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by Darren Held

Evidently there’s a difference between shy and introverted. Who knew, right? Turns out, shyness is the fear of negative social judgement, while introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments. Naturally, there are degrees of both, and overlap, and whatnot. So you can be über shy and introverted, which I think = hermit, or you can be a little of one and a lot of the other or neither at all.

WTF? And, more specifically, wtf does this have to do with improv?

Well, specifically, I am a little of each, which naturally makes me an expert on both. (I’m more shy than introverted, if you must know). And I can state unequivocally that, if you are determined to overcome shyness, improv can help. Repeatedly going on stage and doing silly things and being strange characters and spewing totally off-the-cuff information gradually helps you face that fear of negative social judgement. First of all, in H2G classes, there IS no negative judgement because everything we do is about support and encouragement. So you learn that many things that you fear will elicit that negative social judgement just, uh, don’t. And when things fall flat, as they are bound to do when you push yourself out of your comfort zone, you learn that nothing bad actually happens to you. So you become less and less shy in the real world as well.

I was VERY shy before I started improv. You can ask Darren. I’m not exactly a super outgoing alpha chick now, but I’m not overly shy either. It usually comes out more when I’m tired, actually. Or around mean people. I think that’s more just good judgement than shyness, though.

Since introversion isn’t really a fear, but more of a preference for quiet, I’m not sure it’s something most introverts feel a need to “overcome.” My guess is that extremely introverted people would not be drawn to take such a boisterous type of class in the first place, while moderate introverts would probably enjoy the class. Speaking as a mildly moderate introvert, I can say I love the camaraderie and friendships that improv engenders and, although I can definitely get oversocialized from time to time, the fact that I work at home alone is enough to balance out the stimulating nature of improv and lots of friends.

So, bottom line: if you’re shy and you want to be less shy, do improv! I’m sure there are other activities that can help you overcome shyness, but I refuse to believe there are other activities that can help you overcome shyness in an environment as fun, hilarious, safe and encouraging as an H2G improv class. And if you’re introverted, so what? It’s not that stimulating, and you can always go back to your cave after class.

That’s what I do.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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