Thursday, 06 October 2016 21:29

Is Toastmasters Good for Painfully Shy People?

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Shy?Like any thought-provoking question, there likely isn’t a definitive answer. This one, as others, would likely fit into the “it depends” category.

Let me preface my comments with sharing that I am a 22 years and counting member of Toastmasters, Past District 21 Governor and a Distinguished Toastmaster. I wouldn’t say that I was painfully shy when I joined Toastmasters but my shyness did limit me significantly.

While I can’t recommend a Toastmasters club enough for its ability to help increase your self-confidence, your poise, your communication & leadership skills and in time a reduction of one’s shyness, it isn’t an automatic effect of joining a club. You don’t learn public speaking by osmosis. You actually have to speak and incrementally improve your skill and self-confidence.

The same applies to reduction of one’s shyness. If you join a Toastmasters club with the expectation that they will solve your shyness problem, then you will be disappointed. On the other hand, if you join with the express purpose of reducing your shyness and a self-directed plan to do so, you will likely be successful.

Our Toastmasters club officers take on their leadership role in one year increments. They are learning on the job as they practice servant leadership. I would expect that few of them have any practical experience in helping a shy person move forward. I have encountered far too many people, which tend to be extroverts, say “Just do as I do! That’s the right way!” When helping someone overcome shyness, it isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ scenario.

My professional career is as a Registered Nurse working in psychiatry/mental health. With 40 years of practical experience, I am quite confident in dealing with the situations I experience on a daily basis and the limited social situations I encounter. Not so in my business life. My business experience is self-taught, not having attended business school. As an entrepreneur, I have several “potential” sources of income, as I like to call them, on the go at any given time. I have to get out there and network. People don’t do business with people they don’t know.

With over twenty years of Toastmasters experience I am skilled at public speaking and have taken on hundreds of leadership opportunities. Each providing me growth opportunities and an increase in my self-confidence. However, I never focussed on developing my networking skills, which has its basis in shyness.

A few years I decided to do something about it and researched and wrote a book addressing shyness, with a focus on business networking. Here is an excerpt from a book that I am currently writing addressing overcoming shyness, with reference to my original book. Enjoy!


It has been said “if you aren’t networking ... you aren’t working!”

Networking is work. To be effective it takes time, effort, energy and having a strategic plan in place. It becomes exponentially more challenging and even terrifying for you if yousuffer from shyness.

I use the term suffer rather than experience, in reference to shyness because it can be quite painful and debilitating for some people. Shyness can cripple you from taking action(s) that others do with apparent ease. Anxiety and stress can prevent you from moving your business forward. The good news is that this can be reduced if not eliminated!

Power Networking for Shy People: Tips & Techniques for Moving from Shy to Sly! by author Rae Stonehouse. This manual builds upon the strategies I developed and published in my previous publication Power Networking for Shy People: Tips & Techniques for Moving from Shy to Sly! (PNSP).

In PNSP I set out to provide a master plan for shy networkers to level the playing field with those that seem to be fearless and likely more effective in their networking measures. I offered sage advice and proven techniques that if used, would lessen the anxiety experienced by shy networkers and maximize their effectiveness.

As writing PNSP unfolded, I realized that providing practical strategies for what I coinedpower networking specifically targeted at shy networkers, as well as providing strategies to reduce the actual anxiety was beyond the scope of one manual.

Networking is not a normal and easy activity for many people, especially if you are shy. Over the years I have seen many people avoiding the anxiety caused by attending a social function with a room full of strangers. Even meeting people that are known to us doesn’t necessarily lessen the anxiety experienced. I know this first-hand as I have suffered from social anxiety throughout most of my life, until I decided to do something about it.

Networking is a skill that must be learned and practiced. In business and in life, a majority of our successes come from talking to people and involving them in our ideas, plans, or projects.

This manual has developed as a result of my own personal journey of discovery and skill-building and focusses on reducing, if not eliminating the fear, the anxiety and the terror that many business professionals experience when getting out in the public and promoting themselves and their businesses. As the saying goes I’ve “been there ... done that!”


Want to reduce your shyness? Yes, by all means join a Toastmasters club! As soon as you join, ask if the club has a mentor program. Look around at your fellow club members to see if any of them display the self-confidence in social situations that you would like to possess. Emulate them. Approach them to ask if they would consider mentoring you. You never know, you might make a new friend for life.

Rae Stonehouse

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