Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How To Be An Interesting Person

I was going to call this post "How to be Interesting to Your Spouse," because I think once people get married they fall down on the job and feel like they don't have to make an effort to be interesting anymore.  I mean, really, how often can we listen to bitching about a job we know nothing about or whether the Seahawks will make the play-offs or a long discourse on how bad the moss on the lawn has gotten?

But then I thought, "Why limit it to married people?"  I think most people are deficient in the interesting category.  You know why?  Because it takes work to be interesting.

I am a very busy person.  Oh, I know what you are thinking.  How can you be busy?  You are retired.  Well, people, that old saw about "Once you retire you will be busier than ever" is kind of true.  People used to say that to me when I was about to retire and it really irritated me.  But you know what, there really is some truth to it.

I write this blog which, you might not believe, takes several hours out of my week, I am a Senior Peer Counselor, so I have a client I see once a week, I am on a Council on Aging that has several meetings every month, and I write movie and book reviews, so I have to go to movies, watch movies and write about movies and read, read, read.  I also am grappling with my TV addiction so there is a certain amount of time I must devote to that.  Those "Housewives" can't get along without me!  But in the end, when you don't have a job and you aren't required to show up somewhere every day, it's easy to resent the slightest hint of all of that and "busy" takes on a whole new connotation.

So anyway, whatever, I am a busy person however you want to define that, and the bottom line is:  I don't have time for people who are not interesting, and I am sure you don't either.  Maybe I should tell Robert Putnam, who wrote the fascinating book "Bowling Alone," which showed how we have all become increasingly disconnected and no longer form social groups as we once did, like bowling leagues and bridge groups, that maybe that's why people don't congregate anymore. 

Because most people are boring.



But they don't have to be. 

They, and we, can all learn to be interesting.

Now I don't purport to say I am an interesting person.  That is for someone else to say.  But I will say, I am very sensitive to what is going on around me and when I am talking and someone starts looking around the room or checking his or her cell phone or looking blankly at me while I am talking, I know I am not interesting and that I have lost contact. 

I mean, people generally have the attention span of a flea these days, anyway.  Geez, people can't even seem to sit still for an entire movie and even run up and down the aisles at rock concerts. If Bruce Springsteen can't keep someone's interest, how are us mere mortals expected to? 

So when someone I am talking to is clearly not listening to me, I stop talking, which I recommend because continuing to tell a story to someone who is not listening puts you in the "not interesting" category.  Hubby is a perfect example of this and one of the reasons I was originally going to aim this blog post to married people.  Hubby is not sensitive to the fact that someone has lost interest in what he is saying, and even though he is telling a story to someone who is clearly not listening, he plows through his story anyway, because he has this idea that if he thinks something is interesting, someone else will too, even though all of the signs are there that he has lost his audience: twitching eyes surveying the room looking for an escape, yawning, and the arm touching that usually precedes someone making an excuse to walk away. 

At that point, Hubby has fallen into the "Uninteresting Person Zone."

But Hubby is not alone in this and there is a solution.


Let me elaborate.

I am going to use Hubby as an illustration from time to time and before you think I am so mean, we have been married for over 30 years and the reason it works is because Hubby does what he likes and I bitch about it. That's the bargain we have made. It works for us.

So, anyway, as I said, I am not putting myself out there as the Queen of Interesting, but I have learned some things over the years, having endured my share of boring conversations at cocktail parties and the like, so this is what I have learned.



If you want to be an interesting person:




You must read, read, and read some more

If you don't read, you won't know much.  And if you don't know much, how can you participate in conversations with people who do read and be considered interesting? 

I give my liberal arts education in a small Midwestern college some credit too.  It turns out that my liberal arts education did not really help me get a good job (I had to get MORE education for that), but it did prepare me with knowledge of a wide range of topics so as to be scintillating at cocktail parties and for that I raise a glad (as I am wont to do)! 






Learn to be a good storyteller

People who can tell a good story are interesting people.  However, it takes a particularly good storyteller to tell the story and get to the punch line before people walk away from you or start checking their cell phones.  Getting to the point is key.  This is Hubby's biggest problem and one of our most common interactions: him telling a long, convoluted story and me saying, "Get to the point!"  Like I said, I am a busy person.



Have a passion but it better be an interesting one

If you have a passion for something, you are more likely to be an interesting person.  Talking about something with enthusiasm ups your game when it comes to being interesting.  However, it helps if your passion is shared or is a particularly interesting passion, such as, say leading safaris in Africa. People will naturally be in awe of such a thing and you will be of interest immediately. You will also automatically be considered an interesting person if everyone else also has an interest in your current passion.  However, in my case, if your passion is baseball, stamp collecting or the best way to peel a grape, forget it. 





Know what you are talking about

When embarking on a topic of conversation, be sure you know enough about it to field pertinent questions, especially from someone who knows as much about it as you do.  For example, if you bring up existentialism and someone asks you if you think Kierkegaard's broken engagement to Regine Olsen was indeed a major influence on his work, and you not only don't know who Regine Olsen was, but you don't know anything about Kierkegaard, you will be sorry you brought up existentialism at all and you will automatically expose yourself as a phony and a show off.  I once had a friend who liked to throw out all kinds of names and topics, but as soon as I tried to dig deeper, it became apparent that he didn't know what he was talking about.  Not interesting.




Avoid non sequiturs

I can't tell you how many times Hubby will walk into the kitchen and say, out of nowhere, something like, "Bob Dylan."  These kinds of off-the-wall statements with no set-ups can be quite disconcerting and actually puts the onus of the conversation on the other person, which is not only NOT interesting to that person, but tedious. 

In most cases, when Hubby does this, I am able to search my brain and recent activities to figure out what Hubby is talking about, but if it's early in the morning, I am likely to just ignore him or say something like "What the hell are you talking about?"  However, in this case, I was able to put two and two together and remember that we were waiting to find out the name of another artist who would be playing at The Chateau this spring. 

After 31 years of marriage, Hubby and I are on the same wavelength.  However, most of the people you will encounter are not, so avoid starting a conversation with a completely unrelated topic that appears to be coming out of nowhere or you will not only be uninteresting, you will sound like that SNL character, "The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party."







Be a good listener

If you are a good listener, you will automatically be considered interesting. It's amazing how often someone will think you are really interesting when you let THEM talk.  However, being a good listener does not mean you are passively listening and not participating. Being a good listener means making eye contact, shaking your head at appropriate moments in the conversation, making approving sounds and asking pertinent questions. People love to talk about themselves and will walk away from a conversation where they have done just that, thinking it was an interesting conversation.  By the way, listening to people talk about themselves is not interesting.




Ask pertinent questions 

Asking questions goes along with listening.  When you do that, it shows you are curious and the person you are having a conversation with thinks you are really interested which in turn makes you more interesting, right? And you will actually find the conversation more interesting, because you can guide the conversation into more interesting territory, if necessary.  Asking questions also shows that you give a damn (see "Give a damn," below).  Be curious.  Show you are interested.




Plan conversations

This might sound strange but planning a conversation ahead of time will give you some topics to talk about should there be a need.  This is especially important with phone conversations. 

Back in the day, when Hubby was traveling - this was before cell phones and when calling long distance was expensive - he would call me once a day.  I had one shot to talk to him, so during the day I would jot down various things I wanted to convey or discuss or share.  I might want to share the latest movie I watched or recent antics from the dogs or something I heard about the Seahawks, things Hubby is interested in.  If you don't have anything planned to say, you might be faced with a lot of dead air time or a conversation like this:

"Hi."
"Hi."
"How are you?"
"Fine"
"How are you?"
"Fine."
"What did you do today?"
"Not much."
"How about you?"
"Not much."
(Yawn)
(Yawn)
"Well, I had better get off the phone."
"OK"
"Talk to you tomorrow."
"OK."
"Bye."
"Bye."

Yawn.  That's what Hubby's and my conversations might have been like if I hadn't planned for the conversation. If you want your significant other to miss you when he or she travels, plan an interesting, enthusiastic conversation.  It works with your kids, too!





Don't say "AND" after every sentence

When you are talking and say "and..." after every statement, this sends a message that you are not done speaking.  If you say AND after every sentence, though, you will NEVER be done and no one else will get to say anything without feeling like they are interrupting you which does not make for an interesting conversation.  Interrupting is considered rude, but in this case, I recommend it because this person will never stop saying, "And...."



Don't preclude gossip as an interesting topic

I am not talking about spreading bad rumors about your friends.  I am talking about celebrity gossip which can be fun to share and doesn't really hurt anybody.  For example, I found it immensely interesting to discover that Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender are a couple.  And then you could get into a whole discussion about his movie "Shame."







Don't lose your train of thought.

There is nothing worse than being in the middle of a story that you believe is immensely interesting and suddenly losing your train of thought.  This will brand you as an uninteresting person immediately.  However, not losing one's train of thought becomes increasingly difficult as you age, so if you are of a certain age, best to keep your stories short (See "Learn to be a good storyteller" above, especially the part about getting to the point).




Give a damn. 

By that I mean, you have to want to engage people and do the work of being interesting.  Some people would rather sit back and be observers and let other people do all of the work required to be interesting.  Those people are NOT interesting. Whether you have issues with shyness or not, not participating looks like you don't care.  And I am not talking about answering questions when asked.  When you wait for others to ask you questions and engage you, you will be perceived not only as a bore, but a snob. To be an interesting person, you must be the one to ask the questions and take the initiative to engage others.  You will never be considered interesting if you sit back and let everyone else do the work.


Well, I hope you found that interesting. 


So, do you think you are an interesting person?

If not, awareness is the first step toward change.  I know I am working on these things myself because I don't want to add one more bore to the world.

Now I am going to go walk into Hubby's office and say "Remember Kim Kardashian?" and then walk away, just to mess with him.

 
 
What do you think makes someone interesting?

 
 
Thanks for Reading!
 
See you Friday
 
for my review of the new movie 


 
"Whiskey Tango Foxtrot"
 
and

 
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on
 
"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before

 I Die Project."



 

  



 
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3 comments :

  1. Upon reflection, "Barbara Streisand", and did I tell you the one about...oh, darn, where was I going with this? And let me tell you about my thimble collection…and it all started....um, what was I trying to say? Oh yeah, do you collect thimbles too? Never mind, let me check my phone, I have to get this. Oh yeah, and thimbles are made from titanium and fairy dust. Oh, I didn't know you were a metallurgist....did I say titanium? I must have meant something else, but I've forgotten. I read somewhere that Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender are an item and that they bonded over their shared interest in thimbles. Isn't that cool? I am cool just like them! Doesn't that make me interesting?

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  2. LOL Susan...YOU will always be interesting even if you collect thimbles (who does that?). I used to be interesting...at least in my own mind... but maybe slipping down into the thimble collection mode.

    AND....

    Just had to throw that in. I do that lots. Gonna stop.

    All great points Rosy.

    sazzy

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    Replies
    1. Oh sazzy you are such an innocent. Thimble collecting is big enough that there are WHOLE BOOKS on collecting and thimble values. I kid you but we librarians have seen it all!

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