When I shared the concept that
You’ll get more people to like you by taking an interest in them than you will by being interesting to them
I received a great comment and request for my thoughts on it.
Meredith said, “I was just speaking to one of my best friends and we were talking about how we both wanted to befriend each other because we found each other interesting. An issue I have, though, is that I’m very quick to jump to conclusions about the people I think I’ll find interesting. I only pursue friendships with those people. This is not a judgment of looks, intelligence, popularity, or anything like that. It’s just, some people I don’t feel like I can be genuinely interested in, and I feel guilty if I try to “fake” interest.”
It really is a great question.
I don’t think any of us should “fake” interest in someone. I live my life with a high standard of integrity and ethics, and I’d never ask anyone to do anything that makes them feel like they are misleading people. However, I think that pushing ourself outside of our comfort zone is a necessary step toward growth.
Whether that be talking to people we wouldn’t normally start a conversation with or
sharing about ourselves honestly (saying what we actually think or feel rather than what we think others want to hear), or
pushing ourselves to do what is difficult because we can benefit from it rather than doing what is easy…
getting outside of our comfort zone is important for progress.
Back to the question Meredith asked.
It makes sense that some people will initially be more interesting to us than others. Heck, in many cases, there are even subconscious things going on (that we are unaware of) the help us determine that. If you are interested in this neuroscience and you haven’t read Blink by Malcom Gladwell yet, I highly recommend it.
If you believe, as I do, that even those we may not initially be as drawn to can still have a positive impact on us… teach us something… or reaffirm something we already know or believe… or even just give us an idea to consider, it is worth making an effort to be interested even when it doesn’t come naturally. And if you try, and you find you are not interested, you can at least say you tried, which is a big deal and a win in my opinion.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions they don’t expect. If I’m with someone and I don’t know (or can’t deduce) what is interesting about him or her, I might say, “Can I ask you a question?”
After they say yes, I can ask, “What is the most interesting thing about you?”
If they think that is weird (and you see that in their expression or they say something indicating it’s an odd question), then I’d just add “I know it sounds weird, but it’s a question I love to ask people.”
What they share is likely to be interesting, and that makes it easier to take an interest quickly than you having to figure it out without their help. Then you can decide after if you want to learn more or if you are not as interested.
You could also ask, “What are you most interested in?” I find it very interesting to listen to people talk about things they have a passion for. Oftentimes, their whole demeanor changes; They are more excited, their faces light up, or their pace of speech speeds up. Also, they usually share things new to me, because I don’t have as deep of knowledge on the subject as they do.
Remember, you can also always ask, “Who is the most interesting person you know?” Then follow that up with, “What is interesting about them?” Sometimes a person’s connection with others we could connect to is one of the values they bring into our lives.
You don’t have to be perfect at this (or anything for that matter). And you don’t have to like every single person you meet. It does say a lot about you and your commitment to others and your own success with connecting with people when you at least make an effort to learn about others and learn from others. Just the effort, even if it doesn’t lead anywhere for you, is something I find worthy of the highest respect.
Thanks again for such a great question Meredith!
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