Monday, August 27, 2012

How do you become a more interesting person?

There is a guy on my swim team who is brutally uninteresting. You're probably imagining a quiet, shy person who can't make eye contact and hardly ever says a word. Wrong. 

This fellow is talkative, chatty, and chronically outgoing. So much so that he seems to have verbal diarrhea -- he hardly takes a breath between sentences. He's an English teacher's worst nightmare, as he is the embodiment of a massive run-on sentence.

You can ask him a simple harmless question like, "How was your workout?" Then you can relax, knowing that you'll never have to respond -- or even look at him for that matter -- he just launches, and talks, and talks, and talks. I've imagined people leaving the room entirely and wondering if he would notice. 

So why am I sharing this? Well, to give him some credit, he really is a smart guy. It's just that he is a monologuer, a one-way communicator. He never asks questions. In fact, I can't recall him asking anything to anyone. 

So back to my original question: How do you become a more interesting person?

You ask questions and listen!

People love to share their opinions. Check out any "review" feature online for a product website. Restaurants want to know the opinions of their diners; hotels want to know how your stay was; movies have scores of reviewers. People blog around the clock, sharing their opinions or viewpoints. 

When you ask questions and listen, the person on the sharing side feels heard, validated, and affirmed! I would suggest that they may even like you more for having showed interest in their opinion. 

So, the connection remains simple. If you want to become the most interesting person in the room, help someone else feel that they're the most interesting person in the room. As author Nicholas Boothman puts it, your goal is to GET THEM TALKING and KEEP THEM TALKING. Instead of surviving awkward silences in the conversation, think of questions to ask that will allow them to share their opinions.

We've all been accosted at some point by a rambling sales monologue. How does it feel?.... Right, it feels like you've been assaulted by a sales robot. No thanks. The sales people I enjoy speaking with are the type who engage me in an interesting conversation while seeking to learn about me and how they can best help improve my situation, still leaving me in a good mood even if they're unable to help. They ask a lot of questions and dig for the right information. As their prospect, I do most of the talking because I've been asked insightful questions. If they've shown interest in hearing my opinions, feelings, and thoughts, I'm much more willing and interested to hear what they have to say.

So, if you want to learn to be more interesting, be more interested. Ask questions and listen for useful information. Or as Dale Carnegie puts it, "Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves." If you get them talking and keep them talking, you'll be considered a great conversationalist. 

Come to think of it, with all the listening I've done to my swimmer friend, I'm wondering now if he considers me a great conversationalist...

Director of Leadership, Southwestern Advantage

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