Mindset and shyness

Mindset, by Carol DweckAfter posting about Dr. Carol Dweck and her research on self-concept, I found her book Mindset at the library.

Aimed at a general audience rather than a scholarly one, Mindset examines the fixed mindset (the notion that we have a certain limit to our potential) and the growth mindset (the notion that we can continue to grow and improve).

Dweck maintains that people with the fixed mindset tend to avoid risk. She contrasts John McEnroe with Michael Jordan, for example — quoting from McEnroe to show his tendency to blame outside factors for shortcomings. “Some people don’t want to rehearse; they just want to perform….I’m in the former group.”

The fixed mindset hauls a great deal of impedimenta in its train. Not only does a person with this viewpoint tend not to try new things (why risk failure?), he tends not to value effort. If you have a fixed mindset, you tend to believe in “natural talent.” And if you have natural talent, why should you have to work to increase it?

In discussing shyness, Dweck notes that people with a fixed mindset are more likely to be shy than people with a growth mindset. Referring to studies by Jennifer Beer, Dweck notes that shyness harmed the social interaction of people with the fixed mindset, but not those of people with the growth mindset.

The latter group looks on social situation as challenges, and even though nervous, they welcomed the chance to meet new people.

I’m not sure I often have a growth mindset, but I can think of situations in which I’ve felt very self-conscious. I look for a way to get out of that mode — finding a topic of interest to the other person, for example — and it feels almost like putting on a coat, donning a “relationship garment.” Not in the sense of acting as though I were interested; more like making a conscious choice. And as with any skill, with enough practice and feedback, it can become a integral part of your personality.

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