Take the Initiative. 80% of People Will Respond.

introduce yourselfI regularly find myself in social settings with people I don’t know.  My 3 kids are in a new class at school every year with new kids whose parents I don’t know.  My kids are on new teams every few months with new teammates whose parents I don’t know.  Every week at church I see people I have yet to meet.

I’ve noticed that if I just sit back and wait, about 80% of the people around me will also just sit there and say nothing.

I’m just guestimating that number.  And maybe as a dude with a bald head and 3 inch goatee, people are less inclined to approach me than if I was say a beautiful 25 year old single woman. But most people simply do not initiate conversations with people they don’t know.

In the past, I had a tendency to make judgments about people.  Not intentionally, but thoughts would creep into my head…  “That person doesn’t seem very nice.”  “That person is rather anti-social.”  I had come to the conclusion that 3 of my neighbors were essentially hermits.

But then I noticed something…

After my knee surgery, when I started doing regular bike rides through a local park, I decided I would say hi  to everyone I passed.  And you know what?  About 80% of people waved or said hi back.

When I went around inviting my neighbors to the block party we had Saturday, I found my 3 “hermit” neighbors were actually quite nice and engaging.  All 3 thanked me for inviting them and said they would come to the party (though 2 of them didn’t show).

Even though I am introverted, I’ve been taking the initiative to introduce myself to the parents of my kids’ classmates and teammates.  Just about everyone responds positively.

Instead of sitting back and thinking that 80% of people are anti-social, here’s my theory…

  • 20% of people are initiators. If you sit back and do nothing, they will come up to you and engage with you.
  • 20% of people are anti-social. Even if you initiate the conversation, it quickly becomes clear that they want you to shut up and go away.
  • 60% of people are responders. They treat you the way you treat them.  If you ignore them, they will ignore you.  If they cut you off in traffic and you give them a hand gesture, they will give you a gesture back.  But if you introduce yourself to them, are friendly and take a genuine interest in them, they will respond likewise.

Again, I’m just guestimating numbers, but that’s my theory.

Combine the 20% of initiators and the 60% of responders, and 80% of the people who you take the initiative with will respond positively.

With numbers like that, why be a responder and awkwardly sit and wait around with responders for someone to go first?

I’m choosing to be an initiator no matter what setting I’m in.

It IS a choice, you know.

How about you?  Do you find yourself awkwardly sitting around waiting to see if others will take the initiative or will you choose to be an initiator?

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