Two gifts from Bernardo Carducci

The holiday season can be trying for many people because of what psychology professor and shyness expert Bernardo Carducci calls “density intensity,” which can deepen holiday blues, and because of a discomfort with small talk, a social staple that gets a bad rap even though Carducci refers to it as “the cornerstone of civility.”

Bernardo J. Carducci

Bernardo J. Carducci

Gift one: Great advice for understanding and lightening up the holiday blues.

Gift two: Concrete tips for managing small talk and for warming up to holiday parties. Carducci reminds readers that an estimated 40 percent of the population is shy.

“Shy people think they’re the only people who are shy,” said Carducci, director of the Shyness Research Institute at Indiana University Southeast and author of “The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk: How to Talk to Anyone Anytime Anywhere About Anything.” “They suffer in silence. We say, ‘Look to your left, look to your right.'”

Around the holidays, people often do more, travel more and socialize more, creating a period of emotional and psychological density, as in “density intensity.”

“If you’re typically sad and down, this time of year intensifies that,” Carducci told me for a media tip on this topic. “If you’re generally a pretty happy person, it really puts you in the spirit.”

People who feel low can actually bring down people around them who are not depressed, Carducci said, while cheerful people generally do not make people around them more cheerful. His media tip goes into more detail, but here are some of his tips:

  • Be wary of humbugs. Be aware that this time of year can make people who are typically cynical and toxic even worse, so consider avoiding them.
  • Express gratitude. Being thankful can help put life into perspective and counteract a tendency many people have to focus on what they don’t have or how their life is far from picture perfect.
  • Random acts of kindness, intentional acts of kindness. Hold the door open for someone, let someone else have that parking space. Carducci said the holidays also are a great time to pay extra attention to the people you know you can count on when you’re down.
  • Get real. Carducci encourages people to focus on the present and to realize the past is not always as great as we remember. He also suggests people avoid “aspirational media,” which makes it appear that what we need is “more, more, more,” such as bigger TVs and smaller phones.

Don’t forget to read his tips for making small talk – they’re good for shy adults and kids.

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