The Weird Belief I Used To Have


Looking back on it, the guy in the bowler hat almost certainly fancied me. But at the time, I thought he was talking to me for a completely different reason.

Why I still remember this young man

I was 15 years old, in a warehouse in East London. Techno music and strobe lights filled the room. Two of my best friends were dancing nearby: hot pants, tight tops, arms trailing through the air in front of them. I danced, facing the wall, long sleeves pulled over my hands, shuffling to the music, trying hard not to be seen.

The guy in the bowler hat (it was the ’90s) came up to me and started asking me questions about myself. I don’t remember what they were. All that I remember is this overwhelming sense of gratitude. I wanted to throw my arms around him, weeping in thanks.

My twisted idea of how things were

When we three went out, no one ever spoke to me. The other girls – they chatted away to strangers all the time. Strangers chatted to them. But not me.

At the time, I was SURE that this was because, compared to me, they were:

  • prettier
  • thinner
  • more interesting
  • cooler

When bowler hat guy came up, I was 100% CONVINCED that he was talking to me out of pity.

Look at that boring girl”, he must have thought.
“No one wants to speak to her because she’s so boring. I best go and say hello, cheer her up a bit, be a good citizen”.

That’s why I was so grateful to him.

Why no one ever talked to me

Hint: it’s NOT because I wasn’t pretty, thin, interesting or cool enough.

Reason 1: No eye-contact

When you’re shy with new people (as I was then, desperately), often, you are bad at  making eye contact. This isn’t just arbitrary: it’s a considered response:
You think, “If this person isn’t talking directly to me, it’s rude to make eye contact”. It’s  intrusive.

This is SIMPLY NOT TRUE. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Reason 2: when I did have the chance to say something, I stayed silent.

Again, this wasn’t for no reason. It’s because I couldn’t think of anything to say.

And on the rare occasions when my mind wasn’t completely blank, what I thought of wasn’t interesting, funny or smart.
I thought that, in order to take up people’s precious time with my talking, I had to say something really worthwhile.

This is SIMPLY NOT TRUE. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Your chance to find out how I completely changed
from the boring, silent one, into someone who can talk to anybody

If you see yourself in any of the above, I have good news for you:

Being shy with new people is not a life sentence.

(click here to tweet that!)

Listen – I understand that some people are generally quiet and happy with it. That’s RAD.

But I’m talking about how I was – with my friends, you couldn’t shut me up. But put me in a room full of strangers, and I became mute. People would say, “You’re so quiet!” and I’d think,

No I’m not!! This isn’t me!‘.

When it comes to networking, this feels like a disaster. You know you’re good at talking to people. You have friends, people like to hang out with you. But faced with networking, all of that falls away.

Over the next few posts, I am going to take you through the small changes I made that had  a BIG impact.

I’ll start next week with EYE CONTACT. You may be making mistakes you don’t realise.  And there are very easy ways to fix them. (Click HERE to read that post now!)


Over to you

Do you behave differently with your friends than you would when networking? Is there some extra thing you feel you need to be doing? Or have you also managed to overcome social habits you formed as a teenager?

Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading,

You rule,

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:

Photo Credits: purplemattfish, Frederic Poirot, chantrybee, and creatingkoan, all via Compfight cc


  • Rachel

    Reply Reply June 28, 2013

    I was very shy and quiet when I was younger. I’m still shy to a degree now and I’m still quiet – I’m pretty much an introvert so talking to lots of new people really takes it out of me and then I need an evening/day of not talking to anyone to recharge.

    However! The thing that really helped me gain confidence and gave me courage to talk to people I didn’t know was dyeing my hair BRIGHT GREEN when I was 16. It’s all well and good to plan to dye your hair a mad colour, but when it’s done you have that realisation that you HAVE TO LEAVE THE HOUSE. With green hair. In whatever bright green state you have managed to get it to on your first attempt at bleaching and dyeing your own hair (mine wasn’t terribly good, it was football pitch green near the roots and more pond-green near the ends from years of using permanent dye and not being able to get that part of my hair to near white).

    The idea that people are looking at you because you’re weird is suddenly not a problem because YES! You DO have green hair and it’s unusual. The problem about having nothing to talk about? Inevitably anyone you meet (especially little old ladies) will mention your hair and then you have a safe topic that you know things about to waffle on with for a few minutes.

    At university having pink/blue/red/whatever coloured hair made it easier for other people to recognise me amid the sea of new faces (admittedly, a lot of the time I had no idea who I was talking to, but if you don’t address someone by name during a conversation you can probably figure out where you know them from by topic of conversation by the end at least!).

    It’s a little unorthodox, I suppose, but it worked and the confidence I gained from the whole “well, I still have to leave the house” thing has really helped especially when I started work and had to speak to people I didn’t know all the time.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply June 28, 2013

      This is awesome!

      I definitely have had days where I feel super-shy, and find putting on a zazzy dress kind of does the hard work for me. I also noticed that I start conversations with people based on liking something eye-catching that they’re wearing!

      It’s a great trick and I’m glad it worked for you!

  • shakirah

    Reply Reply July 25, 2014

    hey Marsha this is a great idea i need to buy iam a really bad communicator yet i am a student of Public Relations but i feel so irritated.Please tell me about that.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply July 26, 2014

      Hey Shakirah!

      I’m a little confused – what is it that you’d like to hear about? Communication is, I think, all about empathy. How does the other person see this situation? What is a way I can express my thoughts to them in a way that they will understand it best?

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