How to Make Everyone the Most Interesting Person in the World
I’ve recently been determined not to go to any boring parties. No boring family gatherings. No dull small talk at events. No hoping to find an early exit to a conversation. That’s right. I’ve decided that I only want to spend time with interesting people.
I suppose I could try to seek out these interesting people—explorers, scientists, philosophers, musicians, movie stars, the well travelled and the highly successful. But, at least in the short term, I don’t really have much choice when it comes to who I see at work gatherings, family events, neighborhood parties and on the sidelines at youth sporting activities. So, I’ve decided to find the people around me more interesting.
I have made a commitment to be interested in what makes each person interesting. And guess what? Doing that has made everyone interesting.
For instance, at a work event, I found myself in what was initially a dull small-talk conversation. We asked some standard questions to each other like: What’s new with you? Are you travelling for the holidays? How’s work going? And the answers came in typical fashion: Yes, visiting my parents. Not much new, you know, same old same old. Family is good. Work is going well—it’s busy!
In order to fulfill my commitment and turn this small talk into meaningful talk, I asked this simple question: Who are you excited to see in the coming months?
The person I was talking with suddenly lit up as he told me about the reunion he was having with the guys in his platoon from the Vietnam War. So I asked him about his experience in the war. This led him to talk about physical challenges he has endured. And this led to me learning about the intense, Navy SEAL-like workouts he does every week. And that was particularly interesting because he’s in his late sixties.
Someone nearby overheard the conversation and said to me, “That’s amazing. I didn’t know any of that about him, and I’ve known him well for years.”
You see, there are no boring parties, no dull co-workers, no mundane conversations and no uninteresting people—not when you make an intentional effort to find out what makes someone interesting.
Maybe your neighbor didn’t fight in a war or doesn’t emulate Navy SEALs. But I’ll bet she is expecting something in the near future, worried about a possibility, excited about a recent accomplishment, nostalgic about a time in the past, hurting in a relationship, joyful about a new or improved relationship, learning a new skill, cultivating a hobby, or dedicated to a cause. Every human being is interesting if we are interested enough to find out why.
The Quality of Your Questions = The Quality of Your Conversation
Standard questions lead to standard answers which lead to mundane interaction. Thoughtful questions lead to unique answers which drive compelling discussion.
Thoughtful questions probe for the two ingredients that make each person most interesting: 1) their uniqueness and 2) their emotions.
Uniqueness. Everyone’s path through life takes such different turns. All you need to do to make someone interesting is to be interested in the unique turns they have taken (or plan to take in the future).
Rather than just asking How was your weekend? You might ask What was unique about this past weekend for you? Or rather than asking How’s it going? You might ask What’s trending for you at work?
Emotions. Emotions make us human. All you need to do to make someone interesting is to be interested in their strongest emotions. It’s hard to find someone boring when they’re expressing strong joy, sadness, fear or anticipation.
So, rather than just asking Where are you from? You might also ask What did it feel like growing up there? Or rather than asking Do you have any travel planned this winter? You might ask What are you excited about in the coming months?
Find what people are interested in so that they become more interesting. It will probably also make them more interested in a relationship with you. As Dale Carnegie said, becoming genuinely interested in other people is one of the keys to strengthening relationships.
How could you start making people around you more interesting?