Throughout the course of my undergrad studies, summer research stints, work, and extracurricular activities, I have had the chance to interact with many academics, some of whom are Big Shots in their respective fields. I have noticed that I find some people far more intimidating than others (to the point where discussing even mundane topics with them caused me great anxiety), and initially I thought I was simply anxious as a lowly undergrad around Famous Science Professors.
Later I realized that what makes me extra fearful about talking to certain people isn’t their age, h-index, or number of awards they have received – but their personalities. As an extrovert, I find myself most at ease around other outgoing people. I do not feel comfortable around quiet people. This is in stark contrast to my closest friends, who are all introverts, and who have many times found themselves in the exact opposite situation; feeling threatened by loud, boisterous people at meetings, parties and the like.
I find talking to quiet people so much more scary because, on average, in my experience, they tend to be much more insightful and measured in what they say (and seem to only ever say intelligent things); whereas more exuberant people display a wider range of accuracy and seriousness within their statements. I have always found it much more easy to communicate with the latter group, even if they are extremely Famous and even if they do talk over me. I have at times felt annoyed, but never intimidated, by people who make it impossible to get a word in edgeways, whereas the thought of talking to some particularly quiet people fills me with apprehension, even though they are extremely warm and supportive.
I don’t think I will ever be entirely comfortable around extreme introverts, but it’s probably a start to identify why they seem intimidating to me. I’m curious about others (that means you, blog reader!): have you ever noticed a preference for interacting with loud vs. quiet people, and does it depend on the context you know them in?