Many shy adults feel like there aren’t any options when to meet someone special without using online dating sites. After all, it’s hard to introduce yourself to a stranger when your palms start sweating and your chest tightens up. When the symptoms of shyness or social anxiety kick in, the only thing we want to do is disappear.

Q: What did the shy pebble say?

A: I wish I was a little boulder

It doesn’t have to be that way though. Even though you may not be an instant Romeo, building your confidence with small steps will improve your love life.

Here are some ways to train yourself that I’ve found helpful.

A Little Bit of Background

I suffered from shyness and social anxiety for years in my late teens and early twenties. Oh yeah, had some serious depression too. It took me a long time to deal with these challenges, but I discovered that there was no “magic bullet.” It was all hard work.

I’m now 38 and consider myself to be very confident. I can start conversations with random strangers, ask attractive women out for a date, and don’t have any problems making friends.

I definitely don’t miss the days where I would break into a sweat if more than a couple of people were looking at me. Working on your own shyness will open a whole new social world.

How to Start

Start by conditioning yourself to talk to random strangers, whether men or women. By striking up conversations with people in public, you’ll be putting yourself in a position to meet others naturally. You’ll also be able to practice dealing with your nerves.

At a coffee shop (or any shopping/restaurant scenario), if there’s someone nearby, all you have to do is make an observation. “Weird weather today” or “What are you reading? I didn’t know people still had real books…” or almost anything else.

Yep, you can comment on something as mundane as the weather and people will be happy to engage you. No rocket science here.

That starts the conversation. You’ll get better at having a good conversation with practice. Don’t worry about it being good at first. Just get the ball rolling by making the observation.

You’ll end up feeling more confident because you’ll be able to talk to anyone. No more isolation, and you’ll be able to make friends and get dates.

This practice will erode your shyness. A lot of shyness just comes from not having enough experience socially. It can also come from avoiding social situations (or scenarios, like asking someone out) which degrades confidence.

The more we avoid something we fear the stronger that fear gets.

The basic premise behind this idea is related to exposure therapy. You condition yourself in small increments to the thing you fear to overcome that fear. Not only will this exposure improve your confidence, but you’ll gain further confidence with the new social skills you learn.

Some other options to overcome shyness include:

  1. Public speaking courses
  2. Acting classes
  3. Networking events
  4. Social meetups (try Meetup.com)
  5. Improv or stand up comedy classes

All of these things will help you grow more confident and less shy. This will create the freedom for you to start talking to potential dates without using online dating.

While you’re practicing talking to all of these people, keep in mind that anyone you talk to could turn into a date. You just have to take it to the next step if you feel the conversation is going well. Ask him or her out for coffee, and keep it casual. Act just like you’re inviting a friend out.

Also, stop telling yourself, “I’m shy.” It’s too easy to use that as a crutch when you make it into part of your identity. Detach yourself from the emotion by changing your language around it.

Instead of “I’m shy,” you can re-frame as “I feel shy sometimes.” Train yourself to feel and think differently.