After reading Philip Zimbardo’s, Shyness: What It Is What to Do About It, and taking his lessons into practice, I find that this book takes an interesting, simple and yet effective approach to overcome shyness. With the absence of “psychobabble”, the author uses easy to follow language where the reader can easily interpret the text. The first couple of chapters define what shyness is through real life anecdotes to situational circumstances.
The book explains how the term “shyness’ exemplifies a broad and indefinite definition. Zimbardo then introduces the concept of shyness by first telling the reader a story of a young girl who is afraid of human company, a severe case of shyness. Then he would talk about the different degrees of shyness such as simply blushing, which sharply juxtaposes the previous anecdote. There is an endearing quality in his writing where the reader can see that the author is somewhat objective and unbiased ,yet exudes an empathetic tone. Zimbardo’s approach was ingenious, where he would share a personal story of his brother who overcame his severe case of shyness, a powerful testimony which readers can see the genuine concern from the author, creating a mutual bond with the reader. He would bring reassurance through more anecdotes that it is proven that shyness can be overcome, but through the willful power to change.
With a modest and simple title, with “Shyness” in bold letters, the outer appearance of the book itself looks straight forward and only concerned with talking and giving advice about overcoming shyness. As stated in the first chapter, Zimbardo tells the reader that he cannot promise change, but rather it is up to the willingness of the reader to bring forth change. At the same time, Zimbardo also reassures the reader that the “myth of unchangeability” is debunked, and that our brains are malleable to change. The title says it all, Shyness, what it is, what to do about it.
Philip G. Zimbardo is appraised for his research on shyness, vandalism, and imprisonment. With a PhD in Yale, Zimbardo is also is Professor of Psychology at Stanford University of California. Many know him for his television appearances in the PBS, “Discovering Psychology”. His career is also noted for a plethora of published texts and had contributed to over 300 publications. His “Prison experiment” has been widely acclaimed and contributed to the field of psychology through observing human nature. His academic achievements along with his studies reflect his integrity and knowledge in the field of Psychology. Zimbardo will talk about the different theories of how shyness came to be, through a psychoanalytic, behaviorist, biological, sociological perspective. Instead of just reiterating the facts, Zimbardo would also put his input and his opinion in the different perspectives and understanding of shyness. For example, he would say that the psychoanalytic perspective is, “wonderful at explaining everything- but proving nothing.” The author also incorporates many studies and surveys in the book, to support his statement or factual information. He would also place snippets of cartoons to better illustrate his point, which is the entertaining part of the book.
The advice portion of this book successfully builds a better understanding of one’s identity, heightens self-esteem, and develop better social skills. Zimbardo will take the reader through a series of surprisingly enjoyable activities and questionnaires for the reader to have a better understanding of how they view themselves.
In the first activity, the author asks the reader to find a paper and pencil to draw themselves. Which was interesting because I have noticed how I would overly emphasize my jaw line, an area of my face that I do not like. My portrait was an amalgam of a self portrait and a caricature. There are some activities where he would ask the reader to list all of their best and worst traits and characteristics. All for the purpose of knowing themselves.
Later on, Zimbardo will engage the reader by questioning the negative and positive effects of their shyness. He would show the reader through research and tests that there is a correlation between shyness and low self-esteem. He would then provide practical steps for a “more confident you”. There are other activities where he would ask the reader to imagine that they are an actor; to pretend that they are playing a role of a character that is out of their element. After participating through his fun activities, I have discovered and brought my attitude and true self image to my conscience level. I have used his practical steps to develop better social skills in the different situations that the author addresses.
Towards the end of the book, the author also encourages the reader with new thinking and to practice what they have learned to their communities. Zimbardo will address the negative effects that shyness in a community will bring, and that social interaction is essential. The author then explores shyness in different cultures. I find it interesting to see how most Asian cultures are more impacted with shyness to a staggering degree. One survey showed how 90 percent of the Japanese partaking the survey labeled themselves as shy, which self-fulfilling prophecy may be present. He shows how the attitudes for shyness deeply root from cultural understanding. Some cultures, especially in the collectivist understanding, find shyness, especially in women to be a feminine and proper trait. While in Western countries are more about the individual, but also have a strong belief in community and human interaction, something that shyness can inhibit.
Overall, my reading experience for Zimbardo’s, Shyness: What It Is What to Do About It was a worthwhile read. The acclaimed author gives interesting and engaging insight and provides practical steps to overcome shyness. He uses clear and easy to read English, without “psychobabble”, and does not make any airy promises to his readers.