I have an excercise for you. At least once per day try to determine the color of the eyes of a stranger. Nothing more - just look to see the color.
I have come to believe that shyness is more a habit than a hard-wired personal quality. Similarly, confidence has always seemed like one of those ambiguous traits, like willpower or intuition, that can be practiced, exercised and strengthened, like a muscle. But just like any physical exercise, it's always hard and takes constant work. And, more importantly, constant awareness.
Read the whole article Op-Ed: Confidence vs Shyness.
Good article TesTeq, and it also rings true. There's a lot of excuses I make up to avoid interacting with others, like I'm not sure if they really like me, I wouldn't have anything to say, I've forgotten so much about them it would be embarrassing to call an old friend. But at the end of the day it just takes willpower to overcome those urges, a project plan and next action to get moving on something I'm procrastinating on.
I think it would be good to compile reference info on my friends or people, so I can review details like their partner's names, what they do for a job etc so I don't embarrass myself by forgetting stuff about them. That would give me more confidence.
As you are in Melbourne I thought it might be worthwhile to bring up the course Crucial Conversations.
I know the facilitator who is associated with the company I work for but is also an independent contractor.
It might be worth investigating this as it helps with tough conversations and might assist in the shyness dept (which you are no longer associated with. )
Anyway, not trying to sell it to you, just letting you know it might help. All our managers are doing it to assist in their leadership skills etc. People always come away getting benefit from it.
It's also pretty non-threatening. "Noticing" is something that's pretty safe and easy to commit to, and can no doubt become a "keystone habit" (ref. "The Power of Habit") that leads to more and more connection with others!