Shelley Widhalm

Archive for the ‘Talking’ Category

Losing My Shyness Identity

In Shyness, Talking on August 14, 2011 at 7:00 am

I’m a bit disappointed that I keep hearing from my friends, real and virtual, that the word I’ve been using to describe myself may be inaccurate.

I thought I was shy. A wallflower. A misfit.

I considered my name Shelley to be perfect, because I hid out in a shell, insecure of what to do or say, afraid to take risks and scared of getting hurt.

I gave my Shyness Challenge one year, but it’s only been seven months of half-heartedly setting up challenges and following through on most of the time, such as going to a bar by myself, modeling in a fashion show and reading my poetry on stage.

One challenge that I have not carried out is to talk to the hottest guy in a bar, or along those lines, starting a conversation with a man who I think is interesting.

That’s because I’m afraid I’ll look like: 1. a dork, 2. desperate, or 3. boring.

Yep, I’ll have to get over that. So my challenge isn’t over.

As my friend, Tim Byrnes, said to me Tuesday evening over coffee, “Anyone who can address being shy in a public place, well, that isn’t shy.”

Oh, okay.

A writer friend of mine said she doesn’t see me as shy but as funny and vibrant. Another friend said I shouldn’t be labeling myself as shy.

Add the fact that I don’t even feel shy most of the time.

I go to work and interview lots of people, more worried that I will forget to ask a question and leave out an important fact than about the impression I’m making. I find that I engage in multiple conversations every day with coworkers, interviewees, friends and people I encounter as I work and play.

Someone who is shy is inhibited in talking with others, being in large groups and taking chances.

That’s not me.

A shy person is distrustful or wary.

That’s not me either.

Being shy is avoiding whatever is the cause of the anxious feelings.

I don’t do that either.

But I do avoid my cool New York City-style walkup like the plague. It may be the coolest apartment in town (in my opinion), but I want to get out and about and live and not stay home doing loner activities.

I like being around people and engaging with them. Call it postmodern shyness where the state of being shy is a slippery thing that, most of the time, is not associated with my identity.


Now what am I going to do?

Bar Hopping it Alone

In Going out, Rejection, Shyness, Talking on July 3, 2011 at 7:00 am

I took my broken heart to the bar on Friday night.

A few months ago, I begged out of my challenge to go to a bar by myself, believing it would make me extremely uncomfortable to stand around alone with my rum and Coke.

What led me to go it alone is my big disappointment a week ago. I had reconnected with an old boyfriend, or whatever he was at the time. But when he came to visit a decade-plus later, he made it quite obvious that in his eyes, I was very, very boring and not very fun to look at – he kept wearing his stupid sunglasses and if not, he’d look everywhere but at me.

But enough about him, because I don’t want to go on and on about what is not.

Anyway, I gave my bar visit one hour.

I bought a drink at this big-city ultralounge in the small city where I live. Tad, the owner of the bar, was at the deejay booth, so I put in a request for Lady Gaga.

I knew Tad from a work-related interview about his new bar concept, so I felt comfortable enough to tell him about my blog challenge. He introduced me to three twenty-something men playing pool. I said “hi” and stood there, waiting to be overcome by brilliant conversation on theirs or my part.

When it didn’t happen, I scurried across the dance floor and up a flight of steps to a sitting area with box-shaped chairs with no backs. I felt like a dork sitting ergonomically correct with my drink. I looked at my glow stick-lighted watch. I had made it 20 whole minutes.

“I can do this,” I said to myself. I took a tour of the bar, though I already knew what it looked like from the interview, and returned to the deejay booth to request another song by Lords of Acid.

And then a drunk but handsome man offered to buy me a drink. I accepted and tried to hold a conversation with him as he swayed and slurred. Drunk number 2, short but cute, came and chatted me up. I started to feel like the drunk guy magnet. Come and talk to the shy girl. And they did.

Between chatting up drunks and talking to Tad, I ended up staying at the bar for 3 ½ hours until close. I guess it was because I was having fun. I had done something I hadn’t wanted to do (go to a big, scary bar all by myself) and I got through it. Plus, I got complimented enough that it started to negate my awful weekend with Mr. Wishy Washy.

Next challenge: start a conversation with a handsome man (sans ring) in a bar. However, if I get the sense that I’m boring him like I did Mr. WW, then I can take a tour of the bar and not let me ego get trampled on along the way.

The Town Cry-er

In Rejection, Shyness, Talking, Vacations on June 26, 2011 at 7:28 am

I took five days off for a friend’s visit but it didn’t turn out so well. It’s the classic case of uneven liking – I like him lots and he thinks I’m more boring than eating pasta shells sans sauce.

During these five (reduced to three because, yep, you got it) days, I realized that besides hating being shy, I hate that I’m sensitive.

Actually, a better way to put it is I have a penchant for crying. You would think I would be dehydrated and ultra skinny from all the energy I burn from letting the water roll. But I have to lift weights and diet and all that crap.

Plus cry.

Add to that the fact I got my hopes up and don’t know where to put them now. In my anticipation of this visit, I jumped out of my comfortable numbness, though I didn’t know that I was numb until, well, now. I’ve been going through the motions of living as I impatiently waited for the weekends when I could sit outside and read or work on my writing.

But hey, I now see that my problem is that I’ve let my shyness keep me in this introverted state where I hang out by myself. My problem is I really do like to talk. It’s just I don’t know how to open my mouth and get words out. Sure I can talk to people who approach my dog to pet her or if I have to interview them or want to make small talk.

But if there is a pause, or silence or discomfort on my part, I don’t know what to do.

Unfortunately, after not reading a book for three weeks because I went on a vacation, tried to finish my novel editing and had this five-day visit coming up, I realized that, unlike what I’ve been telling myself, real life is more fun then books. Now, I just need a how-to book to read to tell me how to live, hence returning me to my comfort of reading instead of living.

For my dog Zoey’s perspective, check out

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The Risk List

In Communication secrets, Shyness, Talking on May 15, 2011 at 8:20 am

I wanted to call this man who I like, and I thought, oh, it’s Saturday night, so I won’t do that. What if it looks like I don’t have plans? The not taking a risk is something I sometimes do – I like to come up with an excuse to remain comfortable in my shyness shell. It’s easier than putting myself out there on the I-might-get-rejected ledge.

My challenge for this past week was to come up with a list of things that could help me break apart the shell. Some of the things I’ve already tried, and a few are things I know about. But I tell myself I don’t want to do them, or I come up with avoidance tactics.

Here’s my Get Over Your Shyness Advice List:

  • If you meet someone new or are sitting next to them at a dinner party, say “hi” and introduce yourself. The worst thing that could happen is they could say their name and turn away. So what? It’s their loss, right?
  • When you start talking, ask questions about the other person’s interests and don’t focus too much on your own. You already know about yourself but could learn from listening to someone else.
  • Try not to worry about what other people think. What you think about yourself is what counts.
  • If starting a conversation seems overwhelming, pretend you’re in a different role, such as a reporter who’s paid to ask questions.
  • Or you could pretend you have an assignment to talk to someone new and if you don’t, you get an unsatisfactory mark.
  • If someone seems not interested in you, it’s not like they’re the only person on the planet. It’s likely that someone else will want to talk to you.

One Serendipitous Day

In Shyness, Talking, Writing on March 27, 2011 at 4:15 am

On a scale of 1 to 10 for meeting my shyness challenge, I get a 6. Yes, I asked someone to coffee, but we haven’t had coffee yet. The circumstances around my coffee inquiry, oddly enough, connect back to the novel I just finished writing.

Last Thursday, I attended a young professionals networking event and talked to a few people, which I consider to be an accomplishment. When I first started attending the networking group, Stir, I found it easier to decorate the walls than talk to strangers. But people would approach me and I would talk back, because after meeting someone, I can come up with all kinds of things to say.

Anyway, after six-plus months of going to the Stir events, I knew enough people to move in and out of conversations. I greeted Andrea, who I met at a previous Stir event. She was talking to a woman named Michelle, a business owner who started a conference focused on empowering possibilities and making needed life changes.

Michelle explained how she started her business during the recession, mainly because she needed a job, and in doing so found her calling.

“What you’re talking about sounds like my novel,” I said.

I explained how “One April Day” is about a 30-something woman named Maggie who gets laid off from a newspaper and, after six months of luckless job searching, moves home with her parents. Through her losses, she gets confused about her purpose in life, even though she finds another writing job that she hates. In essence, Maggie got laid off before her birthday on April 29 but a year later on April 30 when she expects to get laid off again, she realizes that her calling was there all along.

After I finished my elevator speech, Michelle excitedly showed me a flyer for the conference – it’s on April 29-30. Without putting it into religious terms, it basically was serendipity or an amazing coincidence. In the least, it was strange, as it was when my watch stopped just as I finished my novel.

My novel writing is like the whole shyness thing, where I get scared of rejection. I know that I have to try, or I’ll blend into the wall, waiting and waiting. Hoping. Trying. But not turning possibility into change.

At the end of our talk, Michelle said I should email her, so we could chat, and I said, “Let’s get coffee.”

Cheating Chatter

In Shyness, Single Girl, Talking on January 23, 2011 at 8:52 am

I found my challenge this week to be a bit boring through my own laziness. I attended a young professionals networking event at a local brewery with a friend and figured I would try harder to network and talk to new people.

I met a marketer, a business owner and a videographer who I let approach me, not the other way around. On the upside, I was talking the entire time, either to my friend or through the networking thing. What I wasn’t doing was trying to meet someone new, the whole point of this week’s challenge.

In essence, I think I cheated on my challenge. It was too easy and wasn’t outside my comfort zone, particularly because I’ve been to the young professional socials in the past.

All right, on to the next challenge … attend a nightclub by myself and approach a few people beside the bartender. Again that would be too easy. I have to talk to a handsome man. That’s it. End of deal. Then I get to leave. I’ll do the solo bar visit this weekend or next. I’ve got to work up the courage, plus I have to get all dressed up for going out.

The club is a new ultralounge – a big city venue in a small Front Range city — with the lasers and disco lights, so just being there will be a thrill. At least I hope so.

Sweet Talk

In Coffee shops, New Platform, Shyness, Single Girl, Talking on January 16, 2011 at 8:30 am

What used to be old hat for me ended up being a bit uncomfortable. My challenge for this past week was to talk to a handsome man, sans wedding ring. As I went about working and living, I looked at every man I passed, first at his face to see if I found him attractive, and if so, at his left hand.

I felt like a man chaser, but as a hormonal teenager and a 20s-something, I was on the lookout wherever I went. I wondered if this or that man was my future boyfriend.

As I looked, I was disappointed that nine had rings. One didn’t.

I found Mr. No Ring last Wednesday at a coffee shop. He was handsome, as he had to be for the challenge. Tall, I could tell, as I am. And he had a goatee and nice cheekbones.

As I waited for my caramel latte to be made, I said to myself, Here’s my chance. Go talk to him. I got a fluttery stomach that calmed when I actually said something. “Hi. What are you reading?” He showed me the cover of his book. “Star Wars.”

Uh-oh. I don’t like Star Wars.

But I wasn’t going to run, so we talked about reading. We both like it and read at least a book or two a week. Our conversation lasted three or four minutes. I said I enjoyed meeting him, got his name and said that I hoped to run into him again.

I continued my man search on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and did not find any additional ones that meet the criteria.

It didn’t matter. I had made it past mile marker 1. Now on to the second mile. My challenge for next week is to talk to as many people as I can during a social get-together hosted by a young professional membership group to which I belong.

As a note, I am going to be doing the challenge every other week, taking my mother’s advice that my blogging on the subject might get repetitive. On the off weeks, I will explore issues and discuss anything interesting I encounter during work and the rest of my life, or I will try something new.

Dog Talk

In Alone, Best Friends, Talking on December 5, 2010 at 8:30 am

I’ve become the girl who talks to her dog. I no longer live with the family, so I don’t have the constant conversations going on around me. In other words, I don’t always have someone to talk to if I don’t schedule a coffee date or a lunch or dinner out.

I’ve somehow started talking to my dog. It’s not a “How’s my, girl?” and “Aren’t you a cutie?” It’s more like, “How was your day? What did you do? Were you a good girl? Oh good, you didn’t potty on the floor. What a good girl. … Be quiet, silly girl. It’s just noise. Stop barking. STOP. It’s all right, I love you. …”

I tell my dog what I’m doing, so she won’t wonder where I’m going. “I’m going to take a shower. I’m going to brush my teeth. I’m getting the mail.” The only thing I don’t tell her is that I’m going to the fridge. She knows the second my foot touches the wood floor in front of it. It must make a special sound or something.

This might be all right, but I caught myself holding a conversation with my dog when we were outside on a walk. I figured it’s time for me to start calling all of my girlfriends. Okay, okay, I’m not crazy. I just like to talk.

And so does Zoey. She has a language hidden underneath all of her barks, her whining and what I call her happy sound, the sound she makes when she is in the ecstasy of play. I’m jealous, too, of the dog that is the receiving end of all of my talk. All she has to do is listen and play and just be. My best friend seems to know what I’m saying, or at least I imagine it to be that way.