Don't be shy

Don't be shy (Lauri Rotko, Folio Images)

Rather than try to beat their shyness, singles should learn to work with it, the experts say. Here are some strategies:

1. Christopher Gray's favorite "assignment" for shy men (he believes men have it tougher than women because they're expected to be initiators) is to approach 50 women in 30 days, not necessarily with the aim of getting a phone number but just to get into the habit and realize it's not the end of the world to be rebuffed.

2. When shy people clam up, they can appear snooty or unapproachable, Lynne Henderson said. Smile, make eye contact, lean forward and have an open face to appear more inviting. Get out of your head, and focus on learning about the other person, Henderson said.

3. When at a social function, realize no one is looking at you; they are looking at themselves, and many are also shy, Bernardo Carducci said. Be the social facilitator, making introductions, talking to the loners and helping others have a good time. You don't have to be the most outgoing or brilliant person in the room to be the nicest.

4. Arrive at social functions on time, as it's easier to meet people when there are just a handful milling around instead of walking in fashionably late and trying to break into a group, Carducci said. Also, avoid finding courage in booze.

5. Practice the art of conversation, Carducci said. To start, make an observation about your shared environment and offer a bit of information about yourself that gives the other person material for a follow-up.

6. If you have a shy attack on a date, admit to it rather than freaking out or trying to hide it, said Erika Hilliard, a clinical social worker and author of "Living Fully With Shyness and Social Anxiety" (Da Capo). It gives the other person an opportunity to relate or reassure you. One client updated her online profile to mention her shyness and found it boosted her responses.

7. For people who experience shyness as physical symptoms, like a pounding heart and sweaty hands, Hilliard suggests practicing a relaxation technique called "grounding" a few times a day so you can access it when needed: Feel your feet on the ground, your back against a chair, pay attention to your sensations and your breathing.

8. Negative thinking is a shy person's most paralyzing, self-fulfilling hurdle. Rather than imagine the worst possible scenario, imagine the best, or how you'd recover from a challenge, Hilliard said.

9. Get into a community of some sort, whether it's a bridge club or a softball team, and seek out a role; shy people feel most comfortable when they have a task to complete, Bonnie Jacobson said.

10. If you fear date conversation, go to a movie, museum or other activity before dinner so that you have something to talk about, Greg Markway suggests.

11. Practice mindfulness, being present in the moment without judging or trying to change anything, Steve Flowers said. Anxiety often is caused by anticipatory thinking. Don't imagine the date before the date, and when you're on the date don't think about whether there will be a next one. Listen deeply and pay attention to the here and now. Studies show mindfulness reduces anxiety.

— A.E.R.