The Importance of LOVE-Shyness
Most of the people who have researched shyness up to now have
concentrated upon general shyness. In interviewing hundreds of young
men it became very clear to me that only one form of shyness caused
severe and chronic emotional pain. Only one form of shyness created
feelings of deprivation so excruciatingly painful that it severely distracted
and handicapped its victims' ability to concentrate on work, school, and
other important facets of their everyday lives. I decided to call this form
of shyness "love-shyness". And it is, in essence, a painful bashfulness
and behavioral inertia that effectively prevents its victims from making
any kind of overtures vis-a-vis members of the opposite sex. Love-shyness
is strongly associated with many of the more general forms of shyness.
But since it is the most emotionally debilitating of all forms of shyness
I decided that it is the form most deserving of research attention.
As a case in point, many people are too shy to start conversations
with strangers. And yet everyday people with this deficit manage to go
through life perfectly happy and adequately well-adjusted. In short,
many men with wives and children are too inhibited to deal in an open,
friendly way vis-a-vis strangers--even though most of them might very
much like to be able to do so. The fact that these people have their wives
and children along with usually a small circle of friends serves to effec-
tively cushion them against long-term feelings of unhappiness and
depression. Men who are too shy to interact informally with women at
all do not have and are effectively blocked from obtaining this cushion.
A condition known as "speech reticence" represents another area of
shyness that has received a good deal of research attention lately. But
a person can go all the way through life without ever getting up to make
a speech (or entertain), and still be at least satisfactorily happy if not
very happy. To be sure, speech reticence can impede career advance-
ment. In some fields of endeavor it can even obviate success. However,
most careers do not require the ability to engage in public speaking.
And whereas a speech professor might view serious deficits in this area
as "tragic" or "intolerable", in point of fact the large apathetic "silent
majority" does not appear to have its lives cramped very much by this
But more importantly, a relative dearth or absence of "speech ret-
icence" does not assure against love-shyness. Almost three out of every ten
love-shy men interviewed for this study were not at all afraid to talk
publicly. In fact, many of them greatly relished every opportunity they
could obtain for talking or entertaining in some way before the public.
These men were shy only in situations where there is no script--where
there is no clearly defined, non-ambiguous role to play. Hence, many
love-shys are shy only in situations where there is no purpose apart
from pure, unadulterated sociability. Let this sort of person talk before
a large audience and he will enjoy every minute of it. On the other hand,
put this person in a in a coctail party situation, or worse yet in a one-on-one
situation with a woman whom he finds attractive, and he will freeze.
Of course, in all candor I must agree that seventy percent of the
love-shys I studied were too shy to speak publicly. However, it appears
quite clear that any remedying of this deficit would in no way assure a
remission of the love-shyness problem. In fact, even if a shy person
could be turned into an outstanding public speaker, this would in no
way assure him of what he will need to secure the affectionate female
companionship that he so greatly needs and requires.
The moral here is simply that of let's take first things first. An inability
to function in a purely social, sociable situation wherein there is no
purpose apart from pure friendliness, is far more debilitating to a per-
son's personal, social, and business life, than is any inability to deliver
speeches or any inability to start conversations with strangers. Simply
put, we will be serving the needs of mankind far better if we focus our
attentions upon the alleviating and curing of love-shyness. The other
forms of shyness are of far less importance and can for the most part
be ignored. To the extent that a person has his love-shyness remedied,
to that extent the other forms of shyness with which he may be afflicted
will eventually take care of themselves.