An editor for Wired decided to do an impromptu replicative study in 2011, using a number of business founders, executives, and creatives as subjects. Same results! So it turns out that, even when we wildly disagree with one another about the very foundations of society, we can still interact positively. In person. It's still utterly impossible on the Internet, of course.
You're Better At Conversing Than You Think
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The worst part about having a conversation with someone new is all those awkward silences. It must be you, right? You're such an asshole that you can't even talk to another person for 10 minutes without poisoning the air with your own toxic awkwardness.
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"Poisoning? Oh holy shit, am I farting right now? I need to go, I need to-"
If that's you, it may surprise you to learn that the anxiety is every bit as real for the person you're talking to, and that all of this is completely normal. Scientific investigation has shown that the average conversation contains around 10 awkward silences per minute. This number includes all the times you break to say "Uhh ..." or "Um ..." while your brain frantically scrambles to complete the sentence you began. This proves that it isn't a result of your personal ineptitude to conversation -- it's the baseline level of awkwardness for all of humanity.
If someone doesn't say "um," they're an alien spy.
The news gets better. As it turns out, those awkward pauses actually make you seem more normal and even more trustworthy to other people -- so much so that programmers who are building robots to mimic human conversation are considering incorporating awkward pauses and filled silences like "um" in between sentences in order to make computers sound more human. 2001: A Space Odyssey would have been a bit less chilling if HAL's signature line had been "I'm sorry, um, I can't ... I can't actually let you, uh, let you do that, Dave. Sorry. Sorry!"
Some of Andrew's friends have started up a pop culture/beer connoisseur podcast called "Pass Priority" that you should check out. Andrew writes fiction -- his pulp fantasy story "Clusterfuck" will be published in July.
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Also check out 5 Ways Your Brain Is Turning You Into A Jerk and 5 Bizarre Things Your Body Does (Explained By Science).