Worries About Being More Outgoing With People You Were Previously Shy Around

Here's a social issue some people aren't sure how to deal with: They've hung out with a group in the past and were really shy and quiet. Now they think they can be more outgoing and confident, but worry how everyone will react. They may have a specific fear, like that everyone will see them as being fake. Or they may just vaguely feel it will be weird and sudden if they start being more talkative, and they'll be judged negatively for it.

Below I'll explain why becoming more outgoing around a group you were previously inhibited around almost always turns out fine. There are two versions of this scenario. The first is when you've only hung around a group once or a handful of times. The second is when you've known everyone for much longer. I'll start by covering the first situation:

Some people may not even notice you're acting more outgoing

Part of the fear of being more chatty is that everyone will instantly pick up on it, and then start thinking critical things about you. If you've only spent time around a group once or twice no one may even notice you're acting differently. They haven't known or thought about you enough to peg you as the Shy Person, or anything else. This is especially true if you met a lot of people at once, and it was at a busy, distracting get together like a house party. You may have been a blip in their night, as they had a ton of other things to think about and friends to catch up with.

People don't generally disapprove of a previously quiet person who starts to open up

Some people may notice you're being more talkative than before, but odds are they aren't looking down on you for it. For the most part they'll quickly, matter-of-factly acknowledge to themselves that you're speaking more, then move on to other thoughts. It's that old truism that people usually aren't thinking about you nearly as much as you imagine they are.

If they do start theorizing about why you're being more outgoing, they may think it was for a non-shyness reason, like you were tired or distracted the first time or two they met you. Even if they did realize you were shy, they probably don't care. Shy folks can be too hard on themselves and see shyness as one of the worst traits a person can have, but many people see it as pretty common and innocuous.

It's also not a foreign concept to people that sometimes someone can be quiet around a new group until they get their bearings. If you were shy around a half dozen friends you just met it's not like you're forever marked with some shameful brand in their eyes. Some social circles even realize they can be a bit intimidating and hard to get to know at first. They admit they make a lot of in-jokes or don't always make enough of an effort to include new people in their conversations. They don't hold it against anyone for taking a few meetings to feel comfortable around them.

If anything many people will be glad for you if you start participating more. They're happy to see that you're coming out of your shell. They like that there's now one more person in the conversation who can potentially make interesting points or spit out funny one-liners.

Some people fear they'll invite disapproval because if they make a social mistake it will be more noticeable and judged more harshly, since it stands out compared to their previous quiet behavior and reputation. This could happen, but if anything they'll get leeway for it being their first time, rather than yet another instance in an ongoing pattern.

If you shift from shy to outgoing, you don't have to do it in an over the top way

Some people are mainly nervous about how strange it will seem to everyone when they abruptly start acting more outgoing. Or they think everyone won't like their new chatty persona. I think this can come from the way some shy people can unconsciously think of outgoingness in a black or white way. They believe someone is either a timid little mouse or a motor mouthed carnival barker. Similarly, they may think that since they were previously so quiet, and because they just "know" everyone sees them as a meek wallflower, the only way they can change that impression is by acting ultra-gregarious. So when they imagine themselves acting more talkative, they picture the group not knowing how to take this hyper, excessively gabby version of themselves.

If you did become over the top outgoing overnight it may be jarring to some people. However, you don't have to go to the far end of the scale. If you never spoke up in group discussions before, just start chipping in your fair share. Don't try to do all the talking and take over. If you spent all night on the couch at the last party, this time approach a few people and make the usual kind of one on one chit chat. Don't feel you have to bounce around and entertain every single person there. If you become more outgoing in a mild way no one is going to think its odd or trying too hard.

Your longer-term friends will also probably be happy for you if you start to get over your shyness, and if they aren't then you should question the relationship

People you've known longer will likely be more surprised if you start speaking more, but if they're good friends then they should be supportive of your change. At worst, a true friend may be temporarily taken aback if some of your initial attempts to act more outgoing are a bit overdone and clumsy. But on the off-chance that you do that, they should still be glad for you as your new talkativeness settles into a more mellow form.

If you've known a group for a while, and even after giving them an adjustment period they still don't approve of your new outgoing self, then you should ask yourself if you still want to be friends with them. Why aren't they happy that you're more sociable and confident? Why do they want to keep you in a shy style that wasn't working for you? Do they have anything to gain from you staying mute and unsure of yourself? If the unspoken requirement for being friends with them is pretending to be your old, shy self, even though you know how to be more talkative now, is it worth it? If you used to be shy but are now able to be outgoing, would it be better to move on and use your new social skills make another group of friends who appreciate you more?