Woman sitting with her knees to her chest looking off thinking

Dating Tips for Shy People: Techniques to Learn and Use

by Dr. Seth Meyers - August 11, 2014

The most important point for shy men and women dating is to get them out of their heads and into the moment as much as possible. If you’re a shy person, you probably know too well that you have a tendency to think, think, think when you’re thrust into new social situations. I actually find that shy individuals are some of the most interesting and dynamic people, partly because they often have more introspective personalities. But when it comes to dating, being shy makes getting comfortable with someone new on a date very uncomfortable. So, which techniques can help you get out of your head so that you can actually relax and enjoy your date?

First, wear a distracting clothing item or accessory.

If you’re shy, the first date is the hardest of all dates. Heck, the first date is awkward for everyone, right? On a first date, wear something that can act as a conversation-starter for the two of you. You don’t want to be focusing on what you’re thinking, or what your date is thinking, so wear an article of clothing or accessory that your date can comment on. This will take the pressure off of you and get the two of you talking. Wearing a shirt or hat with your college name, carrying an eclectic handbag, wearing an interesting watch or bracelet, or pulling out your cell phone with a custom/interesting case are all ways to distract the focus from you. At the end of the day, this is the main secret to successful dating, especially for shy men and women: distract yourself from the thoughts in your head and come out, come out, come out to play.

Focus on what you like.

Being shy basically means that you have a lot of personality inside you, but you feel uncomfortable releasing it to people you don’t really know. In many ways, this trait is actually positive in that you use caution as you get to know people. The trick, however, is to not overthink things when you meet someone. In other words, if you don’t know him, why should you really care? Redirect your thoughts to your interests and talk about those on a new date. Steer the conversation to vacation spots you love, television programs you follow, or authors you read. As long as you start talking about things you care about, you’ll be a lot more relaxed – and a whole lot less shy.

Yet overcoming shyness isn’t just about learning tricks to use to start conversation. In fact, you need to simultaneously work on managing the anxiety that so many shy men and women feel on a new date. Let me share a couple of techniques that will make you feel less anxious when you really want to sit back and enjoy your date.

Take a video of yourself.

I’ll share a trick that I have used in my career which has helped tremendously. As a psychologist who is frequently a guest expert on television, I had to learn to become comfortable on camera. Make no mistake: This was not easy for me! My first appearance was years ago on “Good Morning America,” and I essentially froze on camera. Similarly, I’ll never forget my first time on the “Nancy Grace” show; after watching the recorded show later, it appeared as if someone had been holding a gun to my head as I spoke. (Yikes, because there was no such gun.) I’ve come a long way since those days largely because I started videotaping myself so that I could see how I come across to others when I’m talking. For dating purposes, try taking a video of yourself as you say hello and ask your date a few questions. Take many videos and watch them, but the point is to spend more time practicing making small talk and asking questions in a comfortable, natural way. The more you get comfortable talking like this at home, the less shy you’ll come across on your dates.

Keep your hands occupied when you’re nervous.

Thank goodness for tables under which you can fidget with your hands when you feel nervous. One technique that helps many of my clients is to take your thumb and index finger on one hand and press them together with medium pressure. Do it for a minute or an hour, whatever works for you. If you feel anxious, channeling some of that anxiety into the pressure on your fingertips can help to distract you from your anxiety or from thinking too much about whether you seem nervous or shy to your date. If the fingertip exercise doesn’t do the trick, try something else with your fingers, including massaging each finger or rubbing your palms slowly. The good news is that you can often fidget with your fingers on a date without having your date even know by keeping your hands in your pockets or under the table if you’re out for that romantic dinner.

The takeaway: Shyness often gets better with age and practice. The behaviors I highlight above all work to get you out of your head and into the moment so that you can enjoy your date in real-time – not just survive it. My final reminder is that nothing breaks the ice quite like plain old honesty, so don’t be shy – ahem – about telling your new date that you’ve had the shy bug for years. The truth is that shyness isn’t a turn-off to others, so remember that the next time you feel nervous or shy around someone new.

How do you deal with your shyness on dates?

About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.