Think about the most boring person you’ve ever met. What was it about them that made them so dull? Were they superficial or irrelevant? Did they hog the limelight and only talk about themselves?
When a really interesting person is around, they’re rarely the ones doing all the talking. To make a great impression, you actually need to say very little.
If you want to be truly captivating, it’s all about making moments for other people.
To be interesting, be interested.
The most crucial part of being the most interesting person in the room is to be interested in the people around you.
Dale Carnegie, author of How to Win Friends & Influence People, famously said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Humans are naturally self-centered, so before we care about you, we need to feel that you care about us. It doesn’t matter how incredible your stories are, or how wildly accomplished you may be. It’s not about proving how interesting you are — it’s about making others feel interesting.
Take a lesson from Bill Clinton, one of the most commanding figures in US politics. When Bill enters a room, he owns it. Why? Because he’s curious and engaging. He completely concentrates his attention on those he’s speaking to, and he’s anything but aimless. When you’re totally focused on others, you become a current of energy that attracts everyone in the room.
That doesn’t mean you can never share your stories or your passions (that’s important later). It just means that before anything else, take a genuine interest in others, and they’re much more likely to be interested in you.
So how do you show interest?
Stop talking and listen.
What’s the easiest way to be the most interesting person in the room? Just stop talking.
Harvard neuroscientists have found that talking about ourselves gives our brain as much pleasure as food or money. Almost half of our everyday speech is devoted to talking to others about how we think and feel, and we love to do it because it feels so rewarding.
Researchers found that people were even willing to give up a monetary reward for talking about others in order to talk about themselves.
If you want to make someone feel good and make people remember you, let them talk about everyone’s favorite topic (themselves).
When you let someone go on about their new job or latest achievement or their upcoming vacation, you’ll already be the most interesting person in the room to them — without even saying a word.
Why? Because you listened.
But the key is you have to really listen. You can let someone talk about themselves, but it means nothing if you aren’t actively listening.
People can tell when your mind is elsewhere, and if you’re doing things like checking your phone or looking around the room, you’re quickly destroying any chance of making a positive impact.
Focus on the person. Make eye contact and keep your phone in your pocket. Ask open-ended questions, and really listen to the answer. Make a meaningful response to show you understand. Ask a follow up question or, even better, ask how you can help.
Try not to start rehearsing a response as they talk, and shut off that judgmental inner voice that makes assumptions about the other person. Never interrupt while they’re speaking and avoid the urge to finish their sentences.
Active listening is a powerful skill that few people do very well. By actually listening to a person, you’ll be the one they want to be around and get to know more about. That energy is so magnetic that, before you know it, you’ll be the most fascinating person in the room.
So how do you get them talking?
Ask good questions.
If you want to be interesting, ask interesting questions.
The key is to ask genuine questions that you’re actually curious about. The more curious you are about the answer, the more actively you’ll listen, and the more the other person will perceive you as attentive and caring.
If you keep asking questions, you’ll also allow the other person to keep talking about themselves (something almost everyone enjoys doing).
By asking genuine questions and listening closely to the answers, you’ll create an incredibly meaningful and enjoyable experience for the other person. They’re more likely to remember you as an interesting person, even if all you did was ask questions.
Think about your most memorable conversations that made you feel really good. It’s probably because you were asked a lot of questions about yourself and the other person was taking a keen interest in your answers.
So what makes a question interesting?
Go for open-ended questions and try to avoid generic ones they’ve likely heard a thousand times before.
Instead of asking “What do you do?” try asking “Why did you choose your job?” or “What are you most excited about right now?”
Rather than getting the tired old answer about their job that they’ve likely recited to everyone in the room, you’ll likely get to hear about their upcoming vacation, a new relationship or business venture, a hobby or skill they’re learning, or a personal goal they’re going after.
Isn’t that so much more interesting? They get to talk about something that makes their eyes light up, and you’ve just become the most riveting person in the room by doing something unexpected (I’ll talk more about this later).
Aim to find some common ground. Whether you have the same favorite TV show or you share a mutual friend, they’re more likely to be interested if you have something in common.
Be sure to follow up your question with another one that allows you to keep the conversation flowing. Dig a little deeper by asking questions like:
“Why is that important to you?”
“What’s the hardest thing about that?”
“What’s the best thing about that?
And one of the best — “How can I help?”
Then, actively listen to them and genuinely think about how you can help.
Good deeds are often reciprocated. If you’re generous with your time, advice, and attention, you’ll often find that people will return the favor.
Your generosity doesn’t have to be extreme and you can be generous even if you’re just starting out.
It can be as simple as asking someone about themselves, or sharing your knowledge and resources. Offer to lend them a book, share a tip about a job opening, or offer to share their project with your network.
Make sure you follow up and do what you say you’re going to do, and you’ll quickly become the most appealing person in the room.
Have you ever been left out? Everyone dreads showing up to an event and having no one to talk to. If you see someone milling around or trying to fade into a corner, go and talk to them.
Strike up a conversation or bring them into your circle. A great way of introducing them to your group is by repeating something that was just shared in the conversation. They’ll easily slide into the discussion and it shows you were listening.
They’ll really appreciate that you took the time to include them, and you’ll instantly become more attractive to everyone in your group. The most interesting person in the room is the one who is supportive and inclusive of others.
Make others feel important.
People love to feel important. We’re much more likely to choose to be around someone who practices humility, rather than someone with a big ego.
You don’t have to be timid or self-deprecating to give someone else a boost, but there’s something very likable about someone who’s willing to admit they don’t know something.
Avoid lecturing others and never try to ‘one-up’ someone with a story. It’s a huge turn-off and makes you sound like an a-hole. Share your passions but be open to new perspectives, and resist the urge to show off your knowledge.
Don’t be afraid to ask for advice and opinions, and most important, be curious. Not only will this help you to grow, but it will make everyone around you feel validated.
Tell good stories.
Interesting people usually tell great stories. If you’re nervous about telling a story, try preparing some stories in your head, or tell your story to just one person before trotting it out to a group of people.
The most entertaining stories are usually ones about human behavior. We love drama and humor, and we love talking about other people — just avoid any nasty gossip.
Try to keep it brief and upbeat, and don’t monopolize the conversation. If people start looking around the room, or no one is asking you questions, it’s time to end the story and ask someone else a question.
Do the unexpected.
No one remembers the generic conversations that never dive beyond a superficial level. If you want to be truly unforgettable, try doing something unexpected.
Don’t be afraid to be the real you, and commit to being authentically vulnerable. Stand up for others when no one else does.
Talk about your passions or share something embarrassing. We all have our flaws, and it can be refreshing to hear someone be open about their imperfections.
Voice your opinion even if it’s different. People don’t have to agree with you to find you interesting. It’s okay to be contrary, but avoid being hostile or argumentative, and make sure you share informed opinions.
Seek out those deeper conversations and be a bit unpredictable. People will flock to you.
Read the room.
If you want to be the most interesting person in any room, you’ll need to learn how to adapt and stay relevant.
Have you ever noticed how a powerful or influential person enters a room? They’ll take time to listen and read the room, so they become more interesting to that audience.
Make sure you find the right topics and stories for different conversations, and focus on the other person’s responses and body language to gauge their interest in the conversation.
If they’re speaking faster, you may have hit a passionate subject. If they’re avoiding eye contact or crossing their arms, they may be uncomfortable. Use these social cues to guide your conversation and be intentional. The more accommodating you are to others, the better.
It’s also helpful to stay up to date with current news and trends, and have a general knowledge of popular topics like business, sports, and music. This way, you’ll have something to contribute in almost any situation, and if you don’t, the best way to handle it is to simply listen and learn.
Use your body.
It’s not what you say, but how you say it. Some people are so fascinating because they understand how to use their body language to tell a story.
Nonverbal communication, including facial expressions, vocal tone, posture, and gestures, is often more important than the words you’re using.
Next time you want to be the most engaging person in the room, be confident and relaxed. Avoid fidgeting or keeping your arms crossed, and stand tall and self-assured. Remember to make eye contact, speak clearly with an enthusiastic tone, give a genuine smile, and laugh with others.
If you ever feel like you may have given off a bad first impression, use body language to turn it around. Stay calm, keep your arms relaxed at your sides, maintain eye contact, and own your space. You’ll come across as open and trustworthy, and others will be drawn to you.
If you’re not sure how you come across when speaking to someone, ask your friends and family how they feel when you have conversations with them.
Live an interesting life.
The more you know and do, the more you open yourself to new opportunities.
If you live an interesting life, you’ll have better stories to tell, you’ll be well-informed and able to discuss a variety of topics, and you’ll likely have more passions and be more enthusiastic. The most interesting person in the room doesn’t have to try — it’s a natural result of their lifestyle.
If you feel like you’re doing the same thing everyday, it’s time to get off the hamster wheel. Be open to interesting experiences and actively seek out new interests, ideas, and people.
Read more books, take a class, watch a documentary, take a weekend trip, join a club, go to a play, get a new hobby, or commit to doing something new once a month. From skydiving to sushi tasting, there are endless ways to refresh and enrich your life.
And that’s far more fulfilling than simply trying to impress the people around you.
Choose to be interesting.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of negative thought patterns. Maybe you’re worried about what people think of you, or maybe you tell yourself that no one cares what you have to say. Perhaps you’re convinced you just don’t have a naturally attractive personality.
But being interesting isn’t some innate talent that certain people are lucky to be born with. And it’s not an exclusive skill set of extroverts, either. Some of these techniques, such as listening and observing, are classic traits of the introvert.
Being interesting is a choice.
You can be whoever you want to be. And you can change your (and others) perception of yourself any time you like.
If you want to be someone who is memorable, likable, insightful, and generous, then make a commitment. Start taking action to be the person you want to be.
[Featured photo by Fred Kearney]