It’s Time To Change How We Initiate Conversations

The words we use are crucial for a good first impression

Israel Lobo // Contributor

The way we initiate conversations often has to do with the person that we engage with or our intentions with them. While our body language is an important way of showing what we are trying to accomplish, whether it is getting a phone number or the chair beside them, there is something that is more important than body language—the words that we use when we first present ourselves.

According to research conducted by Microsoft Corp in 2020, the average attention span for humans has decreased from twelve seconds in 2000, to an astonishing eight seconds in 2020. This means that we have eight seconds to catch the attention of the other person with whom we are trying to connect. Now, those eight seconds are not only for attention, but it’s also the timeframe given for first impressions. Unfortunately, this is where some people tend to act differently when they are interacting with people who look or sound different due to their accents. As someone not born and raised in Canada, I have fallen victim to this more often than not.

During my first year of university, I had a public speaking class and, as always, we had to introduce ourselves and say a fun fact about ourselves. I chose the fact that I am Mexican and that it was my first year in Canada. Afterwards, I was put into a group with one of my classmates, who started doing the assignment  given to us, to be done in pairs. He never introduced himself, he just did the assignment. I didn’t say anything due to being shy, but after the class ended, I approached him and asked why he did it all by himself, to which he replied, “I know you don’t know English so I just didn’t want to give you a headache.” 

I remember feeling confused that night, I felt that his intentions were good, but the execution was wrong. Why did he think that? Was it because I said I was from Mexico? After that first class, I avoided him as a partner for any other project. I didn’t want to be with someone who thought I wasn’t capable just because of where I was from and more importantly, I didn’t want to be partners with someone who judged  me without even getting to know me. I eventually ended up having a great relationship with that classmate, but everything would have been so much better if he had taken some time to get to know me and my capabilities.

First impressions mean a lot, especially in university. You can meet people from all around the world and from different paths in life, but it all depends how you approach them. Instead of making assumptions, without even talking to them, we should approach new people with questions related to things they like and perhaps things could be better for both parties.

Whenever trying to start a conversation, first  look at what the other person has with them; perhaps the newest release of a best-selling author that you know about, or the Nintendo Switch sticking out of their backpack. Of course, you don’t have to be that specific, but, diving deeper instead of the generic, “hey, how about that weather, huh?” creates  a positive impact as well as sparks an immediate connection with the other person. 

At the end of the day, we are here to be happy and connect with others. It doesn’t matter where they are from, what matters is the connection that you can have with them.

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