Here’s my best advice on how not to be boring and be more interesting.
I’ve spent the last 9 years sharing everything I’ve learned about social interaction. This is my complete guide for how to not be boring.
I’ll be talking about how not to be boring around someone new, but also long-term with friends and partners.
Let’s get to it!
1. “Am I boring?” How to know if you can be more interesting
- You find it hard to know what to say or get past the small talk.
- You worry that what you say might be irrelevant or uninteresting.
- You want to be more entertaining and interesting, without turning into someone you’re not.
- When you try to tell stories, they might end up long-winded and people lose interest, or you blank out or get off track and repeat yourself.
If you can relate to several of these bullets, this guide is for you. Here’s how to not be boring:
2. Boring people talk too much OR too little about themselves. Interesting people balance.
You know how boring it is when someone only talks about themselves, right? So when I was younger, I started only asking questions about the other person, and only spend time in the other person’s mental world.
That was a mistake!
Socially savvy people know how to not be boring: Be passionate about what others do AND be passionate about what you do.
Let me show you what I mean.
The other day, I came across someone working as a teacher. I wondered what that was like. She said:
“To be honest with you, it’s tiring and the salary is bad.
But you know what? I LOVE when the kids really get something and you can see it in their eyes. I’m like, wow, here I am forming a new generation. That’s very rewarding.
And you told me about your blog. That must be a similar feeling of meaningfulness, to help people?”
Imagine if she’d only said “I’m a teacher. It’s OK, there are pros and cons”. And notice how she also seemed sincerely interested in what I do.
This is the secret to not be boring: Be passionate about what you do AND be passionate about getting to know the other person.
3. Learn how to get past small talk
Small talk is important: We need to talk about superficial stuff the first time we meet someone.
But if we get stuck in it and aren’t able to make the conversation more personal, people tend to tire.
Socially savvy people know how to get past the small talk by turning the conversation into personal mode.
Let’s say that you make small talk about how the rents have gone up.
The boring path would be to continue talking about rent increases until the topic dies out and there’s awkward silence.
Socially savvy people turn the conversation into personal mode. So they ask a personal question related to the topic:
“Where would you want to live if you could choose anywhere?”
Or maybe you talk about work. A personal question related to the topic would be:
“What did you want to be when you were a kid?”
Whenever you make small talk, always look for the opportunity to ask a personal question about the topic.
4. Dare to be personal instead of normal
Most people start feeling boring when they are in their late teens and early twenties.
That’s no coincidence:
That’s when we feel the most pressure to fit in. Instead of being original and saying and doing whatever we wanted (like when we were kids) we try to be normal.
“How was work?”
NORMAL, LOW RISK: “I’m good, a little bit tired, but yeah, it was good”
PERSONAL, HIGHER RISK: “Good! I’m working on a coding problem now where we are trying to detect fraud. And it’s so complicated that it makes me question if I should have just become an author instead like my original plan was, but except for that, good!”
The second answer is more interesting because it dares to be personal.
I started seeing social interaction as a playground to practice my social skills (rather than trying to get everything perfect). That helped me dare more, and it made me a MUCH more interesting person!
How not to be boring in one sentence: Dare to be personal instead of normal.
5. If you often ask yourself “why am I so boring”, that might be a sign of low self-esteem.
Sometimes we feel boring because we assume that people won’t find our thoughts or lives interesting.
That, in turn, can be a sign of low self-esteem (where a more confident person simply assumes that others are interested).
It can also be that we feel vulnerable if we have to reveal how we see the world.
If you can relate to this, I recommend you to start consciously opening up more to people.
You DON’T need to reveal your innermost secrets. I’m talking about SMALL reveals:
“I’m not a morning person, so it takes me an hour before I’m fully awake in the mornings”
“I’m trying to quit sugar in my coffee but on weekends I cheat and it makes me soo happy”
If you often think “why am I so boring”, remember this: No one’s inherently boring:
Everyone can be interesting and have an interesting story, because any little nuance of your life can be described in an interesting way. It’s all about if you communicate your life and thoughts to others.
Remember this in your next social setting: DARE to open up about small things. People will appreciate small slices of your life, and they will think it’s fun interesting to hear about.
6. You don’t need an “interesting life” to not be boring
When I was younger I thought that I had to travel the world and have all these amazing stories to be interesting. In reality, that’s not how you become interesting.
Think about that old relative at the Christmas party who talks about the war he was in. It’s interesting at first, but after an hour or two, you get bored.
Experiences can give you interesting stories, but they don’t automatically turn you into an interesting person to be around.
I have a friend who doesn’t have a super interesting life, but everyone thinks he’s so interesting to be around! Why?
- He knows how to find mutual interests to talk about
- Then, he talks about those interests with the person and gives his take on them.
- He balances by asking asks sincere questions about them
- If he’s experienced something he knows is interesting to the person he talks to, THEN he shares it
You don’t need to do unordinary things – instead, interesting people often have the capability to look at ordinary things with a new perspective and convey perspective that to the world
7. Instead of talking about facts and opinions, talk about your personal thoughts and feelings.
Facts and opinions can be interesting but only to a certain point. Why? Because those are things you can google or find in a book.
Here’s an example of talking about work through facts and opinions:
“My boss wanted me to go through 20 pages before lunch and another 40 after lunch, which is stupid. The company is making a revenue of 20 million dollars per year and a profit of 3 million on 20 employees, and I think they could get 4 more employees easily within that budget.”
Here’s an example of talking about work through thoughts and feelings:
“My boss wants me to work double even if he could easily hire more people. If I’d analyze him, I’d say he’s a kind person who’s become hardened by his job and maybe doesn’t see the human anymore. Do you think you always become corrupted by money or is there a way to balance?”
Why is this interesting? Because when we interact with someone, we want the human element:
We want to hear someone’s unique perspective, rather than facts we can just find anywhere.
I talk more about facts and opinions versus thoughts and feelings here:
Don’t talk about the facts, what people were there, the date, the name of the place. Focus on the feelings, your thoughts, the ironies, the absurdity of your experience.
Whenever you’re about to socialize, remember this: People want a glimpse of what life looks like through the eyes of another person.
8. Use this method to stop worrying about how you are being perceived and be more in the moment
Whenever I was around someone new I was preoccupied with worrying what they might have been thinking of me. It made me self-conscious and it was hard to come up with things to say.
Instead of worrying about how you are being perceived, learn to be present in the moment. Be alert to what the person is saying and what happens around you and focus on that.
“But David! That’s impossible when I’m nervous and when my adrenaline is pumping!”
I know! I’ve been there. That was until a behavioral scientist taught me about what’s called “Shift of Attentional Focus”.
As it turns out, we can practice where we keep our focus. The next time you’re taking a walk, practice shifting your focus from your thoughts to the people you pass by.
At first, your mind will immediately switch back to you. But when you’ve forced your focus back to the 50th or 100th person you meet, something fascinating happens: You’re able to be fully focused on your surroundings.
When you’re in a conversation with someone, you want to do the same thing, but focus on the topic instead, just like you can be fully focused on a good movie.
That’ll help you relax and makes it easier to come up with new angles and ways to discuss the topic.
9. People who sound interesting often do so because they are good at varying their tone and how fast they talk
This is a MASSIVELY important and ALMOST ALWAYS overlooked aspect: It’s not what we talk about, it’s how we say it. When I learned to vary my tone and how fast I spoke, I was able to spellbind people in a way I didn’t think was possible. On top of that, I didn’t say anything different than I’d done before. I just changed the way I said it.
Here’s an audio clip I’ve recorded so you can see what I mean:
10. DON’T try to impress people
A big mistake people make when they try to be less boring is to impress people with their experiences or intelligence. Don’t!
As someone once told me:
People will appreciate you based on the authenticity of your personality rather than your conversation topics.
Being interesting is about being able to open up yourself and convey your personal view of the world. It’s NOT about manufacturing interesting things to talk about in a hunt for being seen as more interesting.
If you do, you’ll risk coming off as needy or try-hard.
To be interesting is to dare to let out your personality, not manufacturing it in order to be seen a certain way.
Here’s a good way to know the difference:
If you want to say something, are you saying it because it’s something you’ve been thinking about and you think it can be an interesting topic to talk about? If so, great!
Are you saying it mainly because you hope to be seen a certain way? If so, skip it!
11. You don’t HAVE to be a savvy or witty talker to be interesting
I have a friend who isn’t super verbally talented. It takes some time for him to figure out what to say. He’s not a great storyteller.
But he’s STILL INTERESTING!
Why? Because when you give him time, he shares his fascinating insight into the world.
Being witty and good at banter can help you score points at a party, but when it comes to long-term relationships, that matters little. At this point, what matters is your ability to engage in fascinating conversations about the world.
If you take a few seconds longer for you to formulate your thoughts, that’s fine, as long as you do formulate them.
So if you know that you’re not a smooth talker, be confident in knowing that in the end, it’s not banter that’ll make you interesting, but your thoughts.
12. Look at socially savvy people and learn from them
I made friends with socially savvy people and learn more from them than any book I’ve read on social skills.
My recommendation is that you look at someone who you find interesting, and see how they act in social settings.
I, for example, was surprised to find that my most interesting friends didn’t talk about their cool experiences at all. Instead, they were able to bring up new perspectives on everyday events that everyone could relate to.
13. What to do if people lose interest when you tell stories
Perhaps you’re telling a story, but then you lose track and the story starts getting long winded… People lose interest.
That’s super painful! Here are the things with stories: There are a few principles we can learn to be better at them. Except for that, it’s only practice. You can even practice by yourself. Try telling a story when there’s nowhere around.
Where did it go wrong? Where could you improve?
Good news is that you don’t need to be an amazing storyteller to be seen as interesting. I have many friends who are very interesting when you get to know them, and they don’t tell stories.
But in case you want to improve your story-telling skills, here’s my guide How to be good at telling stories.
Another reason why people might lose interest (especially in loud environments) could be that you have a quiet voice.
14. The final rule for how to not be boring: Don’t try to be interesting all the time
Here’s what I learned from being around socially savvy people:
You DON’T need to say smart things all the time. You can base conversations on obvious statements. In fact, trying to say smart things can make you come off as MORE boring because you lock up and don’t say anything at all (Or you come off as try-hard or start talking way too much about things that just aren’t interesting to the other person)
Comment on what comes to your mind
“I love those flowers over there!”
“Was it this cold last year?”
And so on. Sometimes, people just want to make some small talk. That’s fine, and we don’t need to try to be smart and interesting all the time.