We don’t always enjoy having conversation with new people. This leaves us uncertain about what they really think of us, and makes us wonder if they would like to interact with us ever again.

Well, a new study published in the journal Psychological Science says that the common concern that new people may not enjoy your company after an initial interaction is just your inner critic doing its job. People really like you more than you know.

A Cognitive Illusion Called The Liking Gap Makes You Think People Don’t Like You

In the study, Erica Boothby of Cornell University and her team studied the dynamic of conversation that makes it hard for people to know how much their new conversation partners like them, and why conversations are often marked by awkwardness and uncertainty.

Doing so, they discovered a new cognitive illusion called “the liking gap” – where people systematically underestimate how much strangers appreciate their company following a conversation.

The team observed the liking gap in different situations such as – when strangers got to know each other in the laboratory, when first-year college students talked to their dormitory mates, and when members of the general public got acquainted with each other during a personal development workshop.

In each setting, all the participants failed to realize how much others enjoyed having conversation with them. Researchers found that the difference in viewpoint persisted in conversations of varying length, and it lasted for several months, as college dorm mates got acquainted.

“People’s harsh inner critic can be functional when it comes to self-improvement, but we suspect this prevents people from realizing how positively others evaluate them,” the team wrote in the paper. “Conversations are a great source of happiness in our lives, but even more than we realize, it seems, as others like us more than we know.”

Reference: The Liking Gap in Conversations: Do People Like Us More Than We Think? (Psychological Science)