There’s a Word for What I Have: Minglephobia

Do you have minglephobia?

What about pluralistic ignorance?

Do you ever misestimate the hedonic trajectory of a conversation?

If so, welcome to my world.

And surprisingly, there’s a good deal of people in this world.

In a fascinating article in the HuffPost, reporter Brittany Wong takes a look at an issue that many of us find uncomfortable: how to talk to someone new.

Jeanne Martinet, author of “Mingling With the Enemy: A Social Survival Guide for Our Divided Era,” thinks that the majority of Americans have what she refers to as “minglephobia” ― a fear of talking to strangers at social gatherings. I know I do, but I always felt I was in the minority. It always seemed like other people were much more comfortable in such situations than I am.

We figure we’ll have nothing in common with the person.

The fear is commonplace, according to Juliana Schroeder, an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

“Many of us think we’ll run out of things to say more quickly than we actually do, and that makes us misestimate the hedonic trajectory of the conversation,” Schroeder said. (That’s a fancy way of saying how enjoyable the conversation will be over time.)

In one study, Schroeder and her co-author tested several possible psychological reasons for why people believe that talking to strangers will be unpleasant and found the most evidence for two reasons: concerns about social rejection and pluralistic ignorance. In the study, pluralistic ignorance is defined as the belief that others are less interested in connecting with us than we are in connecting with them.

However, everyone in the experiment said they would be more willing to talk than they thought others would be willing to talk.

When it came to social rejection, most participants in the study believed that more than 50% of the people they approached would refuse to talk to them, but actually less than 5% of participants said that this happened to them.

Those are certainly my two “fears”. Who wants to get stuck talking to an accounting teacher at a social gathering?

To help overcome such fears, experts offer the following guidance:

  • Go into the conversation assuming the other person will be interesting. In other words, assume the person is not an accounting teacher.
  • Become a great listener. I don’t know if I’m a great listener,, but I certainly enjoy listening to the other person talk, than talking myself.
  • Come armed with a cheat sheet of good generic questions. Consider questions about hot topics in the news, a new trend you saw on TikTok, the holidays or pandemic life. You could also use the open-ended “what keeps you busy” prompt. You should also be sure to ask some follow-up questions or encouraging statements, too.
  • Don’t be afraid to share something deeper about your personal life. OK, here goes. Purple is my favorite color. There, I said it.
  • Prepare for the worst case scenario. In other words, prepare for the possibility that you may get stuck talking with an accounting teacher.
  • But go into the conversation expecting good things. You hope that you end up sitting next to Bruce Springsteen.

I guess the best thing about the article was simply knowing that the fear of talking to someone new is fairly universal. I think that will make it easier for me next time I am in such a situation.

Although I still have that accounting teacher thing hanging over me…

120 thoughts on “There’s a Word for What I Have: Minglephobia

  1. Coming armed with a cheat sheet of interesting topics is a good idea although I would never admit doing it. Maybe people should also come armed with interesting highly exaggerated or totally made up personal items for discussion purely for the purpose of entertaining conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My fear is of talking. Period. But even worse is my fear of listening. That is, listening to someone rambling on and on. But now that I know that most other people have a fear of talking to someone new, I think I’ll have fun with that, and try to strike up conversations with every new person I meet. Just to watch the fear in their eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I felt like I was on Tippy’s blog for a moment with all those big words in the beginning!
    I don’t have problems with striking up a conversation one on one, its being in a group of strangers and striking up a conversation. That is more intimidating!
    But yes, be reassured you aren’t alone. My husband is more like you.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. in what some may consider to be somewhat ironic, I had to look up logophilia. I try not to use big words, since I don’t know that many, but I do like when others use words I am not familiar with. Tippy and Brad (a poet I follow) are two who come to mind…

        Liked by 2 people

      2. “Logophiliac”, with an “h,” schtupid. Logo comes from the Greek for “log” and “philiac” is derived from the Old Queen’s English word “hemophiliac.” A logophiliac is someone who dost bleed profusely when fallest off thine log.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I do know that word, but….the definition, “huge and powerful force” ….you are saying that you and Jim are that? Hmmm…LOL! Thars a good laugh to start the day! 😂

        Liked by 2 people

      4. I remember visiting Ireland as a 13-year old, and we visited one of my great aunts who was a nun. She offered my dad some poteen, which was their version of moonshine. Always struck me odd that the convent would have poteen on hand…

        Liked by 2 people

      5. Hmm, when you think about it, nuns live in cells. And they’re immured in a cloister, away from the world. So like any prisoners who want alcohol, I guess they have to make their own. But hopefully they don’t make it inside toilets.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. there were some big words there, I’m glad the reporter explained what they meant!

      I’m the same way, I much prefer one-on-one to small groups, although I still wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with a one-on-one conversation with a complete stranger…

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My go-to move in those situations is to ask questions. As soon as you find out what someone is interested in, it gives them a reason to talk.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. We had a comedy many years ago (with our national treasure Judy Dench and her late husband ) where the character goes to her younger sister’s party and sneaks up to a bedroom and settles on the bed to read her book. A chap with the same idea of escaping enters the room. There follows an awkward conversation between two introvert strangers…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. i am a horrible chit chat small talker, especially in these kind of situations. as any introvert in a group social situation will attest to, i tend to find one or two people who i am somewhat connected to. to hang with and talk their ear off.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s the personality that matters, not the profession – that is but a part of who you are. I once went to a conference where one of the speakers was an actuary. He began by saying that he became an actuary because accountancy was too exciting for him. We all laughed, and guess who we all sought out to chat to at the break?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My daughter and son-in-law have quite a few friends who are actuaries; they are part of the friend group who all met going dancing in London. I have no idea what actuaries actually do, but Igather they earn a lot!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. They are the people who compute the odds for things like insurance risks, to help calculate premiums. Well paid, as long as they get it right! It’s like betting with other people’s money.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. My rule of thumb in speaking with new people is to ask them about themselves. To listen intently and remain genuinely interested in their replies. I do not enter the conversation with any desire to talk about myself, but will answer questions directly if asked. What happens is the new person spends some time talking to me about themselves (something we all like to talk about). When the brief social engagement is over, they will not have learned much about me, but they remember the conversation as being enjoyable. I actually enjoy meeting new people because this technique does not require me to kept them captivated or entertained, I just have to listen well and smile.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I try to do the same thing. I much prefer to listen than to talk…

      I’m a little more reserved than you; I don’t really go out of my way to meet new people, even though I know I should…

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This article could have been written about me. You might be an accounting teacher, but at least you teach adults. I teach (or taught) young children. I can’t even pronounce those big words you wrote. 🤣

    Liked by 2 people

  10. As an accountant/writer (what could me more introverted?) I will admit, that along with your bit of humor, I found my palms sweating just thinking about mingling again!
    A great reminder to have a few questions ready to go. I’ve learned that asking questions is a great way to go, as long as my mind doesn’t go blank!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, I am an INTJ, if you are familiar with a certain personality test. The I stands for introvert.

      And yes, I much prefer to be the one asking questions and then just sitting back and listening, as opposed to being the one giving the answers!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I had never heard of those phrases until yesterday. I’ll be sure never to use them in conversation, because I would probably get tongue-tied and get them mixed up, and be exposed as a fraud…

      Liked by 1 person

  11. “Come armed with a cheat sheet of good generic questions” — a great idea, but then I can’t remember those questions. Big case of social anxiety and/or brain damage here. I used to do better when I drank alcohol (more relaxed). One of my big problems is that my hobbies are running and blogging. You can actually watch their eyes glaze over as you bring those topics up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d have to keep repeating those questions to myself before I went to an event where I would be meeting new people. And yes, alcohol does help…

      And speaking of running and blogging, that’s how I got started blogging. Six years ago someone created a 30 day write and run challenge to see who could do both for 30 straight days. I exercise every day (not running, had to give that up a few years ago), but I had never blogged before. I took up the challenge starting on Jan 1, 2015, made it to the 30 days, and I’ve never stopped.

      I’m sure your eyes have glazed over at this point… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You totally lost me at pluralistic ignorance or hedonic trajectory, Jim however the comments were fascinating ab=nd always a learning curve for me… I talk and listen to anyone and yep sometimes the eyes do glaze over but people chat more freely here it could be something to do with hearing someone talking in your native tongue…Have a great weekend 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just liked throwing those big words around. I had no idea what they meant until yesterday 🙂

      I bet there is something to listening to someone speak in your native tongue when you don’t hear it that often…

      Liked by 1 person

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