I spent a good deal of my younger years being painfully shy. I am still not as confident as I'd like to be. I see friends who have people no trouble approaching people because they genuinely don't care if they are rejected. I doubt that will ever be me, but I am way better.
My issue was fear of rejection. If that sounds like you, I would try to build on success in situations you are most confident in. Social interactions for some of us just require practice. Check out meetup.com and see what groups are in your area. A lot of the people who go to meetups don't know anyone else, so youll be in the same boat.
Even if you don't feel comfortable talking much, you will be fine. In my experience there are always more people that want to talk than want to listen anyway. 😀
Good luck and let us know your progress!
I'll admit that I haven't read through all of the advice from previous posters, but I'm going to share the things that led to me needing self-improvement, and then get into the steps that I've taken to become a more confident me.
The abridged version is that my home life was a wreck; I mostly kept to myself, keeping my head down while ignoring the arguments and screaming going on around me. My school life throughout elementary was not unlike that movie "Speak"... I would barely talk to teachers, and never to other kids- aside from the one other lonely friend I would make each year. I usually chose not to speak to that one friend around other people if I could help it. By the time I moved to a new school in junior high, my social skills were almost non-existent, so I really had to create a new me from the ground up. Following the advice of a friend that I made online, I slowly worked on my outward image, until I was comfortable enough in my own skin to really just be myself.
A big part of what got me through was emulation; I would see something that I admired about a more "successful" social person, and try to copy it into my own behavior. Whether it was a certain joke, or a sly expression, whatever it was... I was literally copying anything that I admired and building around these small acts. Although now I'm usually more comfortable "winging it" socially, I still like to have pocketed lines that I can fall back on in the event that I'm socially uncomfortable, or I don't know what to say.
Truthfully, social interaction is a skill just like anything else that you will do in life, and you cannot develop a skill without repetition and practice. If you want to get over your shyness, you have to put yourself in the uncomfortable position of talking to people wherever you go- even if it's just small talk. Find an excuse to go somewhere every day, even if it's just the corner market, and make small talk with an employee there- ask where something is, make a jokey comment about not being able to find the item, give a smile, and laugh at yourself. "Man, I was looking all over for the horse radish! I probably walked right past it! I would have been looking all day haha". Take those baby steps, but ALWAYS make small talk with at least one stranger. Employees are great because they have to be courteous to you.
But, yeah, repetition is the key to overcoming social anxiety and shyness. I do like to have certain one-liners prepared before I talk to a stranger, but it has to be in your own words. My example of the "omg I couldn't find the horse radish!" is a simple enough way of making light of your inability to find an item, and most people will give a chuckle with you before going back to work. You just have to make yourself make small talk until you're comfortable doing that with strangers.
It also helps to know what's going on in the world around you- if you live in an area that is crazy about sports, it helps to have a little knowledge about an upcoming game, so that you can comment on it to a cashier or whoever, and be prepared for them to comment back about it- don't just mention the team, know enough to have an opinion in order to have a small amount of pointless banter about it.
“This above all: to thine ownself be true.
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
I have been thinking on this lately, since only 10-15 years ago I could barely talk to anyone, and now I am often the most social person in the room.
I worked and roomed with a woman for years that changed my life in this regard. She was about 350 pounds and conventionally very unattractive. And everyone loved her. I came up with some reasons.
1). When you expect that people are going to like you, they often do. She went in with that mindset.
2). In the end people care less about you and your appearance etc. than how you make them feel. Julie truly enjoyed people of all types and it showed. Develop a genuine interest in people, try to make them laugh and enjoy themselves. Or just listen to them. That is more rare than you would think.
3). Remember that someone insulting you says more about them than about you.
Being around Julie really changed my life. I wish I had been able to make some of these changes when I was younger.
I am 53. I'm guessing you are young or young-ish. i find the older you get, the less people are cliquish and focused on attractiveness. One of the few benefits of aging. 😀
I was reminded today of Julie's fourth rule. She never turned down an invitation. Her reasoning was that if you want people to keep inviting you, you have to go when invited, even if you don't feel like it at the moment. A friend asked me to a last minute lunch today and I almost said no before I remembered her rule.
Sorry can't help you with books. I only learned from real life. Good luck and let us know your progress. 😀