This is a technique Sharon Epstein, a successfully shy person from Stony Brook, N.Y., has mastered. A psychiatric social worker, she says she capitalizes on two activities: “Listening in an empathetic way and writing about my beliefs and values.”
Though she says she still worries about judgment by her peers and being called on to make small talk at various functions, she feels her empathy and listening skills have made her succeed with the patients she counsels.
“When clients find someone who will listen to them and respect them, it helps them find a direction in dealing with their issues. I also use this skill as a volunteer at hospitals and nursing homes. Each person I visit has a unique story — and needs someone to listen,” she says.
In fact, she is so committed to volunteering that she was able to step out of her comfort zone and approach a publisher about writing a book on the subject. The result: “Visiting the Sick,” published this year by Jason Aronson.
She was invited to speak on the subject to a small group in Manhattan, and was able to do it — emboldened by her passion for the subject and by the experience she gained at the local chapter of Toastmasters, a group devoted to helping people learn to be better speakers, no matter what their level of speaking experience or comfort.
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