Be a person of interest

Be a person of interest

How to Win Friends and Influence People, the bestseller by author Dale Carnegie sold millions of copies in its time. It continues to sell and figures consistently on the list of must-read self-help books. What gave this book the runaway success it reaped? Did it contain a quick-fix to life's formidable problems? Did it reveal a secret formula for becoming rich? Or was it centred on the success and fame that all men seek?

Interestingly, none of them! The crux of this fascinating book was simply on "how to be interesting". After all, friendships begin and grow when we are interesting to others. But sadly, this ability to be interesting to others, research confirms, is one that all of us seek but fail in a monotonous regularity. All the same, it is a skill, one that can be acquired and practised to perfection for our benefit. And though like any skill, there are many ways to skin a cat, culling out the wisdom from some of the experts on the subject, an easy and sure way to master this tricky art of being interesting to others emerge quite finely.

Key to communication

Good communication is the hallmark of an interesting conversationalist. Our lack of knowledge or education will not matter much if we can sharpen our ability to communicate with others easily and in a courteous and responsive manner. Also, a sense of humour and humility in speech are aids in being interesting.

Author Robin Sharma often writes about his conversations with cab drivers and describes them as being some of the most interesting and absorbing conversations he has ever had. This is a testament to the fact that to be interesting, the need is not so much of superior knowledge or intellectual capacity as of an engrossing style, which we can all agree, is found in good measure with cab drivers. Our body language, choice of words and empathy smooth the rough edges to conversations and make us interesting.

Listen carefully

It may sound ironical, but the less we talk, the more interesting we are to others. It has been estimated that those who talk less are the ones most liked and found to be interesting. "If you want to make people shun you and laugh at you behind your back and even despise you, here is the recipe," writes Dale Carnegie, "never listen to anyone for long. Talk incessantly about yourself!" Monopolising a conversation may give one a sense of one-upmanship, but letting the other person talk will get one the reputation of an interesting person.

Listening to other people talk about themselves, their pursuits and opinions give them a sense of importance. Besides researchers report that letting people talk triggers the same sensation in the brain as that of food and money. Perhaps there is some truth in the old adage, "Speech is silver, silence is golden."

This principle, when coupled with the ability to talk in terms of the other person's interests, can guarantee anyone the reputation of being interesting and lend them an aura of mystery. Former American President Theodore Roosevelt was hardly 43 when he was elevated to the White House. A Nobel Laureate, he is credited to have brought new excitement and power to the Presidency. Any visitor to the White House was astonished at the range and diversity of his knowledge. Cowboys to diplomats alike were enamoured at his ability to keep them engaged and enthused. And his secret was nothing profound. Whenever Roosevelt expected a visitor, he sat up late the night before, reading on the subject in which he knew his guest was interested in.

The cardinal tenet of an interesting person is to talk in terms of what other people are interested in. Experts of etiquette and behaviour concur that talking about our own interests is akin to serving saltless food to our guests because food that is insipid is what we cook at home! It will be boring and worst of all keep the guests from accepting our dinner invitations.

Stay up-to-date

Newspapers, magazines and books are treasure troves of information about what's happening in the world around us. People engage in conversations that centre around other people and on current happenings, rather than on happenings that took place in the distant past. It is precisely for this reason that talking about the features on our new iPhones will seem interesting to others in comparison to a chivalrous encounter we might have experienced or read in the recent past.

Experts in the art of conversation also recommend that we have three good stories on common themes handy to narrate in the course of conversations. It is here that engaging in a hobby helps. When a skill is pursued as a hobby and shared with others, it becomes fascinating in a conversation.

Shed your ego

"Egos get in the way of ideas. If your arrogance is more obvious than your expertise, you are someone other people avoid," writes Jessica Hagy, in her bestseller How to Be Interesting. When a person sings praises of his or her own importance, it permeates through their speech, and such a conversation is conceited and resented by others.

All interesting people have this common thread of humility sewed into their personalities irrespective of their backgrounds. Dr Nicholas Murray Butler, longtime president of Columbia University, puts it eloquently, "Those people who think only of themselves are hopelessly uneducated. They are not educated, no matter how instructed they may be."

From our bosses to our next-door neighbour, those who stop at our desk and drop into our homes to inquire about our migraine and toothaches are the ones who, besides appearing thoughtful will invoke our interest in them and in turn make them interesting. Going beyond I, me, myself will show us in an interesting light to others. After all, people don't care how much we know until they know how much we care. They naturally gravitate towards those who can uplift and inspire with their emotional and social intelligence. When a genuine interest towards others is shown, interactions and inter-personal relationships blossom and by default, such people become interesting to all.

Preserve your uniqueness

We laugh with those colleagues who can mimic the cynic at the office and we look forward to meeting the friend who has a quirky side to keep us entertained. Weird impulses and peculiar penchants used creatively and directed towards productive channels bestow uniqueness on a
person. Author Roald Dahl, in his delightful autobiography Tales of childhood, writes about his idiosyncrasies through which his interesting and creative side is apparent to the reader.

Finally focusing on leading an interesting life is a reliable way to become interesting in life. "Remember the theme of Don Quixote: If you want to be a knight, act like a knight," writes Eric Barker, author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree.

In short, the idea conveyed in all strategies that aim in making us interesting to others is that after every interaction, the people around you should walk away feeling much better for having met you. Brightening up someone's life and lending your ears to listen, positions you among the special people who have mastered the difficult skill of being interesting to others.

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