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I can’t compete with work alpha males

Dear Fiona, I’ve always been a bit shy but now that I’ve started a new job alongside some typical alpha males, I sometimes feel I’ve nothing to say.

I’m normally a competent, confident grafter and I’m popular but they control the conversation when we’re with various managers.

I feel I should be voicing my opinions and ideas but have no idea why I feel so stuck for words when in their company. Any ideas?

Michael, Dungannon area

Dear Michael,

Episodes of severe shyness can be debilitating. What psychologists call performance anxiety originates when a direct association is formed — subconsciously and usually when we’re young — between speaking and feeling embarassed, ashamed, or intimidated. Chronic shyness often manifests itself in adults who were told when young ‘Children should be seen and not heard!’.

It’s also common in people raised in families where expressing your wants and opinions as a child, especially during adult conversation, was discouraged and dismissed as being demanding, ill mannered behaviour. Many severely shy individuals recall the hurt and embarrassment experienced in childhood when told to ‘Shut up’ and it stung like a slap across the legs.

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Parents were oblivious to the long-term implications of comments such as telling a child to, ‘Stop talking rubbish’ or ‘Don’t be stupid’ when they voiced opinions.

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