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Truly interesting people have quite a few characteristics in common.
But not everyone is a marvelous storyteller or capable of singing “Hey Jude” in four languages.
Being interesting takes a lot of effort. One has to be willing to constantly develop new interests, educate themselves on a vast number of topics, travel, change careers, and be spontaneous and surprising. Whew, I need a two-hour nap just thinking about all that hard work.
But there’s one thing everyone can do, and depending on how you look at it, it doesn’t take much effort at all:
Stop talking about yourself.
That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Just stop talking about yourself quite as much, and you’ll instantly be a more interesting person. You’ll be the person everyone is glad to see at a party and never avoided at the grocery store. We’ve all done it—ducked down an aisle before someone we don’t want to chat with recognizes us.
But if you begin to practice not talking about yourself, people will be much more open to talking to you. If this is true, why do we feel so compelled to talk about ourselves?
To put it bluntly, it feels good.
Psychology Today reports that discussing ourselves activates the same areas of the brain that eating incredible food, having great sex, and taking drugs do. We get a high from talking about ourselves and find it highly satisfying to disclose.
Does this mean you should never talk about yourself? Of course not! But choosing when and with whom, and what we decide to share is not only an important self-awareness practice, but it allows each of us the opportunity to practice the incredibly important skills of mindfulness, listening, and learning.
You’ve heard the saying, “we were born with one mouth and two ears for a reason,” yes? Talking about ourselves less offers others the ability to share more, creates the skill of discernment, and gives us the understanding of what’s actually interesting information. Being a more interesting person has more to do with what we specifically say when we do speak. We’ve all been guilty of TMI. Being more intentional automatically increases how interesting other people find us.
Have you ever encountered someone who tells you about every ailment they’re experiencing? Or will detail a day of errand running and invoicing? How about the last time you asked someone about their job and they embarked on a summary of technical jargon and tedious interactions that caused a slight tick to begin at the corner of your eye?
We’ve all had too many of these dialogues to count, and they don’t leave either party satisfied or begging for more.
Here’s a short, powerful list of all the reasons opting to not talk about yourself yields positive responses from others:
>> You create an air of mystery. People are always more curious about people they don’t know much about.
>> You become a much better listener. The more you practice, the better you get, just like everything else.
>> You’ll never be considered boring. Not unless you both don’t talk about yourself and simply don’t talk. There is an infinite number of topics to discuss. Contribute to all conversations, just not with unnecessary information about yourself.
>> You’ll be approached more often. Maybe not by those who are easily intimidated, but by folks who are intrigued. Other interesting people will be drawn to you, automatically gravitating toward a like-minded soul.
>> You’ll learn the beauty of not trying so hard. This one offers a massive payoff. It’s so exhausting to play the “one-up” game. Aiming to impress others with your exploits, travels, knowledge, and accomplishments is a lot like practicing yoga with too much force and ignoring pain. Eventually, it will backfire on you and achieve the exact opposite of what your initial goal had intended.
>> Interviewing skills will become a useful resource. You can learn a great deal about others and topics by learning the right questions to ask. Inquisitive people are viewed as much more fascinating by others because they delve deeper and have the ability to make others feel interesting too.
>> Thoughtfulness will become the hallmark of your character. When we learn to think, to really consider what we say and when to say it, it translates into everything we do.
>> Trust is easier when we encounter those who both don’t talk about themselves or others. People will feel much more comfortable confiding in you once they observe you to be someone who doesn’t feel the need to discuss your private, personal details or those of others.
>> Humility feels good too. Opting not to toot your own horn, or hijack a conversation even if you have a similar experience to share, provides a delicious sense of self-control and the delight of it being enough for you to know what you’ve done and experienced. Deciding not to share gives others the spotlight, and they might need it more than you do.
So when is it a good idea to discuss ourselves?
We have to be willing to open up to the people who are near and dear. If we never offer anything of ourselves, we risk alienating others. And there are always going to be times when it’s not only appropriate but helpful to offer a personal piece of information or anecdote about our lives when it’s apparent it’s the best way to relate and offer a degree of understanding.
Just like everything else, balance is the key, and practice is paramount. Try it even for one day. When you’re getting ready for bed, take the time to reflect on how this practice made you feel and what you discovered. It’s a worthwhile effort for each of us to endeavor and hopefully enjoy!