How Can Shy People Create More Play?

by Reid on May 7, 2015

Couple Holding Hands.Want to play more? Feel shy? How do you make life more playful and engage other people more?

Join Cathy Vartuli from as she asks Reid Mihalko from how to create more play.

Reid: Just so you know, I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this topic with Cathy, so she’s actually springing this on me and I don’t know how it’s going to be.

Cathy: We never know how any of these are going to come out. Okay everyone.

Reid: What’s your topic?

Cathy: Reid, if someone’s very shy–

Reid: This is Cathy from by the way. And I’m Reid Mihalko from

Cathy: Thank you. And he’s a sex geek. I tend to be somewhat shy, and I know a lot of people that are very shy. I love to play, I love to have fun, and often I’m in situations where there’s not a lot of play going on. People aren’t joking and laughing and enjoying themselves. If you’re shy, how do you create play?

Reid: Oh, that’s a good question. Well, first off, if you can pull up this bit of advice, then you’re fine, but I recognize that my advice is going to be a little bit different, or it may be hard for beginners who are shy. Tell people you’re shy. Literally say, “Hi, I’m shy. And I like to be playful and I will not initiate that, bye.” And you go do your thing. Because what you’re doing is by being upfront and transparent, that’s actually an invitation.

If you walked up to me and said, “Hi, my name’s Cathy, I am shy” and you just ran away, I’d be like, “Hmm, okay.” It might be silly, but I was a dorky 7th grader, I know what that feels like. I still get shy sometimes. So it’s not like a pity invitation, but I’d be like, “Oh, okay. I get why you ran away, you’re shy.” So that would actually work on me, and I think it would work on a lot of people. Also, by admitting the thing that you’re most afraid of, you often get it out of your head. And a person I knew, a teacher a long time ago said, “this is a bad neighborhood. You will get mugged up here.” It’s totally true. So you admitting your shyness works on two different levels.

One, it kind of diffuses it a little bit. You get the cat out of the bag, and you’ve already started not being shy. That might be like a blackbelt shy move for a lot of people out there. So, the other things I would do are realizing that a lot of people are stuck in 7th grade weirdness, shy hell. Like all of us. Knowing that for some people is enough to get them be like, “Oh, there are people that are like me and maybe I can break the ice.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Reid: Like little baby steps like that. Certainly, hanging out with people who are boisterous or jackasses like me, can be helpful because they’re kind of the social lubricant, and then you can just chime in every once in awhile. But again, I would recommend, if somebody else is doing the icebreaking for you, when you can get the courage, say, “Hey, I’m enjoying this conversation and I’m kind of shy.” Asking people, “What are your thoughts on shyness?” You might be geeky enough and like people enough to want to know. And you’ve broken the ice again in those ways. The other advice is really baby step stuff. Hang out with people that you don’t feel shy around and practice.

Cathy: What’s one way to initiate play? I tend to get very serious when I’m shy, the more shy I am, the more serious I get, which is the opposite. I love playing and love being silly. What’s one thing I can do to that kind of let people know that it’s okay to play in this space?

Reid: You could walk up to people and tag them and yell “Tag” and run. That’s one way, but that probably wouldn’t work, so don’t do it to police officers.

Cathy: [Laughs] Please don’t do that. Don’t say you saw that here.

Reid: Yeah, Don’t do that. “Reid Mihalko said ‘tag, officer’.” No, the way I do it is I find a couple of things that I’m really passionate about, that I’m more passionate than I’m shy about, and having a funny joke in your back pocket that you know you tell well. Don’t make it a long joke. Having a question that’s silly that you’re actually interested in. Again, it taps into your passion.

Cathy: What could be silly?

Reid: Well, for me, as a sex geek, I hate that this jumped into my head. You did this to me. I would go up to people and be like, “What’s the difference between an oral and an anal thermometer?”

Cathy: What’s the difference?

Reid: Taste.

Cathy: Ew.

Reid: Ta-da. Ice broken.

Cathy: [Laughing] Or they run away and you know that they’re not–

Reid: –yeah, and then you get to say, “What’s a really bad joke that you have for me?”

Cathy: [laughing]

Reid: I like people who are well-read, so I’ll often be like, “What are three books that I can read that would tell me about who you are as a person?”

Cathy: Yeah.

Reid: That’s kind of a serious question, but come up with a silly question.

Cathy: Dr. Seuss?

Reid: Yeah. Like, “If you were a superhero would you rather have a cape or wear your underwear on the outside?”

Cathy: That’s a great question.

Reid: Great question, right? And by the silliness of it and me as a comic book geek I’m kind of comfortable, because now I’m like, “Really, what would you? Do you want the cape or do you want the underwear on the outside?” It allows me to break though something, because it’s also an area of geekery that I’m fairly expert in or interested in — comic books. So I guess things like that.

Cathy: Yeah, and you can practice, you can try stepping out of what you’d normally do with a close friends or a couple close friends rather than walking up to a complete stranger and asking them if they’d like to wear their underwear on the outside.

Reid: Yeah. Unless they’re wearing their underwear already on the outside, don’t talk to them.

Cathy: [Laughing]

Reid: If they’re wearing a cape and you’re at a conference, then you’re probably fine. The other thing I think is really looking at playfulness as an invitation. Like Frisbee, you’re inviting somebody to throw the playfulness back at you.

Cathy: Yeah. So see our flirting video for that.

Reid: The flirting video would be great. And just the idea around what can you ask somebody that you feel comfortable with or expert enough in and do it in a playful way. You can also, again, like if you can break the ice, be really upfront and be like, ‘If you are going to be playful with a shy person, how would you do it?”

Cathy: That’s great.

Reid: Because you can ask that very thoughtfully.

Cathy: And if you get a good answer, share below.

Reid: Exactly. Comment section!

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