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I am the most interesting man in the world. Or at least I want to be...
April 8, 2012 7:24 PM   Subscribe

You know that extremely interesting person you've met? Or perhaps that guy from the Dos Equis commericals? What do I need to do to become that guy?

Certainly a lot of answers could revolve around different experiences. (Climbing Mt. Everest, swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, staying with locals in Germany, and living alone in Japan for a year.) I'd like to hear about experiences too, but I think there's also more to becoming interesting -- personal characteristics, acquired (and sometimes random) skills, and appearance are probably just as important.

Some ideas to get the ball rolling:
1) Travel. Lets get the obvious one out of the way. The more places you go, the more interesting opportunities you set yourself up for. Although I'm sure digging deeper into this might bring up better answers.
2) Being a good story teller. I've found a great story teller can even make a trip to the grocery store interesting.
3) Be funny. I think humour plays a large roll in making someone interesting to hand around with.

I should also mention that while appearing as an interesting person is good, I want to be an interesting person. I want to look back on my life and think: "Wow, I've actually lived the most interesting life." So, what should I do to become the world's most interesting person?
posted by Kippersoft to Society & Culture (57 answers total) 65 users marked this as a favorite
 
You need a continual stream of novel experiences and a lot of charisma.
posted by MillMan at 7:28 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Be curious about others' experiences. It will give you ideas about fun experiences you can pursue, create the network to hear about and take advantage of new experiences, and keep you from seeming boring at a party (who wants to talk to a guy who only talks about how awesome he is?).
posted by lilac girl at 7:35 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


One thing you really need to bear in mind -- and that many well-traveled, well-intentioned people do not -- is that almost everyone has not the remotest interest in hearing your travel stories for more than, say, a two-minute long anecdote that's relevant to the topic at hand. For the love of god don't become that person whose life is changed for the better by his travels (and it will be!) but can't shut up about it. Not even the funniest, most interesting storyteller can maintain a lifetime of conversations about those weeks he spent sleeping in the woods with natives or that month on a crab boat or whatever.

Also, an interesting person is an interested person. Learn to appreciate others, and you'll be appreciated in return.
posted by griphus at 7:35 PM on April 8, 2012 [47 favorites]


You need a sincere interest in other people.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:36 PM on April 8, 2012 [14 favorites]


The kind of person you're describing sounds insufferable. I find most interesting those who have struggled to gain expertise or knowledge and are willing help others learn.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 7:36 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I hadn't thought about this before. Doing so now, I believe it is really the storytelling. But the important component of that is having enough of a focus on yourself that you view things that happen to you and notice all aspects as they relate to you so that you can (a) retell the story with the important pieces and (b) have a great recollection of events so that when you look back on your life, you remember all the elements and think, wow, that was great.

Your life experiences probably aren't going to trump mine (generic) and those of people I know. But if you can make me understand how you felt in that moment, and really relate something insightful along the way, it makes you interesting because it makes you unique.
posted by cashman at 7:36 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I agree with charisma, experiences, being a good story teller, and being funny. I also think not trying to be that good is an important factor. By all means, have awesome experiences and live an awesome life, but don't try to seem interesting -- authenticity is a thousand times more captivating than putting on an act.

Diversity of experience is good, too. At some point you've been on week-long trips to everywhere, and while that's great for you, all the stories are the same. Now, if you live in Dublin for two years, that's different than yet another week-long jaunt to Costa Rica or wherever. And as I'm saying this, I also think that it's important to go in depth (which goes hand in hand with loving what you're doing) -- it's more interesting to master things sometimes than to only dabble at everything. In addition to living in Dublin for two years, train to and climb a mountain. Become a grand master of tai chi.

But mostly, be really into what you do.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:39 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You need a sincere interest in other people.

Agreed, and you need an interest in whatever you're doing and an ability to talk about it to other people in a way that makes them interested [so knowing that griphus isn't one for the long anecdote, for example] and to return that interest in what they find interesting. So you don't have to travel necessarily or be funny necessarily but you have to convey whatever you think is neat about whatever it is you do and have that same sense of it about the things that others do.

Having novel experiences is one thing, and sort of simple, but being able to portray your commonplace experiences as novel and something you're really into is, I think, the good part of people who are interesting without the bad parts that make them odd "look at me, I am interesting!" people that other people wind up actively not liking.
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not to try too hard.
posted by travelwithcats at 7:42 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


When dull people tell stories, the implicit message is "I think I'm awesome! I can't wait to tell you more about how awesome I am!"

When interesting people tell stories, the implicit message is "I think you guys are awesome! I can't wait to hear more about how awesome you are!"
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:44 PM on April 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Being that guy isn't always what it is cracked up to be. In fact, that guy is often an asshole. I spend a lot of energy trying to not be that guy.

In the examples you cite that guy is probably a self-absorbed obsessive jerk. Interesting doesn't mean likable. Want to be interesting? Find something you love and take it as far as you can. Obsessive people willing to fly their freak slags are always interesting. just not always in a good way.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:47 PM on April 8, 2012


From Ben Hammersley's "how to be a Renaissance man" talk in 2006: Never say no to opportunities.
posted by holgate at 7:49 PM on April 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


The most interesting people I've met have gone interesting places, read interesting things, done interesting things, have deep and insightful interest in lots of things, and obviously had a lot of experiences along the way.

It's really not hard to stand out, though. A lot of people work, come home, watch TV, and catch a movie every now and then, and that's the extent of it. I'm not joking, either.

The boss I had in a small town I worked in once was baffled when I said there was nothing to do because he told me--again, not joking--there were bars, there was a movie theater, and there were a couple restaurants. "That's it," he told me, "That's what people do."

When I shared a not-atypical weekend I'd had in my previous town of residence (wake up, go to the beach, head down the small state highway through farm country and pick up some produce, wind up at some small town festival/concert thing and eat lunch and hang out there for a while, then take a leisurely drive home down a winding two lane back road), he was genuinely baffled because he couldn't even imagine people like me existed. I don't consider myself all that interesting, but it was a world beyond anything he'd ever thought of.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:51 PM on April 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Wow! The overwhelming agreement here seems to be humble and not becoming "that guy". I completely agree and thank you everyone for pointing that out right away!

My goal is definitely not to become the guy that walks up to you bragging about his recent tea date with the Dalai Lama. Rather, my goal is to never answer "not much" when asked what's new with me, but being able to give an interesting answer. Or becoming someone who naturally has something interesting to share with everyone else; be it a story, a piece of information, or showing the experience first hand (ex: a nature guide). Hopefully you can approach this question as seeing someone you'd naturally and honestly like to be around. (But thanks again putting up the big caution sign about becoming a total jerk!)
posted by Kippersoft at 7:59 PM on April 8, 2012


Wanted to add: Also important is having a breadth of things to talk about. Having a deep knowledge of one particular area can be good when you're around people who like that thing, but can leave you the odd man out when you're not among that tribe.

For example, I know some geeky type people who are very outgoing and fun to talk to if you like geeky things like video games or fantasy books, but if the discussion veers towards things like sports or wine or non-fantasy books or anything outside the classic "geek" field of focus, they have nothing to say. Likewise, I know some sports fans who can tell you who hit cleanup for the Yankees in 1964 but if the conversation veers towards politics or social issues or whatever, they're left out.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:05 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


...my goal is to never answer "not much" when asked what's new with me, but being able to give an interesting answer.

Hopefully I'm telling you something that you already know, but people are going to stop asking you what's new with you if you start taking it as a prompt for a story. People want to hear "not much" because, many times, they don't care. They're just going by the small-talk script in their head:

"What's up?"
"Not much, you?"
"Not too much, [quotidian thing.]"
"oh, yeah, [reflection on quotidian thing.]"

The problem comes when someone expects that and you do this:

"What's up?"
"Not much, you?"
"Oh, dude, this weekend I totally [awesome thing.] You?"
"[Quotidian thing.]"

Once in a while? It's pretty cool you got up to action. Most of the time? People are going to stop asking you how your weekend was because, chances are, they've got no way to keep up the conversation past asking you more questions. Especially if you're actively trying to make your life exciting which you totally should.
posted by griphus at 8:09 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


(This is where you're on the right track w/r/t a good storyteller being able to make a trip to the grocery store interesting. Because you're going to be talking about grocery stores a lot more than Malaysia.)
posted by griphus at 8:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think you'll accomplish what you want to accomplish by 1) exploring your interests and 2) paying attention to and engaging in what's going on around you and 3) showing interest in and appreciation for what makes the people around you interesting.

1) The details don't really matter. Electric guitar, growing strawberries, reading the novels of Steinbeck, whatever. What matters is doing things you care about - hopefully for your own sake and personal growth, not because of what someone else will think.

2) I really appreciate and find it interesting to be around people who are in the moment and paying attention. Someone who will draw my attention to the really good cheese we are eating, or the color of the sky, or that weird guy mumbling to himself in the corner.

Also - say yes to opportunities, whenever possible.
posted by bunderful at 8:11 PM on April 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


Certainly a lot of answers could revolve around different experiences. (Climbing Mt. Everest, swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, staying with locals in Germany, and living alone in Japan for a year.)

These are not the distinguishing characteristics of anyone I would describe as the most interesting people I know. Which isn't to say they haven't done those things (lots of people have-- all it takes is money and some social skills), but that's not why I think they're interesting.

The most interesting people I know develop good ideas and pursue them with ambition. And, because they have social skills, they talk to other people and allow those other people because they are genuinely interested in hearing about them and their interesting experiences (you don't get to stay with locals in Germany by talking about yourself all the time. You do it by making friends with Germans).

What Ghostride The Whip is getting at when it comes to having a breadth of things to talk about is that being an interesting person is the exact opposite of being self-absorbed. You simply have to take a genuine interest in what the rest of the world is interested in, not just what you are interested in.

Look at it this way: being a physicist is pretty interesting I think by its nature. A physicist who is fascinated by Persian history which just happens to be where your family is from-- that dude is the most interesting guy I've met! But wait, what if he's not a very good physicist? Then I might just think he's kind of lazy and reading Persian history because he doesn't have much else going on in his life.

Plus, the people I would describe as interesting are the people I can learn something new from every day. The mathematician I went to college with who told me about the book Neurotic Styles during a conversation we had a few years ago-- that guy is pretty interesting.
posted by deanc at 8:16 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


You need a sincere interest in other people.

MoonOrb beats me to it. The most interesting people I know are deeply involved with and invested in the successes of others. Think about those "Most Interesting Man" commercials. He's never alone.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:17 PM on April 8, 2012


The more places you go, the more interesting opportunities you set yourself up for.

This is certainly true, but consider also taking a deeper dive into the place you already are. You certainly don't know everything there is to know about your own hometown.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:19 PM on April 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Along the same lines of what everyone else has said, passion and curiosity are the keys to an interesting life. Maybe start a, "Someday I Suppose," list without regard for logistical or financial boundaries, and then tick them off one at a time as they become doable. I think the key to not be boring is to not be bored. I also agree that a genuine interest in others will lead to an interesting life full of experiences, different perspectives, & knowledge. Have fun!
posted by katemcd at 8:29 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't look for this outside you. E.g. don't ask "Where should I go?" or "How do I want to look to other people?" Look for it inside by figuring out who you are, what you find fascinating (in the world, not in other people), and what really makes yourself tick.

The most boring people live by some generic version of society's rules, don't know what they want, and don't even know their own feelings. (They're often straight-jacketed by some old baggage, often fear or anger.)

In contrast, interesting people have found a way to know themselves and take the risk of really being who they are. But it takes very different forms. You find this in entrepreneurs who started The Business they wanted. (And started another when that failed.) You find this in the stand-up comedians who are funny because of what they know about themselves. (Mike Birbiglia is one who comes to mind.) You find this in that quiet friend who is a great listener and really happy with some life they've created for themselves.

Basically, you will only have richness to share with others if you create it for yourself, and the only way to do that is to really know who you are and what a rich life looks like to you.
posted by salvia at 8:34 PM on April 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


my goal is to never answer "not much" when asked what's new with me, but being able to give an interesting answer.

You most certainly don't have choose between swimming with dolphins or having a boring life. I don't have the means to travel all over the place, but I still manage to keep myself entertained. Right now I am taking classes in muay thai and beekeeping, practicing fiction writing, designing jewelry that I cut out of plastic with my friends' laser cutter, and learning how to make cheese. I am doing all of these things just because I heard about them and thought "I want to find out more about that," and then went and did it. There's a lot of other stuff that I tried and didn't like, or tried and liked for a while and then got tired of. Just start asking questions about how things are done, and then try to answer them by doing them. You'll never be bored, or boring, again...
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:39 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was just about to make the point salvia made, regarding comedians and again with the point about focusing on yourself.

interesting people have found a way to know themselves and take the risk of really being who they are.

Yes.
posted by cashman at 8:47 PM on April 8, 2012


Without exception, the people I know like this are very highly educated or very highly trained in their field. They know A LOT about a given topic -- even one I don't find all that interesting -- and can MAKE me take interest in it through infectious enthusiasm and by relating it to interesting things.

The problem is that this only describes about 10% of the highly educated people I know (I work in academia). The other 90% are utter bores.
posted by coolguymichael at 8:54 PM on April 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a few others upthread have pointed out, you should be able to demonstrate sincere interest in the accomplishments, stories, & anecdotes of others, and be able to suppress any latent tendancy towards one upmanship.

I get the impression that the Dos Equis guy would be the asshole who no matter what your story is, he has done something twice as cool/exotic/awesome/etc. as you.
posted by AMSBoethius at 9:11 PM on April 8, 2012


There are two types of people. Those who say "No" and those who say "Yes". Those who say "No" are rewarded by the security they gain. Those who say "Yes" are rewarded by the adventures they have.

You want to be one of those who say "Yes".

Remembered, and hell, maybe even quoted verbatim from my much loved copy of The Next Whole Earth Catalog.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:27 PM on April 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


There was a guy like that at the geek club (or whatever the SF&F/anime student group was called) at my alma mater. At almost every event, there he was, surrounded by listeners, agitatedly telling some kind of banal, yet extremely involved story. I listened to a couple of them, but found them absolutely impenetrable. Given the type of individual the club attracted, I think he was popular simply by virtue of saving other people the labor of socializing with each other.
posted by Nomyte at 10:01 PM on April 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is certainly true, but consider also taking a deeper dive into the place you already are. You certainly don't know everything there is to know about your own hometown.

Great comment. Interesting people do interesting things wherever they are, and exciting places are usually filled with the most boring people.
posted by eddydamascene at 10:04 PM on April 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


There's a quote from Wynton Marsalis that I keep in mind a lot: "Invest yourself in everything you do; there's fun in being serious."

Most of the really interesting people I know CARE a lot. They combine that with being interested in a lot of things (but even people who just care a whole lot about one narrow thing are pretty interesting, although not as conversational on as wide a range of topics), which means they say "yes" to a lot of things, and they're interested in what others have to teach them. Caring a lot takes you to interesting places and opens up interesting opportunities. All the examples I can come up with are to do with civic engagement, but what the hell: I have a friend who cares a lot about New Urbanism and walkable neighborhoods. He ended up on a city commission studying New Urbanism, and then got appointed to the zoning board, and now has been consulted on state transit projects ... doing things well, being really invested in them, makes people ask you to do more things and more interesting things.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:07 PM on April 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


There was a blog post I read from mefi, referenced in a quinoa recipe thread, and there was a paragraph (or 3) in it that really resonated with me. You might find it useful too:

I know people who make lists of the things they want to do before they die. There are even websites devoted to it. I’ve never done this, but I am always fascinated by other people’s lists. So often they are filled with grand trips [...] I understand these lists, but my list would look very different, there wouldn’t be much travel on it. I’ve been lucky to live overseas, more than once, but I’ve also come to a point where I don’t think that trips necessarily make up a well lived life. It’s easy to feel a sense of wonder while wandering the streets of Paris; it’s much more of a challenge to appreciate the average Tuesday afternoon—and I’m going to have many more average Tuesdays (all willing) than I will have days in Paris. How do we learn to treasure the everyday?

If I were to make a life list it would be filled with time spent with friends and with family, simple pleasures such as taking my niece to fly her first kite. It would have more dinner parties on it, more time spent smelling flowers, more evenings in front of the fire. It would have a dog on it, and afternoons spent writing letters—real letters on real paper—to friends to tell them how much I adore them. It would have home baked loaves of bread and blackberry pies and lemonade in a pitcher served on a porch on a sunny day. It would have boats and babies and daffodils in the spring. It would even have work—good work that I can be proud of, volunteer work too—and it might have a few naps on it, especially if taken in a hammock in the shade.

posted by Kronur at 10:30 PM on April 8, 2012 [23 favorites]


You need a sincere interest in other people.

You also need sincere interests in other things. Not "Look at me, I'm into X!" but "Look at this thing I participate in every weekend! This is really cool! Do you want to try it with me?" You are interesting if you are a gateway to interesting things other people can participate in or at least enjoy vicariously through you.
posted by pracowity at 10:42 PM on April 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


If I were to make a list for myself it would go something like this:

1. Stop spending so much time on the internet.
2. Stop watching so much tv.
3. Stop getting sucked into passive time wasting activities.
4. Stop wasting time getting wasted.
5. Do an art project.
6. Do another art project.
7. Do another art project and send it to a friend in another part of the world/country.
8. Keep doing creative or expressive things every chance you get even if you feel too tired or depressed.
9. Connect with other creative/expressive people.
10. Collaborate on a creative project with other creative/expressive people.
11. Throw a party celebrating your successful creative project.

Rinse/Repeat

Replace art project with music, construction, travel, tai kwon do, foreign language, entrepreneurship, etc.

Warning: When you start doing awesome things, people will tell you they are not awesome and in fact are stupid. It's important to have the self confidence to do things that people tell you are stupid. "Why don't you come have a beer or three with me instead of welding that ugly metal monstrosity in your backyard." "Dude, you should totally come over for my Jersey Shore marathon party instead of working on your stupid first novel."

You will be stupid for a while until the awesomeness builds up like an exploding super-nova that can no-longer be contained by the forces of nature.
posted by j03 at 1:54 AM on April 9, 2012 [14 favorites]


TLDR, you need to be boring for a long while before you become interesting.

Every interesting person I know has spent years honing a craft or talent in their basements/bedrooms/garages. Loners.

Think about those "Most Interesting Man" commercials. He's never alone.

But he was most certainly alone for quite a long time before becoming that interesting man. Being a social butterfly is not conducive to producing a great work of art, or becoming an expert in your field, or building a cabin in the woods with your own two hands.

Becoming interesting takes requires sacrifice or else everyone would be interesting. You need to be willing to sacrifice sociability and short-term pleasure for long-term goals and interestingness.

If your friends invite you to spend an awesome summer weekend at the water park, you have to be willing to say NO. Because you're saving money to build a raft out of some lumber and plastic barrels and float down the Mississippi river for 3 months over the summer while you film a documentary or write a book of poetry about the experience.

Drinking Dos Equis at a bar surrounded by beautiful women is the reward at the end for the short-term social sacrifices you make. You don't start with that.
posted by j03 at 2:20 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


Two things about the Most Interesting Man In the World. One, he never tells you that stuff himself. The announcer guy in the voice-over does. All he says himself is the line about the beer. Second, the guy who plays him is pretty darn interesting!

I mention those because one, the most interesting people in my opinion have had a lot of experiences but don't necessarily talk about them, or not right away. And a lot of people who have done theoretically interesting things do talk about them and are boring as fuck. (We all know people who have traveled everywhere and manage to make every place and everything they did there sound mundane, right?) But the people who have done all sorts of things and have the confidence that derives from it and you can just see that about them, from across a room when they're not trying to make you see it, those people are really interesting. Two, interesting people (again, to me) have lived a life that doesn't follow the typical trajectory. They do many varied and unexpected things over the course of their life. That actor being a pretty good example.

I think you're on the right track with your ideas. I'd add one other thing, which I guess is depth, or having meaningful experiences rather than just lots of trips and activities which can be superficial. Meaningful not just to you, but in general. E.g. guys who are (or were) in the military are often interesting, I find, even if what they did was mostly sitting around and even if they don't go on about it. I think it's because war is an almost essential aspect of human history, but few of us these days (in most of what used to be called "first-world countries") actually see it first hand. I'm sure people will object to that and I'm not saying to go throw yourself into a war zone. But people I've met (and in retrospect not only combatants, but civilians who have lived through wars and other huge, often terrible events) usually have a gravity to them - even if it's only a small part of them - that makes them more interesting people.

Having written all that I just remembered in the novel Ahab's Wife, when Una first sees Ishmael, she thinks something like "that is the most interesting man I've even seen." And then I think she thinks it again when she meets him, at which point he's traveled a lot, is good at telling stories, is funny, and has gone through at least one truly terrible experience. So there's that.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


my goal is to never answer "not much" when asked what's new with me

The real issues isn't that not much is new with you. It's that this is how you feel about yourself. You're like the character in Dr. Seuss's And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The book is interesting despite the fact that nothing actually happens. The interestingness of the character stays within him and never reaches his father who asks him, in effect, "what's new?" Since you're a human, you are guaranteed interesting inside yourself if you know where to look and others will find you so if you can connect with them.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:48 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wait, you wanna be interesting? First thing is, DO NOT TRY TO EMULATE A CHARACTER FROM AN ADVERTISEMENT, these people are horrible.

Jesus man, this is as bad as a woman wanting to be beautiful "just like the girls in the ads". IT'S NOT REAL, HAVING SWUM WITH DOLPHINS WILL NOT MAKE PEOPLE LIKE YOU MORE

"Interestingness" is not something you accumulate in a bag, sunrises in Paris are NOT acheivements unlocked. It comes from relationships with people, just be compassionate and study Dao De Jing chapter 47 and Dale Carnegie.
posted by Tom-B at 5:23 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


If your friends invite you to spend an awesome summer weekend at the water park, you have to be willing to say NO. Because you're saving money to build a raft out of some lumber and plastic barrels and float down the Mississippi river for 3 months over the summer while you film a documentary or write a book of poetry about the experience.

Every interesting person I know has spent years honing a craft or talent in their basements/bedrooms/garages. Loners.


Wow, I can't think of a better way to be less interesting to others, and this is definitely on the path to becoming Most Boring Person Alive.

OP, you have to differentiate between doing interesting things and being an interesting person to yourself and others. Doing interesting things is easy. Pick an activity, research it, set a time and date, and do it.

Being an interesting person: Being able to share yourself with other people, and be alive among them, live through and with them. We are our best selves only when we're around other people; other people and humanity are merely an extension of who we are. As a person, we're limited in the quantity of experiences that we can experience as a single being, and it is only through others that we can savour the full range of what is out there and what makes us alive. We laugh more when we around other people, we cry more, we double our peaks and double our lows.

So go and spend an awesome summer weekend at the water park with three of your closest friends. Because it's not just the awesome summer weekend, it's not just the water park, it's the fun and new experiences you create and share with others that you could never have possibly done by your own.

Go out and drink and party, not because you want to get blackout drunk, but because alcohol releases some of your inhibitious and allows the human part of you to connect with the human part of others. And perhaps only when your guard is down, you'll be able to feel the wonderful beating pulse of humanity, all of us, our lives, our relationships, our experiences -- and even contribute to it. Each of us combine is a sum greater than all of its parts. That is what it means to be an interesting person.
posted by moiraine at 5:49 AM on April 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think you should read lots of Miss Manners. It will help you feel at ease and make the people around you feel at ease.

Sometimes people want to be around people who are entertaining, but everyone wants to be around people who make them feel good.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:19 AM on April 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have particular taste, and I hate those people who go on and on about their travel stories. In fact I hate people who make a big deal out of telling their stories at all. It's bad conversation sometimes.
But if you know a lot about philosophy and are good at asking probing questions, that I would find fascinating.
posted by costanza at 7:22 AM on April 9, 2012


A lot of people are giving personality advice, but you have to look interesting before people will find you interesting. Don't forget a salt-n-pepper beard or maybe a three day scruff, a bit of a wild mane of hair, a dark tan and a laid back style. Probably want a motorcycle and a Jeep-type vehicle. Dress appropriately to the event, stand at the doorway for five seconds, to survey the crowd, then start telling your stories...

Even it you aren't interesting, at least you'll arrive and look interesting,
posted by lstanley at 7:25 AM on April 9, 2012


Some of the most interesting people I know haven't done very much at all with their lives. The most interesting one I knew has never left the area he was born in, and happily lives on a dairy farm. What he has done is taken an interest in things, he is widely read and can hold esoteric discussions on pretty much any subject you care to think of. The last talk we had before he died consisted of a huge range of topics, from him telling me about trying to repair a fence that a very stubborn cow continued to try to walk through while he was doing the repairs to a huge discussion on Sufism and modern religion. He was interested in everything and consumed knowledge and stories with avid delight, he was kind and loved listening to people and learning whatever they had to teach, he always wanted to know more.

As everyone has said, to be interesting be interested, be interested in everything. Not just the cool hip things, not just the things that will make you appear clever or give you great stories about exotic places and events. Be interested in everything you see and hear, and everyone you meet. Keep the mind of a child and learn what you can from everyone. Ask questions. Never stop learning.
posted by wwax at 7:28 AM on April 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


One pretty awesome thing is that the more things you do, the more you'll hear about awesome opportunities to do more. This was brought home to me on the small scale this weekend when a friend asked how I always knew about awesome concerts and theater and such - was there a secret local listserv? I told her no, there's no secret local listserv. But venues that we've gone to now send us emails, and friends who've gone with us help to alert us about other fun events.

Basically - the more you get out there and do the stuff you love, the more it'll build on itself.
posted by ldthomps at 7:30 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, I can't think of a better way to be less interesting to others, and this is definitely on the path to becoming Most Boring Person Alive.

As someone that spends a lot of time alone learning new things, I've found this to be the opposite of what you think -- especially when I'm learning handy and practical things like welding, brewing beer and fixing bikes. The only way to learn some things is to do them alone for a long time. I find the more I learn about stuff, the more I can share with people whenever I do end up in a social setting... I find that when I talk about something, it's usually only interesting if there's a way to relate it to the person listening. I'm lucky too that I have an interesting job (ironworker) and people tend to like watching that kind of work, so I like to quip "i'd rather be paid to be in tv show than pay to watch it" which always provides some good ice-breaking types of stories that many people seem to like to listen to for a few minutes. I don't like to hog the floor either, so a certain amount of brevity about any subject can help keep anecdotes interesting... don't show your hand on the first round kind of thing.

Many times in social situations I find the charismatic and outgoing people that talk a lot about themselves to be vain and boring. My facebook feed is full of people like this that have rich parents, good university education and plenty of travel experience... they aren't really all that interesting to me. I don't really think being interesting has much to do with spending time alone or spending time with people, one can become interesting either way, or really boring. Developing and honing a strong sense of curiosity helped me discover all sorts of new and interesting things.
posted by glip at 8:29 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


glip: To clarify, I have am extremely interesting day job - I'm paid to go to exciting places in the world that most people would have never even heard of, let alone go to. As part of my job, I get to hike mountain ranges (done all the Alps as part of my job), explore deserts, spend time in the sea with some of the best technology in the world, go around in a remote swamp in an underdeveloped country with twenty bodyguards (read: armed gunmen). I get paid a lot (too much, I think). I eat at fancy restaurants with meals that costs as much as the average monthly income in the country I grew up in. I get to learn about business and economics and science and mathematics (and get paid for it). I attended some of the best universities in the world on scholarships. I am a single twenty-something female who grew up in a poor family not in a Western/ 'developed' country. I guess some people would call this interesting. I like what I do and I feel very blessed every day.

What I'm trying to say is that, yes, I may do a lot of interesting things but that doesn't make me interesting. What (I hope!) makes me interesting is that I'm willing to sacrifice a lot of time and energy into spending time with people and having fun and building relationships and sharing my happiness with the world. And the people I find interesting are the people who are willing to share their happiness with me, who laugh easily and say yes to opportunities. They can be stay at home mums, or a soccer coach in a local high school, or accountants. All they have to do is to want to experience each emotion or situation in all its entirety.
posted by moiraine at 9:10 AM on April 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Every interesting person I know has spent years honing a craft or talent in their basements/bedrooms/garages. Loners.
...
Wow, I can't think of a better way to be less interesting to others, and this is definitely on the path to becoming Most Boring Person Alive.


That's a good reminder that you'll never be consistently interesting to everyone. So you may as well be yourself. What's interesting to you?
posted by mdn at 9:38 AM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


If your friends invite you to spend an awesome summer weekend at the water park, you have to be willing to say NO. Because you're saving money to build a raft out of some lumber and plastic barrels and float down the Mississippi river for 3 months over the summer while you film a documentary or write a book of poetry about the experience.

Every interesting person I know has spent years honing a craft or talent in their basements/bedrooms/garages. Loners.

Wow, I can't think of a better way to be less interesting to others, and this is definitely on the path to becoming Most Boring Person Alive.


I would find someone who did that very interesting. I wouldn't necessarily want to spend a lot of time with them though, that would depend not on anything they'd done but on whether I liked their personality.

The OP says he wants to be/seem interesting to those he meets, and to live an interesting life by his own definition. He did not say he wants to be popular, have lots of friends, make people want to hang out with him all the time, etc. I think they're getting conflated a bit here, but they're really different things. Which made me think of this related thread.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:00 AM on April 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


What really interests you? Go do more of that. Take classes, or build stuff, or go hiking. I'm not interested in watching car racing, but if I meet an interesting person who loves car racing, they're fun to talk to, because they have a combination of knowledge, experience and passion. I'm most likely to get friendly with people who like a lot of the same things I like, but I also have niche groups for special interests.

Don't be the Dos Eqquis ad guy. Be the guy who has done/knows lots of cool stuff, but doesn't show it off. The guy who can change a tire really fast because he drove across country in a beat up car. Or the guy who knows a lot about the local geology, and can take you on great hikes. If you aren't totally drawn to a specific hobby, start trying them out. People are more impressed by your interesting traits if they come up after they've known you.

Travel helps you see the world differently, esp. if you travel with not much money, and ride the chicken bus, shop at the market, etc. I guess the best way to be interesting is to be interested, and to find out about things. I also like people who instigate - parties, camping trips, a day at the lake, a bowling night, etc.
posted by theora55 at 4:25 PM on April 9, 2012


As others have said, it can be interesting to be an expert in something. But I disagree with the people who are saying you have to be a boring loner for years while you develop your expertise. Some of the most interesting people I know are the ones whose stories start with "I'm trying to learn X" and usually continue with "...and here's a hilarious way I've failed already." Having a sense of humor about your pursuits and a willingness to admit you're human/fallible goes a long way toward avoiding the "jerk who thinks he's so awesome" vibe. And it gives your listeners something to relate to, because they probably also make mistakes sometimes.
posted by vytae at 7:05 PM on April 9, 2012


The Dos Equis guy is a joke, but I've known a few people who seem to exert that level of fascination over everyone they meet. Sort of modern-day Odysseus types. The main thing about them seems to be that they've reached a certain age and they have a pretty deep wound of some kind. Or something has happened to knock them out of the expected ways of doing things. I think it's pretty hard to become someone like that on purpose.
posted by BibiRose at 9:01 PM on April 9, 2012


Just to be clear, I'm not saying you must isolate yourself 100% from all human contact and focus on the one thing you're doing to become interesting. I'm not saying never go to the water park with your friends, by all means, go if you want to... but if you're going out and partying every single weekend at the same old places with the same group of friends, you're not going to accomplish very much.

Interesting things usually don't happen by accident.. a lot of effort goes into doing or creating something "interesting" and to be able to muster that effort, sometimes you need to sacrifice short-term fun and put the work in and yes.. be "boring."

Having the patience and persistent focus to accomplish interesting things is the key. It's not about being a recluse.

I have a friend who actually made my hypothetical documentary about floating down the Mississippi on a self-made raft. He doesn't go out much, in fact I didn't see him for about 6 months while he was editing his film. But when he was finished, he had a fun bbq at his house to celebrate. Then there was the premiere at the film festival after party and press interviews.

He's not an anti-social weirdo; afraid of human contact. But he was and is focused on doing and filming interesting things. But there are people that would think "What kind of friend never hangs out with his friends for 6 months, LOL so boring! What a loner!"

He's now planning a similar trip down the Nile. I probably won't be seeing much of him aside from the occasional bbq for the next two years while he saves money and plans his next adventure. Good for him.
posted by j03 at 11:47 PM on April 9, 2012


Thanks everyone! Honestly, these answers went a completely different direction that what I expected. However, I think I learned even more about it is to be "interesting".

I had my idea of what the "most interesting person in the world" was. However, he was much different than what many of you described. And based on other disagreements in these answers, it's clear there is no one that everyone will find interesting, nor the characteristics that make up that person. It's entirely subjective and why you find someone interesting might be as difficult as explaining why you like a particular friend.

I'll also just reiterate that it wasn't the intent to become a jerk (like many suggested the Dos Equis guy might have been), but to find out what makes someone interesting in the first place. Clearly many answers here will conflict.

Thanks everyone. Now I guess I'm off to go do something I find interesting on my own merit... :)
posted by Kippersoft at 4:23 PM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the Artists Way, Julia Cameron suggests weekly 'Artist Dates'. They are with yourself, where you go and experience something interesting, stimulating, beautiful etc.
Could be a museum, a gig, a walk in a park.

Find out stuff that is on, and try it.

Try and do new things, or things where you're going to do it better.
Given the choice, pick one of those options.
posted by Elysum at 4:46 PM on April 10, 2012


Just be the best at being yourself no matter what that is. If you are awkward, play it up. If you are goofy, play it up. Just be yourself, and as others have mentioned, be interested.
posted by jasondigitized at 7:22 PM on April 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have a really interesting job or hobby you will become interesting in a group of strangers. I go to parties and they ask me what I do for a living and I say that I am an astronaut. Usually they find me quite interesting, and will not leave me alone for at least an hour, pestering me about life in zero gravity. Other times I tell them that I'm a forensic lepidopterist, a person who analyzes butterflies for criminal investigations. It's almost impossible, in a party setting, to hear a guy say that he is a forensic lepidopterist without that guy becoming immediately interesting.

So I guess I'm saying that you should lie.

If lying isn't your thing then I suppose that having a life where you are actually interested in your own life and the people and things around you might do the trick. But lying is easier.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:15 PM on April 15, 2012


Being a good storyteller is far more important than travel.

I've met folks who traveled a ton, but were obnoxious when they told everyone about their travels... and boy, did they talk about it. People don't want to hear you brag, and especially don't want to hear you brag about things we couldn't do for reasons other than interest.

But if you have a neat story, it doesn't really matter whether it happened two blocks or two thousand miles away; it's interesting.


Step 1: give away or destroy your television. Put limits on how much time you spend online. Go outside as often as possible and *do* something, so you have experiences to build upon. Every once in awhile; maybe every week, maybe every two years, make some changes.

Step 2: practice talking to people. Talk to a bunch of people. Get them to not dislike you. Talk to cashiers, people on the street, people in the elevator, people you don't work with who work near you, the neighbor's kids, and everyone else you can. Learn what people like to talk about, and learn what they never like to talk about. Repeat.

Step 3: you're done. You've built personal experiences to chat about, and the skills to chat with other people. Go to it.
posted by talldean at 8:19 AM on April 17, 2012


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