Shyness pp 161-172 | Cite as

On Being ‘Shy like a Fox’

A Self-Handicapping Analysis
  • C. R. Snyder
  • Timothy W. Smith
Part of the Emotions, Personality, and Psychotherapy book series (EPPS)


Several years ago one of the authors (CRS) was conducting a psychotherapy group with men and women who had a variety of difficulties involving social encounters. They reported feelings of nervousness and apprehensiveness in such social arenas as parties, meeting new people, being interviewed for employment, talking before groups, going on dates, and generally being the focus of attention. It was excruciating for these persons to even think about these situations, and much more so to talk about them. As the participants elaborated their problems, they also noted that they typically felt constrained in social situations and preferred to avoid them if possible. The sessions took on a “misery loves company” tone, in which people opened up and shared their feelings and behaviors related to interpersonal events. In those days (like now), the therapist found much merit in this consensus-raising discussion; it appeared to make people feel better, and perhaps paved the way for a lessening of the experiential social anxiety and associated shy behavior. This scene was shattered one evening, however, when a new group member suggested that some of the people seemed to be using their shyness as an excuse. The normally passive and reserved group members assailed the new person for the utter ridiculousness of this excuse notion. After emotional interchanges in this and subsequent sessions, a new perspective (for the therapist and the group) emerged: for a portion of the group members, the experience of shyness was serving as an excuse for their inability to cope with social situations. This revelation broadened the therapist’s conceptualization of shyness to include the possibility that it, like other symptoms, may at times have a strategic, excuse-like component. The present chapter elaborates this view.


Social Anxiety Impression Management Traumatic Life Event Evaluative Condition Anxious Subject 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. R. Snyder
    • 1
  • Timothy W. Smith
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of UtahSalt Lake CityUSA

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