How interesting are you?

“I don’t know how to make friends”

I recently came across a post by What Sandra Thinks in which she said that she felt boring, socially inept and unable to make friends.

Like a lot of people who commented on that post, I immediately thought, god, you too? I don’t know how to make friends either. Luckily, these days I don’t much care. I don’t need friends – I’ve got sisters.

But it got me thinking about what it takes to make friends, and specifically, how to be more interesting. (Not that you have to be interesting to make friends: some of the most boring people I know have hundreds.)

I recently picked up a book by Edward de Bono on ‘How to be More Interesting’. Ironically, it was practically unreadable.

Edward’s main thesis is that interesting people live in a sort of multiple-alternate universe, as in ‘What shall I do with this meat pie? Eat it? Carve the Virgin’s face into it? Wear it as a hat? Analyse its constituent parts, including the apprentice factory hand’s fingernail clippings?’

Bullshit, Edward. As a very interesting person, let me tell you how it’s done.

Now, before you jump in and tell me how far up my own arse I’ve managed to crawl, let me qualify that.

I am really not that interesting. But what I have noticed in my travels is this. If I sit down and lend a serious ear to someone for half an hour, during which they speak and I ask pertinent questions and look like I want to know the answer – they will, as often as not, go away thinking ‘That woman is SO interesting!’.

What they mean is, ‘That woman clearly found ME interesting. Obviously she has a fine mind.’

Anyway, my advice to anyone who wants to be more interesting is this: don’t bother. Be interested, and learn to be a good listener. You don’t need social skills to listen to someone blathering on for hours about their favourite topic. You just need ears. You’d be surprised how really few good listeners there are in the world – they’re gold, mate, gold.

For example, I once sat awe-struck as a boyfriend of mine gave me a lift from the airport, a trip of approximately forty minutes. During this time, he didn’t once pause for breath – he talked about how he had to MC a party for a friend, who would probably cancel the whole thing if he wasn’t available to do it, about how his Mercedes was so expensive to fix, about how the women in his street would park themselves on their verandahs just to watch him jog by in the morning…. He was a kind and charming man but this – this was a tour de force! Me, I just listened. Most relaxing forty minutes I’ve ever spent (awake. Mostly).

There’s one other thing I’d say to Sandra, and it’s this. The most boring people in the world are those who never even consider that they might, possibly, be boring. You’re not one of those, so that puts you way ahead of the pack.

Oh, and by the way, if you like my style and would like to get free copies of all my books before they’re released (in return for feedback & an honest review), you’re welcome to join my launch team, Rose’s Elite Readers.

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13 Comments

  1. I think you’re spot on. Most people (maybe excluding introverts) seem to love to talk about themselves, and by default, allowing them to do so makes us look pretty cool, whether in reality we are or not.

  2. Yes exactly. I’ve made “friends” even when I haven’t wanted to by simply being a good listener and not judging, just commiserating. It’s something that comes naturally to me, even when, to be honest, I don’t care all that much. I just do it by reflex. I find though I need more & more alone time to do the things I want to do, mainly write. That’s not something I can do with people badgering me to go out and have fun. Week after week, I get nothing done.

  3. there’s a lot of context involved in being interesting. Aldous Huxley wrote of how to impress people. He might say the painting of saint whatever in some obscure Italian chapel was the most impressive he’d seen. That sounds impressive, but not if it’s the only one he’d ever seen. Most of his listeners would assume he had seen lots. You don’t have to lie to impress, but you can phrase things in ways that people read more into your words. But as to your article, I think sometimes being quiet and listening or at least not disagreeing with people can make you sound more interesting when you may not even be paying attention.

  4. I’m always so impressed by your erudition, Barbara. It’s funny though how many people say the same thing..as long as you look like you’re listening hard people will be happy.

  5. That’s what they say about assholes–if you’re worried that you might be one, you aren’t. I’m not sure that this bit of wisdom is true–I worry a LOT about whether or not I’m an asshole, and I’m pretty sure that I am–but, there you have the conventional wisdom…

  6. Rose, you don’t write that I don’t think. Laugh too. This is a perfect assessment of everything I dislike about so many people and the shows they put on. I talk too much (yeah, the bore) and am trying to learn to listen better. You’re already there.

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