I have a professor who thought it would be a marvelous idea to start the very first lecture with a totally original introduction game.
If you’re shy like me, you know the horror I felt the moment she announced this. After so many traumatizing school years of falling for this trap, I knew walking into the tiny class with desks organized closely together that an introduction game was about to happen. I took a deep breath and scanned all the desks for the perfect place to sit. The one desk alone in the corner of the classroom. Instead of avoiding it like everyone else, I walk straight to it and get comfortable. I let out a sigh of relief once everyone piled in and no one sat next to me, quickly followed by a groan when the professor told everyone to get into pairs and introduce themselves with the most basic and boring questions. When is the professor going to understand that I don’t care about what program my peers are in, or what they spent their summer doing? Not to mention, I definitely don’t care about guessing which of their three facts are false. It’s awkward and it’s uncomfortable.
I sit in the corner on my laptop, doing everything I can to avoid eye contact with anyone in the room, particularly the professor. I have already determined my level of hatred for her. I hear footsteps quickly come closer. I look up to see her shoes coming to a halt in front of my desk and I hear the breath she takes before speaking. She asks me why I don’t want to participate and asks me my name, instead of understanding that I was shy and leaving me be in the confined space known as my comfort zone. I panic and I tell her my name. “Michelle,” I say slowly as a sour taste forms in my mouth.
My heart speeds up because of the awkwardness I feel, followed by my desire to escape. She carried on bombarding me with facts about herself in an attempt to urge me to talk. I don’t want to answer so I sit there quietly while she looks at me with a pressing stare. With a lot of mental energy, I unwillingly open my mouth and tell her that I am pursing a degree in English in hopes to start my own magazine company. She seems satisfied with my answer (or so I thought) and walks away.
It gets worse.
The moment arises when you are forced to share the information you learned about the person you just met. Going around the room and calling on every group, they all introduce each other, and the professor skips me. My heartbeat slows down and I begin to relax until I hear her mention my name. The entire time I feel like I’m going to cry. She ends the introduction by telling everyone that if they need someone to edit their work, they are more than welcome to go to me — being an English major and all. What made her think this was a considerate thing to do? Who gave her permission to put me on the spot?
You think this story ends here, but each lecture the professor calls on me and waits in silence for 20 seconds as I ignore her and stare at my computer screen waiting for her to pick on someone else. Instead of taking the hint, she carries on asking if I did the reading while the whole class stares in silence. If I don’t raise my hand, I don’t have anything to contribute.
So please, stop forcing shy people into situations that make them uncomfortable. Peer pressure is not the solution.
Here is a list of 6 things you should avoid:
- Being forceful — making a shy person speak up when it is clear that they are uncomfortable.
- Inflicting guilt — making a shy person feel guilty for not wanting, or having anything to contribute.
- Emphasizing your dominance — calling them out for not responding the way you want them to.
- Portraying the situation as entertainment — continuously calling them out and drawing attention to them.
- Peer pressure — telling shy people that other people are required to speak, so they must as well.
- Flaunting your power — enforcing the belief that they have to comply because you appear to have power or dominance over them.