This is just a quick note to record a notable change in perspective I’ve had recently about initiating conversations. Previously, this is something I would not usually do, even around people I already knew. This lead to a lot of situations with awkward silence, for example if I was standing around with someone waiting for something.

My reasoning process was something along the lines of, “they must not want to talk, or otherwise they would say something”. Since I didn’t want to annoy them, I didn’t say anything. Recently, however, I have been going out of my way to start conversations in such situations. To my surprise, most people do not seem annoyed at all, in fact they seem genuinely pleased.

This stark contrast with my expectation and the reality makes me curious what was mistaken about my previous viewpoint, and how I came to adopt such a perspective in the first place. In retrospect, the obvious objection to my reasoning is that the other person could well be thinking the same thing as me. Perhaps they would even prefer to talk, but dislike the act of initiating; if one accepts this perspective then the initiator is even doing a favour by saying something—exactly the reverse of my previous view.

What could have caused me to get things backwards? It’s not as if there is a lot of conventional wisdom saying you shouldn’t initiate; the closest thing I can think of is feminists complaining about men overzealously initiating women (typically in a dating context). I have to wonder if this was a case where I didn’t want to do something so I rationalized a reason against doing it.