Shrinking Violets and Caspar Milquetoasts: Shyness, Power, and Intimacy in the United States, 1950-1995

By Patricia A. McDaniel | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
“Intimacy Is a Difficult Art”
The Changing Role of Shyness in Friendship

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself;
avoid trifling conversation.

Benjamin Franklin, Thirteen Virtues (1741)

In addition to its role in dating and work success, self-help authors considered shyness to play an important role in one's ability to make friends.1 Although authors devoted less textual space to friendship than to business or heterosexual romance, they nonetheless regarded friendship as an important source of companionship, intimacy, and ego support. Thus, success in making friends was essential for the shy and nonshy alike. Authors' advice about how to succeed at friendship followed a familiar pattern: deferential, selfless behavior played a central role in the 1950s, only to be replaced by more self-focused behavior, selfdisclosure, in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Changes in ideas about how best to achieve intimacy with friends brought changes in ideas about shyness. Though never officially sanctioned as a friend-making strategy, shyness was much more compatible with 1950s' ideals of deference and

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