guide.
Notice if shyness becomes more than shyness- it becomes an anxiety issue
Occasionally, natural shyness can become actual social phobia or generalized anxiety. In these cases, it is useful to let teens work with a counselor. Both social phobia and generalized anxiety are treatable- so why suffer needlessly.
On the other hand, homeschool high schoolers who are shy do not need to quit being shy. However, if they have some skills they can use in social settings, it will increase their confidence!