How to be Interesting

Goal: To help people more easily gain knowledge and ability to discuss new topics, and to provide tips on how to seem interesting to other people.

Motivation: Who doesn’t want to be interesting? It can get you the job, the girl, and friends. All these positive things can improve your mood and your overall health.

Being able to hold someone’s interest is no easy feat. You need to be exciting to grab their attention, and engaging in order to keep it. I don’t claim to be great at this by any means, but that’s exactly the reason that I am able to provide you with the most useful tips. This isn’t something that comes naturally to me, but I’ve found strategies and tips that help.

Tip I: Gain knowledge.
One reason we may fail to grab anyone’s attention is because we simply have nothing in common to communicate about. Everyone loves to talk about things that they already know about and enjoy, regardless of if we’re conscious about it or not. If you are going to seem interesting, you need to be able to talk about something in common, otherwise people may start to think that you’re a “quiet” person, or that you don’t like being around them.

This problem is both easy and hard to solve. The easy solution is to go out and discover new hobbies, explore new places, read more books, or talk to more people and learn to talk about new topics. The hard part is that all this is extremely time consuming and takes a lot of effort. Sure, that may seem lazy, but we all have other things we need to do and we don’t always have time to learn about things that aren’t exactly our passion in order to appease other people and become more sociable. This brings me to my solution to this problem: The use of text to speech programs.

Tip 2: Text to Speech
Text speech programs take words and turns them into audio files that read the words to you. I’ve tried the program TextAloud, as well as a few others.If you do a search for keywords such as: “Speech synthesis programs”, or “Text to speech programs”, I’m sure you’ll find many potential candidates.

The best thing about text to speech programs is that you don’t have to pay full attention to the book you’re listening to in order to benefit from it. I work in a lab and I’ve found that listening to story books, travel books, or self-help books while doing mundane tasks is perfect. I can tune in or tune out of the book when its subject matter catches my attention, otherwise I can treat it as background noise. I’ve been able to absorb many helpful books in this way without really spending any excess effort reading. Sure, we all may not have mundane lab jobs where we can wear headphones, but if you exercise or commute daily, you can replace your music with something educational. Depending on your book choice, you can actually learn something that people may find interesting.

Tip 3: Acquire Books
Once you’ve secured a good text to speech program, the next hurdle you may encounter is actually getting the books in the right format for conversion. Most programs will allow you to convert text or PDF files straight into audio files. This is useful for cutting and pasting websites and collections of PDF files. I’ve accumulated quite a large collection of free and/or out of copyright PDF books from various websites or torrents, and these are usually very easy to convert. The text to speech programs will generally cut them up into many audio files for easy listening. You can also get more recent books if you pay for them through outlets like amazon or barnes and noble. Additionally, many e-readers such as the kindle also support text to audio output. However, it is very convenient to be able to play them on CD’s and mp3 players to allow you to play the files in your car or during a workout.

Tip 4: Know How to Converse
There are lots of little tips to help make the actual social interaction more smooth and interesting that may be obvious in retrospect, but are worth pointing out anyways since they can be very important. Here area few of the most important tips I have gathered from various books that I have listened to and from personal experience.

• People love to talk about things they already know about.
The best way to seem interesting to someone else is to inconspicuously discover things that the other person knows about. (Books, hobbies, photography, travel, etc…) The best way to get someone to enjoy a conversation with you is to talk about things they like. Seems obvious, right? The easiest question you can ask someone is “What do you do in your free time?” or “What do you do for fun?”. Use the topics that the person brings up as starting points. Look for future topics by extrapolating similar or complementary interests from what they have already mentioned. This is where your book reading comes in. The more you know about topics, the more of a chance you have of hitting on a topic that both parties know about. An easy mistake you should avoid if you can is to ask someone if they like a specific topic as an excuse into telling a personal story or point about it. Something like: “Oh, do you like programming? I know this great computer joke!” Sure, the joke may be hilarious to you, but the simple fact is that other people will lose interest if the topic of discussion changes to something outside of their interest.

• People love to talk about themselves.
This sort of goes hand in hand with the idea that people like to talk about things they already know. The difference is that this tip emphasizes that people like to listen to themselves talk more than they like listening to you talk. This applies even if you’re talking about something they enjoy. People can often walk away from a conversation with someone in which they themselves did all the talking, yet still have the impression that the person they were talking to was interesting. Being a good listener is sometimes a good way to make an interesting impression on someone.

• Show genuine interest
It’s very difficult to take interest in something you have no interest in discussing, and I’m not saying that you should. However, if after talking with someone for a while, you should be able to find a topic that both of you are at least mildly interested in. Once you have that topic though, it isn’t enough to simply have a discussion about it. You have to be animated and excited about it. Being “over the top” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this case. If you show excitement about something, that in turn makes those observing you excited as well. It’s loosely related to a theory called theory called “theory of mind”. The take home point is that our brains will give a certain neuron firing pattern when it experiences something, say, eating ice cream. What is interesting is that those exact same patterns are also seen when someone merely thinks about ice cream, or sees someone else eating ice cream, or basically experiences anything that involves the symbol ice cream. So if someone is observing someone being excited about a topic, it makes them feel excited about it too, so be excited! You don’t necessarily have to fake excitement though. If you simply tell yourself over and over that you are excited about it, you will start to believe it. Lying to oneself may seem useless since you know it’s a lie, but it still works. Repetition equals validity in our minds. (Which is also why political advertising seems to work on the masses, sadly.)

These tips, as well as many other useful examples can be found in these two great books: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.

I would say that these books should be recommended reads for everybody during their education. They provide so many useful hints and examples for social manipulation. (A “dirty” word, but that’s essentially what it is.) These books will not only help you become more interesting, but will also help you smooth out social interactions and to get what you want in business or social settings.

Hope this helps!