I can keep up my side of the conversation until I’m sick of the sound of my voice. As an extrovert, it is easy for me to keep my cool in social situations. Small talk is a skill that has always come naturally to me.
Both nature and nurture made me this way. I’m naturally outgoing, but I’ve also grown up with outgoing parents. My parents are still the last ones to leave every party. When I was younger, my mom scolded me every time I tugged at her sleeve, begging her to end the 10-minute exchange with the familiar face we bumped into at the supermarket, the beach, the restaurant, etc. Now, my friends like going out, sometimes for no reason other than to be seen and remind people we exist. I always happily tag along for the night out.
I have a bad habit of assuming everyone is as outgoing and expressive as I am. If someone isn’t smiling ear-to-ear or showing enthusiasm throughout our interaction, I usually label them as unfriendly. When I see people I know on campus, I always expect them to wave to me. If they don’t, I question their kindness.
According to Forbes, it only takes seven seconds to make a first impression of someone. A Harvard study says that it takes an average of eight different encounters after the initial encounter to change the first impression from negative to positive.
I look for similar excitement and extraversion in people, and this can lead me to form a lot of negative first impressions. I find myself cut off from a lot of people who do not give off the same energy as I do. I crave reciprocation in most of my relationships. It took a long time for me to realize some people may not be unfriendly or standoffish; they may just be shy.
It wasn’t until this week when I noticed I needed to give introverts more of a chance. I was showing some family friends around the campus when I tried to make conversation with their daughter, who is considering coming to UF as a freshman in the Fall. I asked her about her interests and what she was looking for in a university, and I was only given shrugs and “I-don’t-knows.” Immediate frustration set in.
We went to dinner that night, and she seemed more relaxed. She leaned back in her chair and scrolled through Instagram. She laughed at her dad’s jokes, and she talked to me about Ariana Grande’s latest album. She was a really sweet and smart girl after all, and that’s when I realized I need to lay off the snap judgments. I should have considered how stressed she probably is by the whole college decision process and coming to a new place that could be her future home.
Having a big personality might seem advantageous to outsiders, but it is important to keep to yourself sometimes. When extraversion gets in the way of letting people in, it is actually doing the exact opposite job that it should be doing. Being uninhibited is no excuse for a lack of consideration and attention to social cues from others.
There is value in taking the time to get to know people. It is unfair to assume everyone can be immediately comfortable in situations they are thrown into. You never know what people have going on that could lead them to be more reserved. They might be having a bad day or a bad week. They have a disposition to be shy, or, who knows, they might just be unfriendly after all. You’ll never know if you don’t give people a chance beyond those first seven seconds.
Molly Chepenik is a UF journalism sophomore. Her column appears on Wednesdays.