Basically an introverted or shy person is caught in a viscious circle:
- you don't interact with people much because often you don't feel the need
- because of this you don't have much practice in interacting with other people
- so if you try to interact when you do feel the urge, you feel that you don't interact very successfully or even "fail"
- this in turn reinforces your wish to not interact
What you need to do is break out of this self-reinforcing circle. But how?
If you want to become better at speaking a foreign language, reading books about language learning is not going to help you much. What you need to do is practice that language.
The only thing that will help you gain social competence is practice your social skills.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy for pathologically shy people consists of many components, such as psychoeducation (understanding the causes, stabilizing factors, and symptoms of your trait) and correction of dysfunctional beliefs (you are not worth less, on the contrary there are positive aspects of being introverted), which, in self-help, you can do with a book or through meditation, but the one central methodology, and the only thing that will instigate a change, is getting into the situation that you are afraid of: exposition (facing what you fear to lose your fear by realizing nothing bad is happening) and behavior training (building a new habit and competence).
If you want to help youself, you can of course read books on your problem to better understand what is going on and what you might do, but then you need to get out and do it. I would do:
- define your ultimate goal (e.g. I want to be able to talk in front of an audience without stuttering)
- break this mountain of a goal down into small, manageable goals (e.g. if you are afraid of approaching attractive girls, start with old ladies)
- all goals, the ultimate and the subordinate goals, must be concrete and measurable (e.g. not "I want to be more extroverted", but "I want to smile back next time Paul smiles at me"); it must be absolutely clear and unmistakeable when you are in the situation you want to change and when you have achieved your goal; nothing vague and general that no-one can meet
- practice regularly (e.g. consciously smile at every person you encounter on your way to work, every day)
- this may be hard, so don't force yourself to be friendly to everybody all the time, note that even extroverted people don't interact with everybody always, and certainly are not always friendly; give yourself breaks and allow yourself to rest from your exercises (e.g. plan to not smile on your way home)
- slowly increase difficulty (e.g. in week two start to say "hi" to those people that smile back; in week three, mention the wonderful weather; etc.)
- accept that you are not extroverted, i.e. don't expect yourself to become what you are not comfortable with; be content with gaining confidence and competence to be outgoing whenever you feel like it, but allow yourself to remain by yourself when that is what you want; just try to observe yourself and take note of when you really want to be alone and when you are only afraid of socializing
- accept that not everyone will love you; competent extroverts experience many refusals, they just have many prositive encounters to balance them; you aren't interested in everybody either, are you? so don't take it personal, move on to the next person and see if he is more welcoming -- one of the next persons will be
- write a diary of what you did, what happened, any changes in your feeling and behaviour and in the reactions of the other people, and plan the next step
- ask yourself: "What would I do if I weren't afraid?", then do that