Subscribe to Inc. This Morning, a daily news digest curated for those interested in entrepreneurship.
I'm laughably un-shy.
That's good, because I deal with people constantly for a living. People I know, people I've never met before. Some I like, some I don't. I've never had a problem walking up to someone, extending a hand, and saying, "Hi, I'm Cameron."
Not everyone shares this trait. Cold-calling or emailing a stranger can be paralyzing. The thought of mingling at an event can induce physical nausea. Now, science can explain why.
Thalia Eley, a professor of developmental behavioral genetics at Kings College London, walked the BBC through her recent research on Wednesday. According to Eley: Shyness is roughly 30 percent genetic. The rest comes from the environment in which you were raised.
Here's the fascinating part: Eley says the nature and nurture can reinforce each other.
For example, a shy child may be more likely to isolate themselves in a playground and watch everybody else rather than engaging. That then makes them feel more comfortable being on their own because that becomes their common experience.
"It's not that it's one or the other; it's both [genes and environment] and they work together," says Eley. "It's a dynamic system. And because of that, you can always change it through psychological therapies that can teach you techniques to cope."
Entrepreneurship, of course, involves human connection. Even if you're a genius inventor who prefers to work alone, you'll need to eventually share your story with someone else--from potential investors to a co-founder who's more comfortable in front of a crowd.
And being introverted is no excuse. Last month, Inc.com columnist Melanie Curtin broke down the difference between shyness and introversion. "Introverts can choose to be social and interact with others; they often just don't want to," Curtin wrote. "Shy people--depending on the level of shyness--can't make that same choice without a high cost. For them, a party isn't just a drain (as it can be for an introvert); it's a struggle."
So, you're a brilliant entrepreneur who's cripplingly shy. What can you do? The BBC consulted another expert, clinical psychologist Chloe Foster, for coping strategies:
- Take conscious breaths while you're talking to help alleviate anxiety.
- Focus externally on what's happening around you, rather than how you're feeling internally.
- Challenge yourself to embrace new situations, so you can gain comfort through repetition.
It's great advice for entrepreneurs everywhere, shy and gregarious alike. Breathe. Focus. And get outside your comfort zone.
That's where success always lies.