Are you boring? Quick tips to sparkle on the social scene
If you can make someone feel important by valuing their opinions, time or feelings and being interested, YOU will be attractive and interesting to them
A friend the other day moaned “all I ever talk about is work.” Those whose entire life is work and little sleep can get to this point. Others spend all day at home with young children and need to explode to their partners when they come home.
Sometimes you just need to get it off your chest. Which is all very well provided you allow others to do the same to you. Being the receiver of this diatribe, there is often the need for empathy (“I know, I know how you feel”) and rarely the need to prove your experiences are worse than theirs, or indeed have any opinion, let alone being obliged to give it. It is polite to listen and demonstrate that you are listening.
According to a famous Snoopy cartoon, conversation requires more than one person to speak. If you want conversation, then the trick is to select those pieces which may be of interest to the other person and also find a way of having them contribute or join in. If you want an opinion, then try asking. But if you just want affirmation and don’t want challenging – then you are being boring. If you ask opinions about which the listener has no interest – you are being boring.
As a coach my response to “what ‘s your opinion?” is likely to be lots of questions. Especially useful if they are “why and how” questions rather than “what and when.” Others may actually have opinions and they not be the same as yours – that’s conversation!
Leading psychologist John Dewey discovered one of the most fundamental aspects of people. He found that there is one thing that every person on this earth wants. It is to feel important. If you can make someone feel important by valuing their opinions, time or feelings and being interested, YOU will be attractive and interesting to them.
How do you know you are being boring? If the listener?:
• just walks away
• starts looking around the room and not at you
• starts texting or other phone “multi-tasking”
• falls asleep!
Of course they could be busy – but if you are gripping, not griping, then they will stop and focus on you.
You can also be attractive nonverbally.
• Keep your toes pointed toward the person speaking. I know this seems silly but our brains pick up on people’s foot direction and use it to gauge interest. As you are listening to someone, you can make them feel valued by keeping your toes and torso pointed at them as they speak. It’s kind of like nonverbally telling them, “I’m with you! I hear you! Keep going!” And that is the best compliment you can give someone.
• Use a triple nod. Studies have shown that people will speak three to four times longer if you do three slow nods in a row when they have finished speaking. When someone finishes their statement, look them in the eye and nod three times as if to say “keep going.” They often will continue and you end up having a much deeper conversation.
Finally to the PetShop Boys big hit “Being Boring” with the astute chorus:
“’Cause we were never being boring
We were never being bored.”
They also write:
“Now I sit with different faces in rented rooms and foreign places
All the people I was kissing some are here and some are missing
but I thought in spite of dreams you'd be sitting somewhere here with me.”
This means never leave a conversation uncompleted or in disarray as you may never get the chance to repair.