Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Why Our Negative First Impressions Are So Powerful

Some people just may not get you, and that's probably OK.

Have you ever met someone for the first time and thought, “I don’t like you and I don’t know why?”

The answer could be as simple as you are an introvert and the person you just met is an extrovert. Introverts tend to view extroverts as arrogant, overconfident, brash, and pushy. Extroverts, on the other hand, tend to see introverts as quiet, nerdy, insecure, and socially inept. This natural, almost subconscious, tendency serves as a filter—also referred to as a first impression—through which a person’s future words and actions are judged.

We like other people who share the same attitudes and perspectives as we do. Since introverts and extroverts have different world perspectives, they view each other as different and thus may be naturally predisposed to dislike one another. Extroverts focus on the outside world, while introverts remain introspective. Extroverts get their energy from other people. Introverts get their energy from within. Introverts typically begin their day with fully-charged “social” batteries. Each social interaction drains their social batteries. When their batteries are drained, introverts withdrawal into themselves to recharge. Since extroverts get their energy from others, their “social” batteries are constantly being charged by human interactions.

The differences in these worldviews can cause social discomfort. Introverts can be introspective and tend not to outwardly express their feelings. Consequently, the frustration caused by the actions of extroverts may build up over time. When the pent-up frustration reaches a certain threshold, the frustrated introvert can explode with a litany of past transgressions. Extraverts are often caught off guard, wondering what they did to offend the other person.

Why do extroverts frustrate introverts? Extroverts tend to think in stream-of-consciousness. What they think, they say—and sometimes what they say offends others. Introverts think before they speak and don’t understand how someone could say something without first thinking about it. Extroverts finish other people’s sentences. Introverts think before they speak and usually pause between thoughts to plan the next thing they want to say. Extroverts see a pause in a conversation, finish the other person’s sentence, and continue the conversation, leaving the introvert frustrated, and unheard. Extroverts are spontaneous: If they want to have something, they just buy it. If they want to do something, they just do it. Extroverts can tend to buy things they don’t really want, and do things they really don’t want to do. Introverts tend to research the items they want to buy, and the things they do. The extrovert’s trial-and-error method frustrates introverts.

These and other peccadillos reinforce the introvert’s negative first impression of extroverts.

Changing negative first impressions is difficult. Someone who forms a negative impression of another person will be less inclined to meet that person a second time because they have judged the person in a negative light. But without subsequent meetings, the person who has been judged negatively does not have an opportunity to change the mind of the person who judged them. Additionally, once a first impression is formed, people are less likely to change their mind. This is based on the psychological principle of consistency: When people articulate an idea, they are less likely to change their minds because they would first have to admit that they were initially wrong. Maintaining an erroneous notion, such as a first impression, actually causes less anxiety than admitting an error and adopting another position.

Knowing how introverts and extroverts view each other provides an explanation as to why you may not like someone when you first meet them. But knowing why a person may not like you can also help you adjust your communication style to foster good relationships, in both business and social settings.

There is a certain amount of comfort knowing people don’t like you not because of you, but because of who you are.

For more information regarding how to build and maintain human relationships, refer to The Like Switch.

More from Jack Schafer Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today