You’ll easily recognize Mr. Shy, as there are a lot of guys in this category. While he might be outgoing in other aspects of his life, Mr. Shy is very shy, even sheepish, around women – not his mother, aunts, sisters (if he has any) – but around any girl that could remotely be considered a potential love interest.
Mr. Shy might be interested in you, but don’t expect him to make the first move. In his mind, he might be making the first move, but it won’t be direct enough for you to notice it. His “moves” are unlikely to include the words you, me, or I. For example, he might work up his nerve to say, “Who’s going to the game this weekend?” Don’t expect much more than that.
One modified version of Mr. Shy will appear very outgoing. He will act goofy, a real crowd pleaser, or maybe he’ll even tease you mercilessly. He might hang around predictably. Maybe he’ll even be great at long, heartfelt talks. You could even start to think of him as your best guy friend. But when it comes to actually expressing romantic interest in you in any straightforward way, forget about it. He’s deeply afraid of rejection. This reticence, of course, can become maddeningly frustrating if your fantasy is to have this guy sweep you off your feet. You keep waiting for him to step up and act like a man. Not likely.
Why is Mr. Shy so shy? Lots of possible reasons. Maybe when he was young he had no sisters or female friends and no male mentors, so women are a foreign species to him. Maybe he’s hanging around with Guy’s Guys who don’t talk much about girls, or perhaps he’s hanging around with a real Ladies’ Man (described below), who is intimidating him into inaction. He could have low testosterone levels, or he could be preoccupied with other interests, such as math, science, technology, chess, music, video games, and so on. Most likely, though, the main reason for his shyness is he believes he is unattractive, even ugly and pathetic. He cannot imagine why any decent woman would be attracted to him. For sure, he thinks you are too good for him.
Think of Mr. Shy as a turtle. In any intimidating situation, he will pull back into his shell and wait for the crisis to pass. If you find yourself smitten with a Mr. Shy, at some point you’ll ask yourself if he is worth pursuing, because your pursuit is pretty much the only way you’ll get him to come out of his shell.
Is Mr. Shy worth pursing? Possibly. It depends on the cause of his shyness. If he just lacks experience, there is hope. Look for some spark of energy in other areas. Does he show initiative in any other dimensions of school or social life? Is he active in any social outlets, networks, organizations you respect? Is he passionate about anything that you and he might have in common? If yes, then hope is justified. If not, if he is shy, withdrawn, and ill at ease across the board, you might be highly tempted to rescue him and nurture him and bring him to life. Watch out! Even if you succeed in getting him to poke his head out of his shell to be your one-and-only, he might become morbidly fixated on you. You’ll become the center of his life, and he might even threaten suicide if you want to break up with him later on. In this situation, I suggest you turn your dreams of romance elsewhere, the sooner the better.
Let’s go back to the more hopeful situation, described above, where you see some passion in Mr. Shy for other areas of his life. This can be good. Your strategy should be to approach Mr. Shy cautiously, slowly. Give yourself a longer time to “coax him out.” If you can find a casual reason to hang out with him, not saying a whole lot, that’s ideal. That is, don’t try to make up for his shyness by “carrying the water” for both of you, by being super lively or animated. That could lead to a dysfunctional relationship where he expresses himself through you. This might sound ok, but most likely it will leave you unfulfilled in the long run.
I recommend matching his energy, being low key and shy initially. Make small talk, but leave reasonable periods of silence. See if you can find a topic that lights a spark of interest in him. If one does, and you like what you see, then this Turtle might be worth waiting for. His more confident self will emerge and he might prove quite charming. In time, you will be able to discuss his (former) shyness and other worthwhile topics. This could be a case where “still waters run deep” and you’ve discovered a sure-and-steady winner.
One interesting variation of Mr. Shy might more appropriately be called Mr. Awkward. In the animal metaphor, he’s a hyena. He’s making a valiant, if clumsy, effort to overcome his shyness, and he ends up being obnoxious. This guy is easy to spot as he’s always trying to be the center of attention. Instead of being suave like Narcissus, he’s ANNOYING. He might make rude remarks about your breasts, butt or other body parts, or say provocative things like “Got a minute? Sit on my face!” You want him to stop, shut up, go away – or worse.
Unfortunately, some otherwise cute/attractive guys turn into these Hyenas as they struggle to gain the attention of females. Are they worth bothering with? Believe it or not, in some cases, YES. Remember, these are actually shy guys awkwardly trying to overcome their insecurities and garner female attention. At least they have the (misguided) guts to try. Some of them simply need coaching or training on how to attract women.
If – for reasons you yourself have trouble understanding – you want to take a chance on a Hyena, and you are willing to invest some time and effort to get him to calm down and act more normal, here’s what to do. Arrange to spend some time alone with him, a bit away from the crowd he needs to show-boat for. When you feel the time is right, ask him what type of girls he finds attractive. Drill down to get as much detail as he’ll give you, especially after his initial wisecrack answers. You can ask some questions to clarify your understanding, but do not challenge or argue with him. Tell it all back to him to show you were listening. When he’s talked out, allow for some silence, and hopefully he’ll reciprocate and ask you what kind of guys you like. This is your chance to do him a huge service. Avoid the temptation to say, “I hate guys who are obnoxious loudmouths!” Instead, describe a sincere, down-to-earth guy who has “dynamic range” – the ability to be outgoing sometimes and low key at other times. With the air of great secrecy, confide in him that most girls prefer guys who contribute to creating a relaxed, upbeat-but-casual atmosphere, and who encourage everyone to “just be themselves.” Even if he blows you off and ridicules you, you’ll have given him valuable food for thought. Try the broken record technique on him over the next couple of weeks – giving him the same basic message – and I bet you’ll see a changed man before long.
Hyena might surprise you and immediately change his behavior in group settings. If he does, be sure to “reinforce” his behavior – but not by drawing attention to him in front of the group. Simply give him a little extra positive attention and appreciation, either alone with him or in a very small group. A tiny, tiny smile and nod can go a long way. The goal is to support his calmer nature without encouraging him to become dependent upon you for on-going direction.
Two other variations of the Shy Guy are Momma’s Boy and Puppy Dog. They are similar. Momma’s Boy literally has a domineering mother who is central in his life. He might be a very wholesome, good natured guy, who, ironically, is afraid of women. He might make an interesting “project” for you, as you try to wean him from his dependence on Mom and realize he can stand on his own two feet. If you succeed, you’ll have a trusted friend for life and maybe a good mate. There are risks, of course, because his mother might view you as competition and strive to make you miserable. Proceed with caution with Momma’s Boy, and don’t expect him to change in a snap. It might be wise to give yourself an unwritten deadline, say three months max, for how long you’ll give him to become his own man.
I am not sure what to say about Puppy Dog, because I don’t relate to the guy at all. I believe Puppy Dog is more common among the early high school years, although they do exist in smaller numbers well into the adult years. In a nutshell, Puppy Dog is the passive, subservient guy who gets a crush on you and follows you around, hoping for a crumb of attention. Perhaps he thinks you are the best thing that ever happened to him and he does not want to risk losing you. He does not know how to relate to women, and he fears making a fatal mistake, so he just rolls over and shows you his belly like a puppy dog. He might make a good first boyfriend, but you probably will tire of him quickly. You are likely to have some inner conflict when dating a Puppy Dog, because you won’t find much to complain about someone who always lets you have your way, yet you soon will be bored with him. If he is a thoughtful guy, you could have a frank conversation with him and explain that his excessive passivity is frustrating to you. If you can, articulate specifically what you want from him, explain it carefully, and give him one or two chances to “emerge.” Beyond that, you’ll know when it is time to move on. Who knows, a few years later he might re-emerge into your life as a Truly Good Guy (described below).
In general, the Shy Guy in his various forms is worthy of your consideration. If you are surveying the guys in your school or social circle for prospective boyfriend candidates, Shy Guys have some compelling characteristics.
- They can make very loyal mates and are less likely to have wandering eyes.
- You probably will have less competition from your female peers, as they might be unaware of the hidden potential of Shy Guys.
- There are a lot of Shy Guys, especially in high school and early college years. Develop some skill at helping them out of their shells, and you will always have a potential boyfriend in your midst.
The downside of course, is you will be coaching or even training someone how to “man up” when you really just want a real man. If you have patience and appreciation for Shy Guy’s issues, you’ll probably succeed in helping him come out of his shell. If you lack patience, don’t waste any time on Shy Guys.
Another unavoidable risk is – after you help him overcome his shyness around women – he morphs into a Ladies Man. We’ll talk about him an a future blog…
In the meantime, keep your eyes open for Mr. Shy.