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Admission Application Suggestions (Part XVIII)

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When an interviewer is looking for one last thing to decide if you should be admitted or not, the presence or absence of Shyness maybe “the straw that breaks the camel’s back” -- meaning a little thing decides the final score. Are you shy?

If you say “yes”, then I must ask “how do you know?” What does shy mean to you? Do you know what shy actually means? And where did you get that label? If you got the idea of being shy from somebody saying “you are shy!” then you have allowed that person to define you.

If you applied the label to yourself, then you are applying to yourself something you do not understand. Even worse, you are seeing only one aspect of your nature and in a way that may not be true for you. By so doing, you are really denying all of the characteristics about you which are opposite to shy.

All of these points apply to any bad label you put on yourself. If such is the case, then you are wrapped up in a bundle of confusion about yourself. Whenever you are confused about anything, go back to the beginning where things were simple and rebuild a path to where you are.

For example, “shy” came from a cruel European sport in 1000 AD. Players took turns throwing stones at a frightened rooster tied to a stake. This was called “cock shying” because they believed that hitting the rooster would make him less shy and want to fight back.

Thereafter, “shy” was associated with those easily frightened, startled, cautious, suspicions, and distrustful. All of these do not apply to you. In 1977, Zimbardo, a White social psychologist at Stanford University, tested (mainly White) students and outlined 8 aspects of shyness: (1) concern about negative evaluation; (2) fear of rejection; (3) lack of self-confidence; (4) lack of specific social skill; (5) fear of intimacy; (6) preference for being alone; (7) emphasis on and enjoyment of non-social activities; and (8) personal inadequacy or handicap.

Perhaps certain one’s apply to you and, if so, they should be corrected. But keep in mind that Blacks are rarely studied on their own and labels applied to them are usually based on criteria derived from studying Whites.

Thus, impressions about Blacks are often the only source for opinions designed for suggesting improvement. Based on my observations, shyness is not typical of Black Americans. Chances are that what “shy” Black students show is not “shyness” at all but rather a “situational self-preservation” upon coming in contact with most Whites.

It probably started from the caste system during African American slavery and was kept alive during post-slavery racism (on-going to this day).

If that is true, then believing that most interviewers are less accepting and interested in you may simply be your own perception.

Thus, you can relax your excessive “self--preservation” caution. Instead, focus on the process of what is happening to you at the moment of the interview-- whether this is a Structured Interview (being asked the same questions and in the same order for all interviewees) or an Unstructured Interview (interviewers asking spontaneous questions).

Your job is to learn how to start, continue, and end an interview conversation. Emphasize improving your body language -- things like making eye contact, smiling, attentiveness, leaning forward, nodding, and making sounds and gestures of approval.

This can best happen by seeing yourself as equal to anyone -- at least on a spiritual level. This is far more important than the fact that, compared to your interviewer, you are not equal in age, experience or knowledge in the field you are trying to enter.

Take comfort in knowing that you have knowledge your interviewer does not know, and will never know. From my perspective, there is no one superior or inferior to me; but, in any encounter, we have something to share. Try this philosophy and see if it works for you.

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D

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