How a student broke speaking shyness in English

Feeling insecure in English conversations, especially with fluent or native speakers?


Today I’ll talk about the importance of discovering your current roadblocks, and working on them. 🚧

I’ll tell you about a student who managed to do it earlier this year.

This student is a successful brand manager at a national level.

She had various opportunities in the past to meet up colleagues for a coffee, where a potential foreign customer was also going to be present.
These brief meetings could have been perfect moments for her to make small talk. 🗣️  You know, the kind of light chat (socializing) that can help to lead to more formal business later.

But she was always worried about how her “poor” English would make her look unprofessional.

She preferred NOT to meet with potential clients in English. She was actually missing business opportunities!

Her English was around level B2, so technically she was capable of talking about a range of topics in a simple way, including her business activity.

Yet, she chose not to. ❌

A mindset-emotional block had been holding her back for quite a long time. She didn’t want her colleagues (who she thought were better at English) to see her “weakness” in this area.

After all, she was their manager.


Clearly, while working on her business English, we also had to work on confidence building. 🧱


One day she got invited to a garden birthday party with a native English speaker among the guests. 🎉 🎂 A perfect real-life conversation opportunity.

It seemed like the right moment to test her progress in the training: “Will she feel able to take the leap this time and not shy away from speaking English in front of other people?”,

She was still not sure if she wanted to go or not, for the same reason: she didn’t want people to hear her “poor” English.

I told her it was a great opportunity to take a little step, to have a light chat with an English speaker outside class with other people around, and test all the confidence training work we’d done, and see what happens.

A perfect scenario, lighter than a formal business meeting, but more than just the “safe” English lesson.

In class we did the conversation practice preparation as you might have guessed. We assumed she’d be introduced to the English speaking guest at some point, as the host was her friend.

It didn’t happen that way! 😀

Instead, while waiting to be introduced, trying some salad and chatting with a couple of guests, her friend (the host) was too busy attending everyone else, and didn’t remember to introduce her at all.

So, there she was at the party, only talking to other Spanish speakers. She had to make a decision:

  • she either keeps chatting in Spanish and then just goes home (like always in the past)
  • she does something differently this time

She chose the first option. After a while she decided to go home.

But, just before walking out the door, she changed her mind and turned back!

And here comes the most awesome part: she walked right up to the English guest, said hello, introduced herself and started a conversation! 👏

No more idle waiting for her friend to introduce her. She broke the ice and actually ended up with a fun conversation in English with a native speaker.

There you go! This may seem like a trivial thing, something easy to do, but for her it was an authentic win. She beat something she had been struggling with for a long time.

This experience was a key milestone for her to remember for a long time.  By starting a conversation with a this native English speaker, she finally conquered what seemed to be an unsurmountable obstacle before. ⛰️

This is what she told me after completing the language training course:

I’ve always thought that English conversation is an impossible thing for me. Now with these lessons I feel more confidence with my English and I think that it can be possible, not like a native but enough to express important things about job, lifestyle and specific opinions about life also.

1-Minute Tip ⏳


Don’t underestimate the importance of understanding your current limitations that are really keeping you from advancing in English, and work on them.

This student’s example is a great one. There was little point for her to work on vocabulary, expressions, the company presentation etc without recovering the confidence to actually want to speak English with people.

I remember the next time I saw her in class I noticed a very different attitude she had towards her own English. She was telling me about the garden party and how the English conversation went, and how happy she was about it.

I believe the experience was a gamechanger for her future English. She successfully got a major roadblock out of the way.

For her this was THE roadblock to remove. 👏

What is yours?

Take a piece of paper and write a bullet list of the obstacles that you THINK make your progress in English slow or hard. ✍️

Don’t worry about perfection here, just get the ideas out.

Once you have identified THE biggest obstacle in the list, you will need to address THAT in order to clear the way to advance.

Remember that with the right guidance you can also work your way out of speaking shyness, and move on with your English development as both you and your business deserve.

Are you a busy business person who struggles with lack of confidence and fluency in English?

💬 Let’s speak to see how I can help you. DM me on LinkedIn and I’ll get back in 48 hours, so that we can discuss what you need to work on exactly to remove the roadblocks that keep you from advancing your business in English.

As always, thanks for being my reader!

The content you get from me is based on my 20+ years real English teaching experience. 🙂

Talk to you next time!

Gábor 🙂

Connect | Gábor Légrádi | MA, RSA/CTEFLA

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