How do I become a more interesting person?
June 12, 2011 10:56 AM   Subscribe

How do I become a more interesting person?

At social gatherings I can make small talk just fine. I make it a point to keep the conversation flowing like a game of tennis - sharing info as much as asking questions. Frequently it feels like I quickly run out of things to talk about. Therefore, is it possible to become a more interesting person without doing things like spending a fortune on travel, taking tons of time off to go hike the appalachian trail, or making a major career change?

I'm a mid-30s guy and I live in the Twin Cities, MN. I work full time.

The more specific the answers are, the better. Please don't limit your reply to "get more hobbies." Instead, what types hobbies should I specifically try that might be interesting to discuss with others at social gatherings for average, 30-somethings?

I am also speaking to a therapist about this, but I've always received sound advice here so I'm looking forward to your responses. Thanks for your help!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you have the necessary interest, curiosity and open-mindedness for it, you can become the cultural tastemaker in your social group. Pick a medium (or don't!) and really get into it: read, watch, listen, and, most importantly, seek! Be the guy everyone wants to ask what are some really good off-the-beaten-path films, or some awesome new music you'll never hear on the radio. Thanks to the internet -- Netflix! iTunes! Amazon! Bandcamp! -- it's a lot less legwork than it ever was.
posted by griphus at 11:10 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Read books, and travel often. Never talk about your problems. Try to be funny. Never take yourself too seriously.
posted by four panels at 11:11 AM on June 12, 2011 [35 favorites]


So are you nervous in social situations? It seems like not so much, though a little because you worry. That's normally the biggest problem.

There's no quick fix for a problem like this, you just need to be engaged in a conversation with someone. Smile, laugh, let them know that you either sympathize or have shared similar experiences. If you're not the quickest on your feet, have some fallback stories that can relate to broad topics.

But I've developed a theory on dynamic people. Or maybe just comedians.

What I think is the key to being an interesting person/having interesting conversations is holding two opposing ideas: life is endlessly fascinating, strange and hilarious; life is horrifyingly banal and boring. Think David Sedaris here. Most people would agree that he's probably a super person to talk to, but the things he writes about devoid of his unique style are the most boring. He has no grand adventures, he goes to the doctor and fusses in his crappy seasonal work as an elf (okay, that one is not at all boring even in concept).

To apply that, you find the interesting things that are happening in your life or other peoples stories, while realizing life is both boring and silly. Don't take yourself seriously. Have fun. Be sympathetic when you need to be.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:14 AM on June 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


If you're running out of things to say, learn to ask more questions. You can learn so much from other people if you know how to ask the right questions. Cheaper than travel or any hobby! I don't think taking on any specific hobby will make you more interesting to other people- at least for me, I don't walk around at parties looking for the guy who's going to talk to me about some band I've never heard of for 15 minutes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:15 AM on June 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


Hmm. I don't think there's a clear answer here. I've had great party discussions about someone's sci-fi favorites, sausage making experiences, hunting trip, desire to be interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air, childrearing, non-fiction book reads and related theories of society... And I've had totally boring conversations on very similar topics. The interesting times were when a great passion for them overlapped with an interest of mine, when they had a story to tell, or when it was an area of active thought development. I think you're on the right track by looking for things that interest them, but if you want to be able to carry a conversation more on your own, I'd suggest you learn about storytelling and explore things that really interest you.
posted by salvia at 11:15 AM on June 12, 2011


Instead, what types hobbies should I specifically try that might be interesting to discuss with others at social gatherings for average, 30-somethings?

Personally, I find people who have hobbies for the sake of talking about them unnerving. I would much prefer someone who generally talks about archiving, gardening, ornithology or any other subject who's actually passionate about it.

The subject doesn't really matter as much as it matters that it's important to you. If you go to work and then go home and don't do anything that really drives you, that's probably the reason you keep hitting the wall conversationally. Get into something you're personally interested in* and you'll find you'll be a lot more interesting.

* For me, I really enjoyed cooking, shopping for food, health and exercise, and so I became the guy who talks about those things in my social circles. I learned a lot from other people, and listened as much as I spoke, and that made people comfortable talking about these subjects around me.
posted by dflemingecon at 11:16 AM on June 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I forgot to add that you do NOT need specific hobbies or to be of the same... uh... what's a good word... class? Social strata, group, whatever... with people you are talking to. Certainly some people are easier to relate to than others, but I think you'll find that the less relate-able a person is if you're fun and upbeat is their problem, not yours.

Some people will always be hard to talk to.

I used to have super big problems talking to people who I didn't know. Horrifying anxiety. I knew inside that I was funny and could charm people, but I was so worried about their opinion of me or making a dumb joke and being laughed at that I couldn't. Fake it til you make it worked for me.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:17 AM on June 12, 2011


Read the newspaper and watch the nightly news. Check out a couple of popular news and pop culture blogs to stay up on what people are talking about. This will go a long way in terms of giving you topics for conversation.

Check local listings for interesting events happening in your town. Cooking classes, power yoga, art exhibits, interesting speakers coming into town, hockey games, pub quizzes, church dinners, wine tastings... go to at least one of these events every week. You don't have to do stuff like sky diving and bungee jumping to have interesting new experiences.

Volunteer regularly. You'll be able to interact with people of all walks of life with very colorful backgrounds. Stepping outside of your social sphere to hang out with people that live differently from you will be thought provoking for you, and will certainly give you something to talk about. Work at a Veterans clinic, a homeless shelter, an after school program for underprivileged kids... the possibilities are endless.

Watch movies, especially the really popular ones that is seems everyone has watched, like "The Matrix", "Superbad," "Forrest Gump," etc. Not saying this should be your first priority, but I realized a lot of people talk about popular movies. It's good to be able to participate when movie talk comes up in a conversation.

The more you engage with the world around you, the more you'll think. The more you think, the more you have to say.
posted by sunnychef88 at 11:19 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


From your description you sound like you are doing OK. Sometimes conversations just end. I've practiced for a long time gracefully bowing out of a conversation that has gone stale. I use this strategy, "Excuse me, I have go talk to [so and so about whatnot]. Nice talking to you, see you soon. I wouldn't sweat running out of things to talk about. It's the natural life span of smalltalk.
Derail ends.

Here's what I do. I read magazines. I like Wired Mag. It has a lot of current stories that are usually absent from most people's radar. Pick a current events mag and read it every month(or online, whatever.) I also listen to my local AM news station. I don't really like it but it keeps me informed about stuff going on. That gives me plenty of fodder for small talk.
I also listen to NPR and surf a few sites that cover new and interesting things (metafilter!)
Also what griphus said. There's lots of ways to set yourself apart when it comes to interesting topics. Find a niche and exploit it.
Good luck
posted by hot_monster at 11:20 AM on June 12, 2011


Instead, what types hobbies should I specifically try that might be interesting to discuss with others at social gatherings for average, 30-somethings?

I think people whose hobbies make them more interesting have chosen those hobbies because they enjoy them, and usually also because they have some aptitude for them. So a better question than what would make a good discussion point, is what do you enjoy, and what are you good at? I personally arrived at my current hobby by it being something I had wanted to try for years, but for a long time didn't really have the spare cash to try it. It may or may not make me more interesting, but I actually don't really like to talk about it at parties unless someone asks me a direct question about it.
posted by advil at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2011


Agreed with ThePinkSuperhero. Unless you specifically climbed Kilimanjaro, which I am thinking about, I'm really not more interested in talking with you because you lived in Japan or dig Bob Dylan.

Being an interesting person and/or conversationalist isn't about doing particular things. It's about how you relate to people and the world in these interactions.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:21 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Take an interest in something. Find an arbitrary thing to become either good at or become an expert on. It does not matter what it is. Whatever that arbitrary thing is, it will do. It does not matter what it is, so long as it isn't blatantly contingent on some rationalization or outside reasoning ("This is an interesting thing!", "This thing is chic!", "This is a challenge!", and so on.) What matters is the simple practice of love. If you find you have a reason to love it later, then don't drop it, just keep with it. Reasons fall and rise like the tides. Loving anything involves regarding your beloved with alternating boredom, excitement, fascination and frustration. Practice patience. You will fail. Try again. It need not be the same thing. What matters is not what it is, but the simple practice of patient consistent giving of your heart to some thing. It does not matter if others know what it is. They will know even if you do not tell them.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:23 AM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think charm is more about being interested than being interesting. Practice social lubrication (not the type in a martini glass) by learning to listen, and ask good follow-up questions--if you're actually paying attention, and not worrying about what you're going to say next, you can hone in on some aspect of the other person's conversational flow and pursue that. You don't need Baba Wa-Wa style questions ("what tree would you be if you were a tree?"?) to make it lively. I think running out of topics means that you're sort of just skimming the surface of these social tennis volleys.

I used to interview people for a living, and learned to use my body language, encouraging little facial expressions--and I think that with very rare exceptions--most people are really far more fascinating than they look if given half a chance.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:30 AM on June 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


I think charm is more about being interested than being interesting.

Maybe it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said "A boring man finds himself endlessly fascinating. An interesting man bores himself to tears."

Or maybe I dreamt it. I've never been able to find the quote again.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:36 AM on June 12, 2011 [15 favorites]


Never talk about your problems.

I disagree. You want to talk about your problems infrequently, but it's fine to mention them in passing if they're normalish problems that won't make people uncomfortable. For example, a friend brought up her job search and how she felt she was hitting a wall with me the other night. I was able to give her some insider general advice, and EVERYONE loves doing that, hence why AskMe exists in the first place. Giving people a chance to tell you what they know since it might be helpful is a great conversational strategy, but you want to deploy it carefully lest you come off as whiny.
posted by slow graffiti at 11:57 AM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think charm is more about being interested than being interesting.

I'm not sure that's true, but even if it is, this is a question about being more interesting.

All you have to do to be more interesting is pay more attention. Notice things and talk about them later. There's a myth that sitcoms like to subvert once or twice a season that to be interesting you need to know and talk about specific subjects. That's not true. Anything can be interesting if you put the right spin on it. The world is fucked up and full of contradictions. Pay more attention.

My walk to work is about four minutes if I'm unlucky with traffic lights. In that short walk I can usually collect five or six observations for later use (though this isn't a conscious thing and now I'm pretty sure I'll be overthinking it like a golf swing when I go to work in an hour). Just look around at all the ridiculousness. Form opinions about unimportant things. Pick a favourite and an underdog in every situation. Put yourself in people's shoes. Wonder about how we as a species got to a point where twenty people are happy to apply and wait for permission to cross a road at traffic lights. Think about what brought that odd couple together.

Most importantly, ask people what they think about things. Even if you offer nothing further than the initial question, they'll remember an interesting conversation about whether or not the guy watching the traffic light surveillance cam ever changes the light sequences for someone he doesn't like, and they'll think you're interesting by association.
posted by doublehappy at 11:58 AM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, you state in your question that you make it a point to keep a conversation flowing like a game of tennis. Conversations are organic and analogous to meiosis - you never know what's going to trigger something in someone else's mind, and you never know how their opinion will interact with yours - and imposing your robotic serve and volley game plan on that is counterproductive. Play each return on its merits. Don't pre-meditate shots.
posted by doublehappy at 12:08 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was getting drunk with my friend John one night, and he was complaining about his uncle, who had moved back in with John's grandparents in his mid-40s. The problem, John said, was that while his uncle was a really smart guy, he was really dismissive of anyone else's experiences and didn't seem to learn from anyone else's mistakes or life.

John said something that really stuck with me, that "Everyone's an expert on something, and you can learn from anyone."

When I'm talking to someone, I try to draw them out about what they're passionate on, and what they're an expert on. From there, I generally have enough inchoate knowledge swirling around that I can ask a follow-up on just about anything, but usually a controversy within the field is an easy thing to get someone engaged on.

I'm not necessarily a good partner on this, because while I have plenty of stories and anecdotes, most of them are pretty old hat to me by now. Maybe it's midwest modesty, but very rarely do I feel comfortable talking about myself with strangers (or even people I haven't known for a while).

I end up talking to people a lot about what they do and where they've been, just because I tend not to follow a lot of the same pop culture that other people do (and I've learned that outside of a few rare folks, my diving into a discussion on the merits of metal sub-genres or rhetorical theory or any number of kinda obscure stuff I stumble onto just tends to end conversations, so I need to get better at it).

I'll also say that I read books like a goddamn fiend, and usually I'll have read something recently that ties in with a conversation topic. But I tend to take a shotgun approach, heading to the library and wandering around until something catches my eye, and often walking out with 20 or 30 books. Most of them, I'll skim, but if one's good, then suddenly I find I can talk with reasonable authority on the development of reliable sea clocks or Columbian drug policy or toy cameras.

If all else fails, pretty much any random Big Lebowski reference will get a conversation going again.
posted by klangklangston at 12:13 PM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and one more thing. Everything is related. There are principles and rules that you know and understand already from your _______ experience. Those principles and rules probably apply in some way to other areas, and even drawing attention to these can be interesting. Go and read a bit about basic economic principles and then apply them to real life. You can then talk about the application without making any reference to economics.

Actually, one more thing after that. It's not always a bad thing to not have something to talk about. People will mostly give physical cues that they are no longer interested or that they're finding a silence awkward. They're in the same boat.

Ok, final point. Ask questions about things you don't know about, even if that will make you appear stupid. The first conversation I ever had with my ex was about how she really thought dragons existed but were now extinct. The first conversation I had with my current girlfriend was triggered by the fact that she had no idea who Woody Allen was. She still doesn't - the point is that the fact that she had never heard of someone who I would have assumed was a household name was interesting to me and generated another 100 or so questions: what was her upbringing like? did she never see Antz? is she completely unfamiliar with the neurotic small bespectacled man trope? is she just bad with names? So, ask someone a stupid question. People love to teach.
posted by doublehappy at 12:24 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Previously.
posted by box at 12:28 PM on June 12, 2011


Being interesting is something that only exists with respect to the person you are talking too. Being interesting, when you are in a room alone, is sort of a meaningless concept. So the people above telling you to stop talking and start listening are giving you a good answer. If you spend 20 minutes at a party getting somebody else to talk about themselves by asking interesting questions, they will leave the party thinking you are very interesting. It's social interaction 101. You can't win this game "buying stories" (ala the Seinfeld episode) by arbitrarily picking hobbies or interests because they will be interesting to other people. That approach will fail. Every time.

Be interesting by being interested. Ideefixe put it about as succinctly as it can be put.
posted by COD at 12:28 PM on June 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fun, unusual, open-ended questions make for good conversation jump starters. When I was younger and traveling the world, I'd often ask people what they thought was the most exotic place in the world. I could use unusual previous answers as conversation points (like "Colorado" from an Algerian or "New York City" from an Australian). It's the sort of question that everyone will have an opinion on and be able to talk about.

That particular example could be used with anyone, but would work best with people interested in travel. You can come up with others that match the person/people you're talking with.

Now that I think about it, is there a way to search for questions deleted as chatfilter? Those would be good.
posted by justkevin at 12:35 PM on June 12, 2011


Asking people weird questions is not being interesting. It's just lazy and has no context to anything. Please don't do that.

One girl I knew would always ask "What made you smile today?" every. single. time. I talked to her. After a few times, I stopped talking to her. Same for the guy who asks weird questions at the grocery store when I just want to buy some chicken.

What Ideefixe said "You don't need Baba Wa-Wa style questions ("what tree would you be if you were a tree?"?) to make it lively." I agree with 100%. I shudder thinking about people asking me those.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


There are plenty of people with unusual hobbies, amazing jobs, and heavily stamped passports who are terrible bores. By the same token, there are plenty of people who have few hobbies, run-of-the-mill jobs, and no travels who are utterly charming and fascinating.

So there are a few things to consider. First, think about other people you find interesting, or about particularly good conversations you've had. Was it actually someone's hobby (or job or vacation) that made you think they were an interesting person? My hunch is that when you look at it more closely, it's not really the fact that Jennifer Went To Italy or Mike Is A Photographer that made you think they were interesting people. Rather, it's more likely that they were exhibiting more general qualities which you found appealing -- passion about a topic, or a snappy sense of humor, or the ability to engage you in the conversation.

So that gets to the second point, which is: what do you find interesting? Taking up a hobby in the hopes that other people will find you interesting for pursuing it is kind of doomed for failure, I would guess, because it's got the process essentially backwards. Interesting pursuits stem organically from what you are interested in; if you take up rock climbing or French cooking or pinhole photography (or whatever) because you think other people care about it, you're unlikely to muster the personal engagement with it that is precisely what will make it interesting to other people. The impetus needs to be internal, rather than external.

Third point: in some ways, the question of hobbies is a bit of a red herring here, anyway. I think a good chunk of your question is more about how to be a good conversationalist. Like I said, I've known people who've traveled the world and have great jobs and have similar hobbies to mine and who are still total bores -- maybe because they don't let someone get a word in edgewise, or because they're self-important, or because have a lousy sense of humor.

That said, of course, taking up new hobbies is a perfectly fine thing to do if you're actually interested in doing so. Like the outdoors? Then maybe you'd enjoy hiking or gardening or bird watching. Like art? Check out your local museums or take a drawing class. Interested in travel but don't have a lot of time or money? Take some weekend road trips. Take your own preferences and pleasures as the starting point and go from there. But do it because of your own curiosity, not because you think it will satisfy other people's curiosity.
posted by scody at 12:54 PM on June 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I'm at my most interesting when:

* I'm genuinely fascinated by the other person's interests
* I have an opinion about something, but I'm open to be convinced otherwise
* There is an experience or observation slightly outside the current topic that I can relate to it, without taking over the conversation
* My commitment to something I'm passionate about comes through as an invitation to others to join in
* My energy level is high, but I am calm
* I'm making eye contact regularly and am not distracted by background events

Less interesting when:

* I'm so passionate about something I lose track of the people I'm talking to
* I think I know the fact or answer and am less open
* I'm tired, nervous, or frantic
* My own interest in the conversation isn't in simple human engagement with the other person

All of this is a sort of reverse projection of what I notice in other people when I talk to them. I enjoy conversation and small talk about any topic. If someone mentions a subject they are interested in there is usually some latent question I have about it. If they mention a subject that bores me I'll just let them know I've never had much interest in that.

I think being interesting in conversation is far more about connectedness and attention than what or who you know, or how well you speak. Wish I'd recognized that when I was younger.
posted by meinvt at 1:03 PM on June 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


You know what makes people interesting to me? Intelligence, wit, humour and the ability to listen and empathise. Travel and hobbies are all well and good but some of the most tedious people I have ever met have been well-travelled skydivers, if you catch my drift. Conversation, banter, making and getting jokes, sensitivity to the moods, wishes and intentions of others... that's what makes someone a great companion.
posted by Decani at 1:08 PM on June 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I feel the same way often. Always have. I find that I have plenty to talk about, it's just that it doesn't flow.

When I was younger and stupider, I found that taking drugs fixed the problem somehow. Magically. Cocaine and sedatives especially. What was happening was that I became more confident and relaxed, and all the stuff I knew and could discuss flowed more easily.

Nowadays, I am more mature and more confident, having had experienced that strengthened me. Also, I find it crucial that I exercise and meditate, and stay hydrated and don't drink too much coffee. And drink a little bit in social gatherings, and drink what's right for me. Beer and wine often make me slow and silent.

So in short: Relax and let it flow; Do psychic maintenance that keeps you relaxed. You actually are quite interesting, just let it be and go with the flow.
posted by krilli at 2:03 PM on June 12, 2011


Nthing what people say about being perceived as interesting stemming more from how you conduct yourself during a conversation than the experiences you've had. Sorry, I missed that part o the question.

If you want someone to think you're the most stimulating conversationalist in the world, you have to be listening more than you're talking. Here are some pick for livening up your conversations:

1. Ask nonboring questions. After the initial "How, how are you?" pick up a detail from their response and ask clarifying questions about it. Don't go on to say "How was your day?" "Where are you going" "What are you up to?" - small talk-ish questions that bore people to tears. Get straight to the meat of the conversation.

2. Ask for other people's opinions. "What did you think of that?" is good, but specific questions about what they're discussing are even better. The questions you ask show how well you're listening. "Why do you use those methods to solve x, versus these to solve y?" People can go on for hours if you let them.

3. Be expressive. Use hand gestures, nod and raise your eyebrows when appropriate, use "mhms" to show you're paying rapt attention. Channel all of your positive energy into the conversation you're having. Varying the volume and tone of your voice for storytelling can immediately make you sound more engaging.

4. Find common ground with the other person. Agree more than you disagree. Most of what you'd disagree about with someone is unimportant minutiae anyways. Talk about experiences or beliefs you have in common, which will create a bond between the two of you.

4. Role play. It's an interesting and unconventional way to talk about your surroundings. It'll be fun for both of you if the other person catches on, and can keep a conversation going all night with inside jokes.

5. Use open handed gestures with your palms facing up, and use the other person's name. They'll feel more comfortable opening up to you, which can keep them talking.

Hope that gives you some ideas. The important thing is to be tuned in and not thinking about what you're going to say next, instead of actively listening to the other person.
posted by sunnychef88 at 2:55 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this question, and looked for your metafilter ID so I could learn more about you. Is it possible that you tend to anonymize yourself in conversations as well?

*Listen to NPR on the way to work
*Watch TED talks
*Read magazines: Wired, The Atlantic, People

Lastly, I find I am more boring in large groups, and more interesting one-on-one. Perhaps part of your conversational gambit could be to pull a person to the side and create a world of two for some segment of time.
posted by tacit_urn at 3:45 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Like many people have already said, ask more questions. Learning this made small talk so much easier for me.
One thing I don't think I've seen mentioned here is to not miss your exit. There's no time limit to be met; if you're at a party and a conversation peters out, it's fine - and I think even expected at some level - to bow out. Things like refreshing your drink, snagging some more spring rolls, taking a bathroom break, wanting to say hi to someone across the room, etc. are all examples of this. Mingling, in other words.
posted by anotherkate at 3:51 PM on June 12, 2011


Ask whoever you're talking to about their interests, listen to them, rather than wait for your turn to talk, and they'll think you're the most interesting person on earth. When someone says 'how are you' never say anything other than 'fine, how are you?'.
posted by joannemullen at 4:04 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everyone always remembers the person who asks the most questions about them interesting and witty and wonderful. Seriously. The key to "being interesting" isn't actually being interesting. The key to "being interesting" is knowing how to ask questions that will draw out the person you're talking with. A great key phrase is "Oh wow! I've always wanted to know more about XYZ. Where should I start? What's your favorite thing about XYZ?" So, if someone has a deep interest in knitting or painting or printmaking or happens to know a lot about cars, pursue that as a conversation!

But if you're talking to a doctor or dentist or computer person, don't be the guy that brings up the problem they're having. No one goes to a party to work. As a general rule, try to avoid asking people about work unless they clearly want to talk about it more.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:07 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Don't be interesting, be interested.
posted by Alterscape at 4:13 PM on June 12, 2011


learn how to play an instrument.
posted by sweetkid at 4:39 PM on June 12, 2011


"Be interesting by being interested. Ideefixe put it about as succinctly as it can be put."

This.

At so many parties and social functions, I've noticed over time (okay it may be that I'm getting older simultaneously) that more and more people are just interested in talking about themselves, their expertise, their problems, their fantastic vacations, and in general how great they are.

You will stand out as an interesting person by being interested in others' experience, passion, hobbies etc. and asking intelligent, genuinely curious questions.
posted by scooterdog at 6:38 PM on June 12, 2011


some of the most tedious people I have ever met have been well-travelled skydivers

This. And it will only be magnified if you're coming at it from the angle of wanting to seem interesting. The fact of the matter is you're not going to seem interesting to everyone in the room the way Oscar Wilde was. There are a lot of boring people out there who can only relate to people via TV shows or their favorite sports team or how many countries they've backpacked in...you're not going to be able to adapt to all of them or even a majority of them.

Focus n being interesting to yourself. As others have said, what I tend to find interesting about people is when they have one or at most two serious outside interests that you can tell they care deeply about, and if I have no idea about it all the better! When someone talks to me about the headline news story of the day, or some trendy issue like organic co-ops or backpacking I tend to roll my eyes (at least to myself).

Find what you care about, pursue it vigorously and when you see that trait in other people show your interest in them. it will eventually become natural, believe it or not. Let the other people fall by the wayside.
posted by the foreground at 7:02 PM on June 12, 2011


How do I become a more interesting person?

Please don't limit your reply to "get more hobbies." Instead, what types hobbies should I specifically try...


No, no, no, it doesn't work like this. There is nothing that's going to universally interesting to everyone. Some people think NPR is interesting. Some people think NPR is deadly boring and want to talk about Jersey Shore.

Your best bet is to figure out what, specifically, people in their mid-30s in the Twin Cities often like to talk about, are interested in. I think you could be better served by asking people who are in that group themselves.

Just talking will probably get boring eventually no matter what though. It will help if you can be witty/funny. (Hang around a funny friend a lot and see how it works, or if you don't have any, maybe try an improv class?) It will help if you're down to do the other things people like to do at these gatherings, whether that's playing poker or football or dancing or watching TV or whatever.
posted by Ashley801 at 9:22 PM on June 12, 2011


RE: hobbies: AskReddit: What is a hobby of yours and how would a beginner start doing it? (scroll a bit to get past the jokes and into the good stuff.)

It's true that you can't just pick hobbies that make you interesting, but on the other hand, exploring hobbies that you do find interesting will make you more interesting.
posted by !Jim at 10:39 PM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this has already been mentioned in the 30-plus comments here. It probably has. But the best way I know of to be an interesting person is to be an interested person. Develop a wide breadth of interests, but do so legitimately -- you know, things that you are actually fascinated by, and not that just sound like they would be good to be fascinated by.
posted by kaseijin at 7:18 AM on June 13, 2011


I think a couple of the people above have hit the hammer on the nail with the suggestion to listening.

A good book suggestion for you, and I noticed it was advertised at the bottom of the mefi aks page is

"How to win friends and influence people - Dale Carnegie"
posted by MechEng at 8:46 AM on June 13, 2011


Learn to be a good foil. Like what Casanova said about complementing beautiful women on their intelligence and intelligent women on their beauty. Draw out the sense of humor in the serious person and play straight man to the clown. Don't be afraid to let someone get the better of you in conversation. Nothing is more tiresome than the person who must one-up everyone else.

Things I end up talking about often with strangers that make fine general conversation:
- I lived in an unusual location that people love to hear about.
- I have tattoos. People who don't have them like talking about the tattoo they might get (or their opinions in general), and people who have tattoos like talking about their next one.
- I really like shoes. People of both sexes often compliment my shoes (I had one woman say she nearly ran into a wall looking at my shoes and had to come over and chat), and then I can talk about the brand or where I got them or general shoe likes/dislikes. Anybody can have a nice shoe collection. I also like complimenting guys who have put some thought into their footwear.
posted by griselda at 10:59 AM on June 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


The simple answer? Be more interested.

Interesting people, on average, tend to be very interested in just about everything. Listen, ask questions, follow up, and ultimately learn.
posted by Freen at 2:21 PM on June 13, 2011


Be positive, and do (slightly) out of the ordinary things that people you like would be interested in.

If you do things far outside the norm, you're not so much interesting as odd.
posted by talldean at 7:31 PM on June 13, 2011


Read books, and travel often. Never talk about your problems. Try to be funny. Never take yourself too seriously.

Really?

It seems that answers like this -- be interested in other people, don't be interested in yourself -- are the most popular. I've had the fortune of knowing a lot of charismatic, compelling people, and I absolutely disagree.

It's great to be interested in other people, and to ask questions, but the most interesting people are people who do this, and who aren't shy about their personalities. People who are absolutely at home with their eccentricities. People who don't just mold to you like alginate at the dentist's. People who will ask you about your life, but who will also tell you about how they spend all their time being afraid they're a fraud, and also about that time they dated someone who would only have sex with sneakers on.

It's balancing intake and output that's the tricky thing -- not going on and on, but also not seeming like a reporter or a salesman, which is exactly how you seem if you only talk about other people's problems and lives. That balance is an acquired skill, which requires empathy and a good sense of timing. You practice.

Honestly, if you sit in a room and never talk about yourself, never tell a story, never let your shit hang out, then you're not going to seem like an interesting person, you're going to seem like someone who read How to Make Friends etc. and yet has never had a genuine friendship.

You don't have to go on the Oregon Trail or whatever. People who work full-time have as nuanced a psychic world as anyone does.

Getting the opportunity to talk about yourself is kind of interesting. Vulnerability, singularity, and idiosyncrasy are fascinating.

Also, never be afraid to be a little frivolous or flippant.

And look at people in the goddamned eyes once and awhile.
posted by gimpel at 9:42 PM on June 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


People who work full-time have as nuanced a psychic world as anyone does.
This bears repeating for every category of person you can imagine. It is sometimes difficult to comprehend that everyone has wants and needs and doubts and fears and they're as complex and confusing as yours.

If you do things far outside the norm, you're not so much interesting as odd.
Odd is to interesting what square is to rectangle.
posted by doublehappy at 11:03 PM on June 13, 2011


I favorited a few interested > interesting comments.

If you want people to think you're interesting listen to what they are saying. Not "thinking about what you will say when it's your turn to speak", but focus on what they are saying, and when they signal that they are done talking, ask a question, or talk about the last thing they said. Think ", and ..." and when you're done talking, they'll have something to say too.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:58 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Experiment with drugs.
posted by rudhraigh at 9:14 AM on June 17, 2011


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