Living in shades of grey: 20 ways to stop being so bloody boring
All around you, people are talking animatedly, but you can never think of anything to say. Or you’re talking, but people are edging away, looking at their watches. Or you start talking but realise no one’s paying any attention. So you trail off into silence, wondering where you went wrong.
Here are 20 ways to be the person everyone wants to talk to.
1. Join in the conversation
You don’t need to sit in the corner like a lump of lead. If you’re there and people are talking, you’re already part of the conversation and you’re expected to talk, too, so don’t wait for a gold-framed invitation to contribute – speak out.
2. Be engaged when someone’s talking
Instead of planning what you’ll say when it’s your next time to speak, actually listen and respond to the other person. If you can’t think of anything to say, you can join in by putting in little comments to show you’re interested in what they’re talking about: ‘Go on,’ ‘I can’t believe it!’ ‘Oops!’ or you can prompt them by asking questions: ‘So what did he say?’ ‘And did that work?’ ‘What happened when she saw it?’
3. Understand that people interrupt in social situations
Try not to be offended if you’re speaking and someone interrupts. A chat with friends isn’t a school classroom; there are no rules. You don’t need to wait for silence before you speak – with some people, you could be waiting forever! Sure, you were brought up to know that interrupting is rude. Not everyone has perfect manners, but in a way, it’s a compliment: something you said reminded them of something they wanted to say. And if it’s not connected with the subject you were speaking about, maybe they just wanted to say it before they forgot, or possibly they’re trying to hint that what you’re saying is dull. If you walk off in a huff or lecture them on waiting their turn, you’re being a bore.
4. Don’t be hard work to talk to
If you answer every question with a single word or grunt, and leave all the talking to the other person, they’ll struggle to have a conversation with you.
5. Have an opinion
You don’t need to be well-informed on every subject, but you should have opinions on most everyday issues. What’s your favourite movie? What type of music do you prefer? Do you believe in ghosts or fairies? Which three countries would you most like to visit, and why? What’s the perfect meal? If you could have a magical power, what would you choose? Do you have some views on key issues such as education, jobs for young people, local road traffic or punishment for sex offenders? It doesn’t actually matter what your opinions are, as long as you don’t block every turn in the conversation by saying, ‘I don’t know,’ or ‘I’m not really bothered.’
6. Don’t talk about your health
Just because someone asks, ‘How are you?’ it doesn’t mean they actually want to know! If you have a lot of long-standing medical problems, they don’t need updates on your symptoms every time you see them. Just say, ‘Well, I’m still alive, which has to be a good sign,’ or ‘Not too bad – how are you?’ Of course, if you’re normally fine, but you’ve been ill lately, or if you’ve recently been diagnosed with something new, it’s reasonable to mention it, but don’t go on about your health for half an hour. A sentence should cover it. And no details of bowel symptoms or gastric upsets – that’s definitely too much information!
7. Think positive
No one wants to spend time with someone who’s always complaining and criticising, so try to make your contributions to conversations enthusiastic, upbeat and positive. If you aren’t keen on an activity which is being discussed, suggest something which would be better, rather than being negative about the idea under discussion. Make the time to look up a new joke on the internet each morning. That way, you’ll start off happy and positive, and if there’s a gap in the conversation, you can tell your latest joke.
8. Be enthusiastic
If someone’s made an effort to please you, mke sure you show how much you appreciate it. Next time you see them, do something to show you thought about them while they weren’t there. Get excited about your job (not just your wages) and look for ways you can do it better. Look on the bright side of problems and see them as a chance to learn and develop instead of being downtrodden by life.
9. Focus on shared experiences
There’s no point talking about people you know but your listeners don’t, such as telling your workmates about something funny your little daughter did – save that anecdote for people who know her. If you don’t believe me, try Googling ‘funny things children say’ and seeing how many of them you find amusing. (Hint: not many!) In the same way, your drinking buddies don’t actually care what your boss said about the new computer system. If he picked it up and threw it out of the window – maybe.
10. Do something your group does
If everyone in your group watches a certain TV programme, goes to a popular place or plays a particular game except you, try it as well so you have more in common with them. Who knows – you might enjoy it!
11. Don’t put people in boxes
You can’t assume that someone with a certain job or connection with you wants to talk about it all the time. Your friend who’s a real estate agent doesn’t want to spend their life discussing house prices. If you know someone because you both have sons who play basketball together, that shouldn’t limit your conversation to basketball. Find out what else is valuable to them, their tastes and interests, and what their aspirations are.
12. Remember the world doesn’t share your obsessions
Do you have an unusual hobby, interest or collection? Your unique knowledge of, say, bell-ringing, could be interesting to hear about. But only once. Try to see the topic from an outsider’s point of view. Does Kent Treble Bob Major mean anything to a non-bell-ringer? Then don’t bother trying to explain what it is, unless someone is eagerly asking for more information. And definitely don’t go into a long discourse about whether it’s better than other methods – save that for your bell-ringing buddies. Have a couple of genuinely good points to discuss, which any outsider would understand, such as how heavy or old the bells are, or an amusing or dangerous bell-ringing incident.
13. Stay on subject, don’t sidetrack back to what you want to talk about
Once the conversation has moved on, don’t try to change it back because you still have more to say on the topic. Clearly, everyone else has heard enough about it for now. Let it go.
14. Have at least three hobbies
If you have a wide range of interests and activities, you’ll be more likely to find topics in common with others, and more likely to have worthwhile things to say in conversations.
15. See more of the world
Do you have your holidays in the same place every year? Or perhaps you never go anywhere. Take a chance and try something different this year. You’ve seen the TV ads – travel yourself interesting.
15. Learn something new
Try taking a course or learning a language – new experiences are a good way to make yourself more interesting as well as helping you to find new friends who may share your tastes better than the ones you have now.
16. Do interesting stuff
What are you up to this weekend? If your answer is always, ‘Oh, nothing much,’ or ‘The usual – working,’ think about how you can add more variety to your leisure activities.
17. Take up a long-term challenge
Train for a marathon run, start a creative project, give yourself a huge target to raise for charity and plan fund-raising events, get someone to set you 40 challenges for your 40th birthday, write a novel or get sponsored for a charity parachute jump.
18. Get started on your bucket list
What do you want to achieve before you die? Make sure you don’t kick the bucket without squeezing every drop of enjoyment from your life – start writing your bucket list today.
19. Read on a wide range of topics
Instead of sticking to one genre, read a mixture of fiction and non-fiction, from joke books and snippets to short easy novels and lengthy serious information books – even the side of your cereal packet and the ingredients in a bottle of shampoo. If you’re not much of a reader, try children’s non-fiction books with big glossy photos and captions – they tend to give the key points and the most interesting information.
20. Break your routines
There’s no need to stick rigidly to a daily routine or plan every activity in detail before you do it, and doing so makes you more likely to be boring. Try being spontaneous occasionally – be the kind of person who suddenly decides to do things.
These tips are just the beginning – so add something imaginative and fun to your life today, and start your interesting new personality right now!