Overcoming Shyness

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The self-help book to be evaluated is titled Overcoming Shyness and Social Phobia by Dr. Ronald M. Rapee. To elaborate on his credentials, Dr. Rapee received his Ph.D. from the University of New South Wales and is published in international journals regarding child and adult anxiety.

The author offers advice from his own expertise and claims the techniques he utilizes were cutting edge as of the book’s release in 1998. Additionally, he claims the techniques he shares have been utilized in international research programs and have high levels of success. Before critiquing, it is best to provide a summary of the book and the techniques/strategies prescribed to the shy/anxious reader.

To further the reader’s understanding of Overcoming Shyness and Social Phobia, it is best described as a self-help book for people that have characteristics of shyness and anxiety stemming from social situations. Dr. Rapee understands people from this population have difficulty managing interactions amid social phobia, so the book is offered to “conquer social fears” or can be used with the help of a therapist. The author first jumps into causes of shyness/anxiety to explain the root causes of people’s behavior and reaction. Shyness, social anxiety, and social phobia were all used interchangeably. Once explained, the reader has a better understanding of the etiology of their feelings and the beliefs they are caused by.

A knowledge base has been established; a record is to be kept by the reader with social interactions and the record progressively gets more extensive as techniques are added into the user’s repertoire. An external tool it is, to set up the person to be more successful in utilizing Dr. Rapee’s strategies. A major component is realistic thinking, which is explained as considering evidence around you to reach a logical conclusion if your beliefs are true or not. Beliefs in this context, meaning if we are being realistic with thoughts about our anxious tendencies, like overestimating that bad things will occur or overestimating consequences from social interactions. As the reader learns more, a great way to summarize the techniques is as follows: capturing realistic evidence for beliefs, challenging feared situations, and ensuring attention is focused on task.

Self-efficacy theory

Understanding the prior information, much is to be evaluated and critiqued using course material. From the very beginning, it was obvious that there are elements of the theory of planned behavior incorporated into the techniques. Analyzing the theory of planned behavior, it revolves around the idea that the more resources and opportunities have, they develop strong beliefs they can control their behavior (module 3). The natural progression of the program preaches learning each new step will put you on a path toward success. Dr. Rapee instills confidence in his readers by giving them new techniques to enhance their behavioral control, such as building stepladders, meaning said person engineer tasks of increasing difficulty until the most difficult task is mastered. For instance, public speaking may be of concern, so a stepladder is built to include speaking in front of a trusted, small group of friends, up to the most difficult task of giving a presentation in front of a large group at work/school. Obviously, many other steps are included in between, but the step ladder utilizes key principles from the theory of planned behavior as it predicts the behavioral control perceived by the person with social anxiety. In theory, the tamer they become with their emotions, the more control they have, which predicts the amount of success.

However, it does not necessarily share parts of this model which discuss predictions of behavior are decided based on an attitude based on behavior or about the subjective norm. Parts of self-efficacy theory presents itself and shows lineage to the techniques as well. Dr. Rapee is counting on that his techniques will trigger self-belief that said person has the personal tools/characteristics to control their functioning and increase confidence to perform in a stressful social situation. As taught in the course, enhanced self-efficacy is a predictor of adherence and high-quality health care outcomes. However, some aspects of self-efficacy theory are not the same regarding Dr. Rapee’s strategies. People have no control over their environmental events and physiological arousal would likely not enhance someone’s ability to perform in stressful situations. Both theories show similarities to an extent, but none completely encompass the complex mechanisms one must consider while overcoming a social phobia. To gear the program towards be fully independent, more of the self-efficacy theory could be utilized by altering people in more ways than through performance, vicarious experience, and verbal persuasion. Fundamentals of Self-efficacy theory and theory of planned behavior are sprinkled in and shows the personal skills and willpower one may need to adapt to be successful using Dr. Rapee’s strategies.

Although many strengths present themselves, one glaring issue is apparent after reading the entirety. There is no research to back up its claims. At the beginning a brief reference is made to how the strategies are connected to science, but zero places in text exist to show a citation. Even at the end of the book, no citations or references are given to the reader. It cannot be said with one hundred percent certainty, but it seems as if the book is based off of personal experience. Not to detract from Dr. Rapee’s credentials, because he has a Ph.D., but even the most distinguished and credible of authors need to support its claims with peer reviewed research studies.

Meta-analyses would prove useful as well, because they combine information across several similar studies to find a consensus. For example, Dr. Rapee references scientists and how they are beginning to understand that attention plays a pivotal role in whether we are focused on the task at hand or whether we are focused on what other people are thinking about us. When making a claim, it would be beneficial to know if the information is based off someone’s personal experience/opinion, or if it is based off of peer reviewed research. That is just one instance of an unsubstantiated claim, and represents all other claims made in the book. They are preached as fact, but there is no evidence to support it in the eyes of the reader. The research label is placed on statements but is said in a way that could reduce health literacy.

Optimistic attitude

Adherence is an important topic as well, and the author made several recommendations to ensure the reader would continue to apply the techniques in social situations. Family members and friends were often referenced to be used in roleplay or practicing events in the stepladder. Feedback is an important aspect of these exercises, because not only can it “contribute to subsequent goal-setting and self-efficacy” (pg. 29) but it can also “be managed to optimize success” (Leslie, pg. 30). Having others help in your journey is intended to make the process easier. Additionally, records are to be kept of realistic thinking. Meaning, the records serve to remove anxiety by using logic to disprove thoughts of improbable nature. The record is said to aid in motivation, procure skills, recognize fears, and help the reader become more objective. Throughout out the book, Dr. Rapee encourages you, and gives a balanced message. His messages are balanced, being both gain framed, and loss framed. Gain framing is the primary framing type, because even in the face of losing something, you can always come back to the techniques to gain again. For example, even if you have a bad social performance, you may have had a minor setback, but the previous progress can be regained by putting yourself in the same situation soon after while utilizing the techniques. Elements of constructive thinking pop up, as Dr. Rapee suggests using realistic thinking to employ the four main types of evidence to logically validate/invalidate our thoughts. Along with an optimistic attitude, the ability to use realistic thinking on the fly in stressful situations is key, allowing one to perform and may result in increased adherence (Kelly, pg. 39). Much is done to improve adherence, but the reader needs to be reassured that what they are told is true. Reinforcing claims with meta-analyses or peer reviewed studies would bolster the validity of the techniques and instill confidence in the reader that the strategies being taught are more than opinion of one person. Knowing something is true could make a world of difference if a person decides to follow through with any recommendation.

The role of stress

Health literacy cannot be ignored, and the book did many things to ensure a high level of health literacy. Most importantly, plain language was used. No difficult terms were thrown at you, not without being explained in detail anyway. Words like I, you, and we were used extensively which helps the reader connect with the author. Heavy noun usage was avoided for the most part, and headers were very distinct and easy to pick out of text. There were no mention of culture or people with cognition deficits, so several edits should be taken into account. Some with social anxiety experience chronic stress. We know that stress affects memory because of the presence of glucocorticoids and its cause of atrophy in the hippocampus (module 6). If chronic stress is the case, this could influence a person’s health literacy and interfere with how well they are understanding Dr. Rapee’s techniques. Additionally, the book could have implemented bolded words for key terms; it would have made the read easier to identify important terms with greater ease.


Dr. Rapee’s self-help book about overcoming shyness and social phobia could be considered a helpful read. Assuming the statements made within the two covers are true, the book was very informative of strategies people with social anxiety can utilize in everyday life. However, we must be aware that all claims made were unsubstantiated claims. Based on models of health behavior, the advice given resembled the theory of planned behavior and the theory of self-efficacy. Adherence and health literacy is the essence of the course, quite literally the title. Using material provided in the course, Dr. Rapee did a tremendous job incorporating self-efficacy and plain language to deliver a wealth of knowledge and facilitated a favorable environment in which the audience can digest and devote time to the recommendations provided.     

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Overcoming Shyness. (2021, Mar 23). Retrieved June 18, 2024 , from

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