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Please help - need to get over shyness!

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by nursiee nursiee (Member)

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I struggle with shyness. People who don't know me well/aren't close to me, will say that I am a quiet person who doesn't like talking. However, when I am with people I'm comfortable with and close to (usually outside of work), I can be very extroverted and bubbly. I am quite introverted at work, and it's not really by choice. My introverted nature at work has more do with being shy. If I wasn't shy, I would be just as chatty as most of the other nurses. I do enjoy getting to know people, finding out what their story is, and connecting with them on a deeper level. However, my shyness sometimes hinders me.

I often lack confidence on the floor. I've been a nurse for a little over two years now. I am able to advocate for my patients, ask questions, bring concerns forward, etc. I just need more confidence when doing these things. Some people are better at hiding their nerves than others. I guess I need to be able to "fake it till I make it."

Small talk doesn't really come naturally to me and I'm not that "good" at it. Some people enjoy small talk, but I'm not one of those people. I DO know that small talk is a necessity, especially working in a field like nursing. It's important to make a good first impression. Patients and families don't care whether or not I'm a more talkative or more open person outside of work, or that I take a bit more time to warm up to people, they want to know that I am able to build rapport with them right then and there. I'm working at it though; I ask patients how their day went, what their favorite subject is in school (I work in peds), whether they live in the city or not, etc. I've read some threads on here that small talk with patients can really help with nursing care (e.g., if you ask a patient how their day went, and they say they had a bad day due to their pain, you can talk to the physician and come up with a better plan to manage their pain). I do think that some patients and families don't care whether a nurse is chatty or not, they just want someone to listen. I think it's important to gauge each situation and know what is best for the patient at a particular time.

I've had patients and families tell me that they appreciate the care I'm giving them, so I know I'm doing something right! Some have also told me that they appreciate my calm nature. You can be a quiet nurse and still be confident. I just need to gain more confidence.

In addition, the staff on the unit I work on are quite tightknit and I find it difficult to break in and feel a part of the team. They spend more time talking to the colleagues they hang out with outside of work and just make minimal polite small talk with anyone who is not in that group. How can I interact better with my colleagues? I do find that showing an interest in them will in turn help them show an interest in me. I do try to do that, although I may need to do a better job. Is it better to only try to maintain good working relationships with them and not have too much of a personal relationship?

Can you offer me any suggestions to get over shyness with patients, families, and coworkers? And any tips on becoming more confident? I would really appreciate any advice!

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Is it better to only try to maintain good working relationships with them and not have too much of a personal relationship?

Well...we're all different, but I certainly think so. It's what I prefer as it avoids all kinds of drama. Plus some of us just aren't cut out to be a "friend's friend" (by that I mean needing and enjoying lots and lots of friends). It is 100% okay to not have deep work relationships, as long as you have pleasant work relationships.

Reading what you wrote, it really sounds like you are handling yourself probably better than what it feels like - so then it becomes a matter of mentally allowing yourself to believe that you're doing quite well, and that it's okay to not worry too much about being something you're not. I am quite sure that you have personal strengths/gifts that you use regularly on behalf of your patients.

I hope it doesn't sound like I'm minimizing your situation, because that is not at all my intent - your post reads as someone who is not an extrovert, though, and there's nothing wrong with that. Do your particular brand of good in the world. Strive for pleasant relationships with coworkers and patients. You may think of individual things you'd like to work on (ex: I'd like to make better eye contact, I'd like to smile more, I'd like to project a more confident demeanor, I'd like to speak with a softer tone, etc.) - so you can work on these small personal types of projects. Things will evolve over time - but IMO the main thing that changes is self-acceptance.

:)

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Thanks, JKL33. Much appreciated!

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I struggle with shyness. People who don't know me well/aren't close to me, will say that I am a quiet person who doesn't like talking. However, when I am with people I'm comfortable with and close to (usually outside of work), I can be very extroverted and bubbly. I am quite introverted at work, and it's not really by choice. My introverted nature at work has more do with being shy. If I wasn't shy, I would be just as chatty as most of the other nurses. I do enjoy getting to know people, finding out what their story is, and connecting with them on a deeper level. However, my shyness sometimes hinders me.

I often lack confidence on the floor. I've been a nurse for a little over two years now. I am able to advocate for my patients, ask questions, bring concerns forward, etc. I just need more confidence when doing these things. Some people are better at hiding their nerves than others. I guess I need to be able to "fake it till I make it."

Small talk doesn't really come naturally to me and I'm not that "good" at it. Some people enjoy small talk, but I'm not one of those people. I DO know that small talk is a necessity, especially working in a field like nursing. It's important to make a good first impression. Patients and families don't care whether or not I'm a more talkative or more open person outside of work, or that I take a bit more time to warm up to people, they want to know that I am able to build rapport with them right then and there. I'm working at it though; I ask patients how their day went, what their favorite subject is in school (I work in peds), whether they live in the city or not, etc. I've read some threads on here that small talk with patients can really help with nursing care (e.g., if you ask a patient how their day went, and they say they had a bad day due to their pain, you can talk to the physician and come up with a better plan to manage their pain). I do think that some patients and families don't care whether a nurse is chatty or not, they just want someone to listen. I think it's important to gauge each situation and know what is best for the patient at a particular time.

I've had patients and families tell me that they appreciate the care I'm giving them, so I know I'm doing something right! Some have also told me that they appreciate my calm nature. You can be a quiet nurse and still be confident. I just need to gain more confidence.

In addition, the staff on the unit I work on are quite tightknit and I find it difficult to break in and feel a part of the team. They spend more time talking to the colleagues they hang out with outside of work and just make minimal polite small talk with anyone who is not in that group. How can I interact better with my colleagues? I do find that showing an interest in them will in turn help them show an interest in me. I do try to do that, although I may need to do a better job. Is it better to only try to maintain good working relationships with them and not have too much of a personal relationship?

Can you offer me any suggestions to get over shyness with patients, families, and coworkers? And any tips on becoming more confident? I would really appreciate any advice!

I agree with the previous comment, and I would like to add a few things as well!

There is nothing wrong with being a quiet, introverted person, so personally I believe it is worth asking yourself why you wish to change this about yourself? You said it yourself -- your patients are appreciative of the care you provide, and you are able to adequately provide care and advocate when necessary! What about your practice makes you feel as though you need to change something about yourself that is so innate, such as your introversion? You say it is confidence you need; why do you feel are you not confident? Are you simply not confident enough in yourself to carry on conversations and make friends, or are there other areas you wish to be more confident in? For instance are there things as a nurse you don't know the answers to, or are you struggling in certain areas, like problem solving, therapeutic conversation (obviously if you are shy and not very talkative, this can be tricky!)? Do you feel anxious when having conversations with or making phone calls to physicians? Or are you worried that you are not well-liked by your peers, and do you wish to be part of the group that chit-chats and participates in work-outings?

I ask these questions because as someone who is quite introverted myself, I struggled quite a bit with feelings of anxiousness and a lack of confidence when I first started as a nurse, as well. I was an anxious wreck any time I had to pick up a phone, or walk into a room with more than one family member, or have a crucial conversation with a coworker. It took me well over a year to really make friends with my coworkers, too., though this was not as difficult for me as the other things I mentioned, like phoning physicians or handling a disgruntled family. My struggle with feelings of anxiety has been ongoing, though it has improved dramatically. Yes, that anxiety has affected my confidence at times, but as the months and years go by, the mere exposure to these situations and seeing that I can (as you mentioned of yourself) adequately navigate through sticky situations to achieve my desired outcome, gives me more confidence. And who's to say how much confidence is enough, or not enough, or too much? That is subjective.

My advice to you is to, like I said, examine exactly what it is you wish to achieve. Keep in mind there are a variety of nursing styles, and every nurse has their strengths and weaknesses, and it is this diversity that makes a team great! Some nurses are experts at critical thinking in emergency situations, some are the best therapeutic conversationalists known to man, some can multi-task like there's no tomorrow. Some people can do all of this, but are still not chatty with their peers. Some nurses have awesome relationships with their coworkers, but their patients greatly dislike them. You see what I mean? Figure out what your strengths are and build on them! The more you do this, the better you will become, and the confidence you build as a result will spew over into those other areas where you feel less confident. Start small.

As for your work relations, ask people how their day/evening/shift/patient/dog/family etc have been doing, remember details about them. Compliment people, but only when you really mean it! (i.e. don't be a suck up.) Even if you are a little awkward, they will remember that you are attentive and caring and genuine, and may be more apt to include you in conversation. Recruit your coworkers to help you accomplish tasks. "Hey, Lydia. I know you are excellent at smoothing things over with really upset family members. I have this patient whose daughter hates my guts and thinks I can't pack wounds to save my life, would you mind helping me with this dressing change? I need some back up in there." I'm mostly kidding, but you get the idea. Let your coworkers know when you DO value their strengths; they will appreciate it. The little things add up over time. If they still exclude you, well, maybe you don't want to be friends with them anyway. Let work be work and friends be friends, and don't mix the two.

Anyway, I hope I was able to help at least a little bit. Hang in there! You're doing better than you think :)

Edited by dontbetachy90
typo

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There is nothing wrong with being a quiet, introverted person, so personally I believe it is worth asking yourself why you wish to change this about yourself? You said it yourself -- your patients are appreciative of the care you provide, and you are able to adequately provide care and advocate when necessary! What about your practice makes you feel as though you need to change something about yourself that is so innate, such as your introversion?

Thanks so much for your input, dontbetachy90. I really appreciate your advice!

I agree with you that being quiet is not a bad thing, but being quiet and being shy are two different things. Not all quiet people are shy, and not all shy people are quiet. Not all introverts are shy either. Some people are introverted simply because they do not feel like talking all the time, not because they'd like to talk but feel too shy to do so. Being quiet is fine, but being shy can be problematic. Most of the time, my quiet nature at work has to do with me being shy. If I wasn't shy, I would be one of the most outgoing people there. I can be very extroverted when I am comfortable. The problem is that I lack confidence in certain areas - carrying conversations, approaching patients and families, doing new skills, etc. I would like to talk more sometimes, but being shy hinders me in that I feel uncomfortable to do so. I am still very nervous when going in to assess a patient, or check in on them throughout the shift.

I sometimes wish I could be part of the group chit-chats and all that, but then I wonder if it is really worth it. I'm quite ambivalent about it because I know mixing work life and personal life can lead to issues. I know I shouldn't worry about being liked at work, because work is work. I still think I need to get along with my peers, though, to have a good team environment.

Anyway, like many other "quiet" people, in nursing school, I was often told by instructors to talk more. I wish I would've talked more, but I was often too shy and uncomfortable. There was always this stigma against quiet people. I guess the reason why instructors worry about quiet folks is because they wonder if we'll be able to be assertive in our nursing careers; quiet is often seen as weak. I remember during one of my clinical rotations, after doing a systems assessment on a patient, my instructor would ask, "What makes you nervous about doing an assessment? Your patient will be able to pick up on it." I was also told that nursing would be a tough profession if I'm not able to communicate well, which I do agree with. That is why I'm trying very hard to improve myself.

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In that case, try some baby steps. A smile is a good place to start, because others respond to that a lot more than they do an unwitting dour look or even a neutral face.

I'm not a fan of scripting with patients too much, but in your case some personal scripting might help as well. Come up with a few stock phrases (to go with your pleasant smile) that you can use when passing someone in the hall or when they or you enter a room, or when you're coming into a patient's room, etc. In your case they would serve kind of as icebreakers. You make eye contact, smile, and then you have some sort of a little greeting. Even if it's extreme small talk, like, "did you work yesterday too, or is this your first day back?" Then follow up conversation could be in regard to their answer.

If a group is chatting (pleasantly), you can make eye contact, smile. If you have contributions that you're thinking of adding but can't muster the courage - just go for it. It's not that people don't want to hear from shy people, they just don't try to engage them any more after awhile. You might very well find that they're pleasantly surprised about your choice to participate in conversation. It might be that you just need to stick your toes in the water so that people know you have this desire to be somewhat more social.

Remember that it's pretty easy to judge ourselves way more harshly than most people are judging us. :)

Good luck!

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Thanks so much for your input, dontbetachy90. I really appreciate your advice!

I agree with you that being quiet is not a bad thing, but being quiet and being shy are two different things. Not all quiet people are shy, and not all shy people are quiet. Not all introverts are shy either. Some people are introverted simply because they do not feel like talking all the time, not because they'd like to talk but feel too shy to do so. Being quiet is fine, but being shy can be problematic. Most of the time, my quiet nature at work has to do with me being shy. If I wasn't shy, I would be one of the most outgoing people there. I can be very extroverted when I am comfortable. The problem is that I lack confidence in certain areas - carrying conversations, approaching patients and families, doing new skills, etc. I would like to talk more sometimes, but being shy hinders me in that I feel uncomfortable to do so.

I agree with you that being quiet and being shy are not mutually exclusive traits! I think if you start small, as others are saying, you will slowly grow more and more confident. Achieving this may not necessarily make you more talkative (unless your comfort level with your peers increases), but it will help improve your shyness so that when you DO have something to say, you can do so confidently without those feelings of nervousness. All it takes is a little bit of confidence to accomplish anything you need to, and this truly will come with time. It is wonderful that you recognize this as something that you can improve upon in order to become a stronger, more well-rounded nurse. Good luck!

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