My favorite part of meeting someone new is when I start second-guessing everything I said and conclude that I’m a horribly awkward person who probably talked too much, or maybe not enough.
Kidding. That’s my least favorite part.
There’s a very helpful new study, though — actually, a series of five studies — that leaves me feeling better. The fact the researchers even got funding for a major study called “Do people like us more than we think?” pretty much proves that a bunch of intelligent, capable researchers are obviously insecure about meeting people, too. (And that the people funding them are probably also a bit insecure.) But also, the results were awesome.
“Across five studies,”reports Emma Young, for the British Psychological Society, “the researchers explored what strangers thought about each other after chatting, and they found consistent evidence for what they call a ‘liking gap’ — other people actually like us more than we think.”
They were studying scenarios involving people who were meeting each other for the first time, not people who have known each other for years. So your coworkers probably like you about as much as you think they do. But as for the first impression we make on people, we probably don’t seem as weird as we think.
Good news for the painfully insecure among us, especially: “The researchers found that the participants significantly under-estimated how much their partner liked them. And the analysis of the personality data revealed one key driver: the shyer the person, the bigger the liking gap.”
So the next time you catch yourself wondering whether you’re boring at parties, or awkward on a first date, or whether your new neighbor is silently judging you, remember that they’re probably not judging you quite so harshly — and that honestly, they’re probably just worrying about the same thing.
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