I Don’t Entertain Because I’m Shy

I Don't Entertain Because I'm Shy

I often get painful emails from readers who reach out to me, including a most recent one that came from a very shy person asking for help. I went to my husband, who grew up a very shy person, to see if he could help me. I wanted to reach back out to this amazing person, who reluctantly opened her heart asking me for help.

We all have things we struggle with, including myself, and today’s subject is very real, for a lot of people. She wrote to me: I don’t entertain because I’m shy.

In steps my husband.

My husband, Paul, just handed in a manuscript for a book that will be coming out next year, in which he sheds light on fear. Reading through this section made me realize that he would be the perfect guest for my post today, to share his insights.

Shyness is real.

Welcome, Paul:

Here’s another example from my life that I hope appears weird because weird and inordinate fear go hand-in-hand. What I’m about to reveal may not be your problem, but it does reveal a common theme with fear, as well as some solutions.

I noticed early on in our marriage that my wife Sandy loves to entertain. Little did I know that she would launch a very popular blog, reluctantentertainer.com, which brings back the lost art and gift of hospitality. She helps people across the world move out of isolation and into relationships and community. And it almost didn’t happen because of my “nice guy” tendencies.

Sandy doesn’t just like having people over. She glows when she entertains. It’s her sweet spot. I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but even I realized early on that this was her bliss, and if a spouse opposes the healthy bliss of the other, bad things happen.

But I hated entertaining because—you guessed it—fear: What if the conversation stalls? What will I say? What if dinner gets delayed? What will I do then? I was stuck in the no-win world of What If thinking, instead of the healthy So What Let’s Handle It approach.

Inordinate fear is a poser, which we don’t know until confronted. It’s hiding the truth about you, your better relations to others, and a more loving relationship with God, usually through some lie that is obvious to others but not you. In this case, that lie was the supposed inability to keep a conversation going. This probably seems silly to read, but it was very true to me at the time. It was an example of a deeper truth about FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. This belief wasn’t true, but the truth hadn’t become actual, real yet. What was needed was truth through proof.

I wasn’t very good at it, but I had seen others who were, so that gave me hope and vision. So one day I picked up a book about creative conversation starters. It taught me a few techniques that almost always involve questions (“You said you’re a banker. Where?”), plus provided some stock questions to ask people. I even created a cheat sheet—one word that I wrote on my wrist that reminded me of a larger question. I would put three such words on my wrist. I like to work in threes. I use the same technique today during news interviews.

I don’t think much now about entertaining large groups because I have a track record of success. Not complete success, but enough. Perfection when it comes to relationships is not only unnecessary, it’s a dangerous illusion. Confidence builds upon confidence just as fear feeds upon fear. Remarkably, I would go on to have a talk show and become a public speaker. The old worries are in the past, and in fact they make me chuckle now. But they were very real then, until I confronted them with assertive behavior.

Through action, which was preceded by greater wisdom, truth became actual. I leaned in and took the battle to the problem instead of letting the problem have the first punch. Much like bullies, we need to be a few steps ahead of our fear, with wise and courageous behavior. But more importantly, we need love as well, because love is the moving power of life. My wife’s love for me urged me forward toward greater hospitality, which is a form of life for others, so much so that renowned theologian Henri Nouwen contended that hospitality is the greatest of all virtues. Greater life for me created greater life for others.

What I just described here may not be your fear, but what I have described as the way through it should be applicable to your specific fear battle.

And in this case, more than liberation, but communion with my wife through partnering in her bliss. I’m no longer “a stick in the mud,” but an active participant in something profoundly meaningful to her and life-giving to others, because at this point in your vocation, God only knows how many people she has helped bring the love-and-life gift of hospitality to.

I Don't Entertainer Because I'm Shy

Thank you, Paul. I hope this post helps a zillion shy people out there. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, and please, share your reluctant “coming out” stories with us!

Do you wrestle with shyness, and if so, how have you overcome it?

10 comments on “I Don’t Entertain Because I’m Shy”

  1. I have been married to my husband for 21 years. My husband strives on entertaining and can easily talk to strangers. People off the street can say hi and he easily strikes up a conversation. I have always been a shy person and normally hide behind my husband during social events. I hate entertaining because I feel like I am going to say something wrong or that I will be boring. Among close friends and family members, I am fine, very entertaining, even amusing. I feel comfortable. It’s among strangers that I am terrified– like my husband work related gatherings. I hate going to his business events because everyone is a stranger. Normally, I get out of them and he goes along. However, there are times when he insists that I have to be present. I try to last at least an hour before telling him I am ready to go; however, I immediately feel guilty because I know he was having a good time and not ready to leave. Hence, the reason I am on this site—trying to find ways to get over this shyness and be entertaining at his business events.

  2. Oh you’re speaking my language. My shyness has proved debilitating over the years. The ironic thing is that I’m married to a very confident and outgoing man. And that’s a blessing and a curse. It’s extremely easy to hide behind him, therefore never having to push past fear. On the other hand, if it weren’t for him I would have pushed away nearly every relationship out of my fear of saying the wrong thing or not being an interesting enough person. Because of my shyness I much prefer to express myself through writing my blog. I’m amazed that I’ve encountered, through it, so many who feel the same way I do.

    • Thanks for your honesty, and sharing, Kelly! A blog is a great way to really get the words (and help to others) out there!

  3. Oh you’re speaking my language. My shyness has proved debilitating over the years. The ironic thing is that I’m married to a very confident and outgoing man. And that’s a blessing and a curse. It’s extremely easy to hide behind him, therefore never having to push past fear. On the other hand, if it weren’t for him I would have pushed away nearly every relationship out of my fear of saying the wrong thing or not being an interesting enough person. Because of my shyness I much prefer to express myself through writing my blog. I’m amazed that I’ve encountered, through it, so many who feel the same way I do.

  4. Most people don’t believe it when I tell them that I’m very shy. And it’s so true that a lot of it stems from the “what ifs”. But it doesn’t stop me from entertaining because I am myself when I’m at home. Bringing people into my home feels natural to me. I love to make people happy and give them a place to come and have fun and eat or just plain relax. In fact being shy helps me spot a shy person and allows me to make them feel more at home. I think being in control of the situation and the familiarization of home helps a lot. And this in turn makes it easier when we are invited out somewhere. It’s mainly large gatherings that I get apprehensive about. Intimate ones are easier for me.
    Tell your hubby great job.
    Have a lovely day girlfriend.
    Kim

  5. What a sweet, sweet post, Paul…So honest and yet so encouraging. Thank you for sharing.

    J

  6. Wonderful words! I adore hospitality and am paired with an awesome (and shy-ish) husband. In addition to showing you great love was there anything Sandy did to help hospitality become easier for you, Paul?

  7. Love this post. You and Paul are such a great time! I love this idea of him partnering with your bliss. :)

  8. Paul………………thank you thank you thank you. such honesty and insight and great ways to try to combat this condition , which at times can seem debilitating. looking forward to your book………………..gratefully…..dolores

  9. Thank you for sharing. My husband is the reason we don’t entertain as much as I would like. I am going to share this post with him in hopes that it will help us come together in more hospitality.

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