We all know those people who seem to effortlessly garner attention. They easily command a crowd and seem to shine in any social or professional gathering. What’s the secret? Are some people just naturally charismatic? Or is this a skill that can be cultivated?
You may have been this person. Maybe there was a moment in time when you felt particularly magnetic. What was going on in that moment, and how can you recapture that allure?
We all want to be interesting to others, even if we’re not necessarily comfortable being the center of attention. Being interesting makes us feel “seen.” It leads to opportunities. It leads to influence.
Understanding what’s “attractive” can help in the pursuit of influence. The secret to being interesting is less about positioning yourself as someone particularly cultured, experienced, or worthy and more about what you offer to each individual with whom you interact.
Here is the inside track to being more interesting.
1. Be Humble
While many of us picture the center of attention being someone with a big personality and a booming voice with lots of opinions and a hearty laugh (someone exhibiting blatant confidence), research published in the British Psychological Society Digest shows that people will choose to be around other people who favor humility. There is much debate around how to actually define humility in this case, but the most appropriate definition seems to be “having a clear perspective and respect for one’s place in context.”
How to be humble? Humility is not to be confused with a lack of assertiveness. And it also doesn’t mean you should be self-deprecating. Be humble by being willing to say, in word or in deed, “I know who I am. I know what I can do. And, I know what I can’t do.” And have a light heart about it. This can be as simple as employing the tried and true, “You know what, I don’t know the answer to that, but I will find out…” or as subtle as asking questions when a topic with which you’re unfamiliar is tackled in conversation. Don’t be afraid to show up with a “beginner’s mind” and be curious.
2. Be Generous
If you’re genuinely generous, you trigger the psychological response of reciprocity. You don’t even have to be extravagantly generous. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that very simple reciprocal activity, like engaging in conversation, triggered altruism in young children. The same is projected to be true for adults, according to the research. So this means that if you’re simply generous with your time and attention, you might find your generosity comes back to you. People will be more interested in and will pay attention to you, in turn.
How to be generous? Say yes, often. If you have a particular expertise, offer your insight or services without the expectation of payback. Participate in a productive way in industry groups online. Be helpful. Your good deeds will be reciprocated. The research backs it up.
3. Be Inclusive
Being the mean girl, or guy, in order to be cool is passe. We can either undercut each other or we can support each other. You can guess which garners better results in building influence.
How to be inclusive? See someone milling about, drink in hand, looking for someone to talk to? Don’t ignore this person and stay happy in the safety of your circle. Ask if he’d like to join you and integrate him into the conversation by relaying something you just learned about the person you were talking to. (This also shows you were listening, which is another tactic for seeming interesting to others. Be a good listener.)
4. Be Brave
According to Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of The Science of People, our fear of being different makes us boring. But watch what happens when you are open and vulnerable, silly, maybe even a little bit weird. When you’re brave and open enough to be yourself, you’ll often find people will be attracted to and interested in you. And, worst case, if they don’t flock to you, you’ll at least leave the interaction knowing you weren’t being fake.
How to be brave? Putting the interaction in context can help you muster the courage to be yourself. Remember, we all have our flaws; we’re all vulnerable in some way. And, remember what’s at stake—usually not a whole lot—so have the courage to be your interesting self, share an interesting experience, and talk of things you’re passionate about.
5. Be Interested
Dale Carnegie famously said, “To be interesting, be interested.” A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that people who engaged in a debate with a partner online rated the partner more favorably if they received a question from that partner as opposed to participants whose partners asked no questions and exhibited no interest in their viewpoint. Participants who received a question said they’d be more willing to engage with their counterpart in the future.
How to be interested? Ask questions, listen closely, ask more questions. Engage people in talking about their passions. If you know nothing about which they speak, even better. Ask more questions. (Be humble! And, curious!) If you already know about the topic at hand, that’s another great way to form a connection.
I’d love to know which ones of these you’ve already mastered. Which will you incorporate into your next interaction? Are there any other characteristics or behavioral habits that you find interesting in others that aren’t mentioned here? Tweet at @AmandaBerlin and let me know!