Conversation is not a trial

It happened a long time ago.

Me: “Hi”

Her: “Hi”

Me: “You saw me coming this time, didn’t you?”

Her: “Yep. I saw you. I knew you were there.”

Me: “Darn. I was gonna sneak up on you again.”

Her: “Uh-huh. I’m looking for you now.”

Me: “When I snuck up on you earlier, your face turned red – like you were blushing.”

Her: “Oh… Your face is red, too.”

Me: “It is? Really. Oh my.”

Her: “Yep.”

Me: “Oh wow. I guess I’ll have to work on that. Don’t want to let it show…. I was gonna talk to you again, a while ago, but you were over there… on the tray line… unloading the belt.”

Her: “Oh, yeah, I was over there.”

–(Pause for an awkward silence…) —

Me: “Ok. Well, have a nice weekend.”

Her: “You too, have a nice weekend.”

Painful. I’m a grown man and talked like a clueless little kid. I hated myself over this conversation (if you could call it that). I beat myself up like that easily-chagrined character that Chris Farley used to do.

Let’s throw some responses at it, and see what sticks…

(1) But we all have to start somewhere. By definition my lack of experience may not satisfy the first woman I’m with, and maybe a couple more than her, but in the process that’s how I gain experience too. If we had to wait till we had experience before hooking up, no one would ever get together. It’s not magic, and I too can have it.

(2) I once read a comment on a blog: “As far as artificiality, most human behavior is artificial. If you’re saying anything other than, ‘Hey, you want to fuck?’ you’re being phony. And it’s OK.”

(3) Social interactions don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to wait till I have just the right personality or in the ideal mood for social interaction to occur. If everyone thought that way, they would hardly ever do or say anything.

(4) (I screwed up) — Maybe. So what?  Was I doing so much better the way I have been? Not interacting can be a screw-up too. Maybe withdrawing from social contact messes things up, too. It’s not necessary to be alone just because I’m not perfect.

(5)  I’m not on stage, I’m in the audience. It’s okay to be like aw-shucks, a newbie, honestly curious, experiencing situations and people, as if I haven’t before.

(6)  Consider the possibility that, in the process of talking without trying to be funny, your sense of humor just might come out anyway.

(7) Failure is something you do, not who you are.


Situations where there’s no script

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….  [P]ut this person in a coctail [sic] 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.

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 person’s personal, social, and business life, than is any inability to deliver speeches or any inability to start conversations with strangers.

– Brian G. Gilmartin, Shyness & Love (1987), p. 141 [emphasis mine, in bold]

Amen, amen, amen! This passage is the one in this book that electrified me, despite my not really fitting the description of love shy male. I think it applies not just to love-shyness but to Social Anxiety (SA) and Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) as well.

“situations in which there is no script…” Yes, that’s what triggers my social anxiety. I wish it didn’t, because I think deep down I actually have a talent for improvisation – just not the guts to let it out.

Btw, the passage I’ve quoted supports my lack of faith in something like Toastmasters to help people who suffer from extreme SA or AvPD . Sometimes I read well-meaning but useless advice for “overcoming shyness” that suggests joining Toastmasters, and I roll my eyes. Toastmasters is a great organization for “normal” people, or even the moderately shy. I’m not dissing it. But for S.A. or AvPD, imho, fear of public speaking isn’t a priority problem. After all, even most outgoing people are afraid of getting up in front of a group and talking.

At least she’s cute

What I’d like to see is a “Toastmasters” for SA and AvPD, such as:

  • Sparklingconversationmasters.
  • Eyecontactmasters.
  • Chatmasters.
  • Whatdidyoudothisweekendmasters.
  • Chillmasters.
  • Socialmasters.
  • Amygdalamasters.
  • Flirtmasters.
  • Partymasters.
  • Intimacymasters.

You get the idea.

Shyness, Love, & Heterosexual Interaction

Why is the happiness and contentment of males so much more strongly influenced by successful heterosexual interaction than that of females? Most researchers today believe that the answer rests on the fact that women tend to be capable of finding emotionally intimate companionship vis-a-vis their own sex whereas men are able to satisfy their needs for emotional intimacy only in the company of women. Furthermore, non-dating females can normally manage to develop and maintain their socioemotional social skills and social self-confidence in their all-female peer groups. In contrast, non-dating males are usually isolated from social networks involving same-sexed peers.

— Brian G. Gilmartin, Shyness & Love (1987), p. 13

Bear in mind that this was written a quarter-century ago, and for all I know (but don’t have time to research), subsequent studies have produced findings that mitigate or even contradict Gilmartin’s claims.

For example, Robert Glover’s No More Mr. Nice Guy groups have been providing stronger connections among men. The rise of the Manosphere on the Web also has provided men a chance to share their struggles with each other.

Also, since I’ve learned about “Game” and the “Red Pill” philosophy (thanks to bloggers like Heartiste, Roosh, Paul the King, Badger, and the Private Man), I’m more skeptical about Gilmartin’s theory — for example the idea that men need the love of a woman to make them happy seems simplistic and, well, “Beta”.

Like it or not, you might be on your own when it comes to happiness, regardless of your relationships. (And don’t anybody tell me “you don’t know what it’s like, being so lonely for so long” — ohhh yes I do, I’ve never had sex and never had a gf, there you go I admitted it). A favorite quote of mine comes from Richard O’Connor in his book Undoing Depression: “Happiness is not something others can give you or you can get for yourself, but a byproduct of living well.” [note, this might be a paraphrase and not a direct quote, but it’s pretty close.]

Introduction to the “love-shy”


The love-shy include fully grown men in their late 30s and 40s who are not only as “virginal” as it is possible for anyone to be, but who can also be accurately described as less experienced in ordinary dating, courting, and elementary kissing than the typical, contemporary 12-year old…  incapable of getting started with the opposite sex, quite in spite of their very strong desires for a close, loving hetero-sexual relationship…. men who would like nothing better than to be able to marry and to have children, but who are not moving towards these goals because of severe bashfulness, shyness and social timidity….

With very few exceptions, the love-shy do not take drugs. In fact, they do not allow themselves to become involved in anything or in any activity, wholesome or otherwise, for which there is any kind of existent social support group.

That is the whole trouble. The love-shy do not have anybody to relate to as a friend or to count on for emotional support…. In fact, they are about as severely cut off from these normal social gratifications as they would be if they were serving a life sentence in a federal or state prison….

As of now, there is no “Shys Anonymous.” I strongly hope that one of the fruits of this book will be the development of such a nationwide organization, and of other support organizations such as “Coed Scouts,” and “practice-dating” support groups.

From preface to “Shyness & Love”, by Brian G. Gilmartin (1987), pp. xxi-xxiii.

Shyness & Love

Several years ago, I managed to locate a pdf copy of Brian Gilmartin’s “Shyness & Love” book about love-shy men.

Cover of "Shyness & Love" book


Since I have noticed that many visitors to my blog are brought here by searching for the term “love shyness”, I am going to begin posting excerpts from the Gilmartin book when I have time.

Since I don’t consider myself to fit the entire description of a “love-shy man” — see my first post about it here — I must confess that my primary reason for posting this is to bring more traffic to my blog!


If social interaction feels threatening

The following is a mashup of rational responses I have written to myself over the years, regarding the feelings of perceived threat I’ve dysfunctionally experienced in social interactions.

  • Most interactions are not about power or control. They simply aren’t. Even disagreements aren’t necessarily a power struggle – especially not over personal control.
  • You needn’t wait till you have just the right personality before allowing human relationships to occur in your life. Most interaction isn’t something to be gotten right or wrong.
  • Hi just means Hi. Maybe they’re not acting friendly with me in some effort to get personally involved in my life.
  • Maybe he/she is not a threat. Maybe they’re not trying to change me but to communicate with me.
  • Why should I have so much riding on what a stranger thinks of me (and temporarily, at that)?
  • You don’t have to know exactly what someone’s personality is like before you can interact with them.

Big Deal

Everything’s such a big freakin’ deal to my amygdala. Time and time again I have to talk him off the ledge. Like this:

  • Maybe it’s really not such a big deal. Sure, my emotions are big, but that doesn’t necessarily make the situation big.
  • Maybe the way I’m thinking and feeling right now is under the influence of some stupid old cognitive-emotional pattern in my brain, rather than a true assessment of what’s going on.
  • In most situations the stakes really aren’t very high. Most interactions and situations are just normal, and they’re not evaluations.