How can I become more interesting?

by Sam on June 21, 2011

Barbara Walters interviewed Henry Kissinger in 1968 when he was Secretary of State in the Nixon Administration. At that time he was the dinner companion of choice in the Nation’s Capitol.

Perhaps the two most compelling questions Ms. Walters had for her guest were, “Tell me…why are so you popular? Dr. Kissinger, what makes you so interesting?”

“Barbara,” he replied, “It’s not that I’m interesting, it’s that I’m interested.”

What did Henry Kissinger know? A communication nugget revealed centuries ago that works to this day. Namely, focus on others rather than on yourself and you’ll make a flattering, endearing, and lasting impression. In return, they will find you attractive and worthy of their attention.

When you want to leave a positive imprint on others, you can choose to focus on any of three preparations. One, you can be preoccupied with your mental groundwork, your emotional readiness, and your physical appearance—how you look, smell, and act. Two, you can fixate on what you have to say: the content of your speech, the persuasiveness of your ideas, and the organization and structure of your presentation. Three, you can attend to those who are going to hear your message by asking yourself, “How will their current feelings, needs, and emotional state influence their expectations of me and their reception of my message?”

Will you heighten the interest in your words and your personhood by attending to all three of these factors? You bet! But demonstrating your interest in others is at least twice as important as fussing over yourself and the delivery of your ideas, combined. And while you may not become the most popular figure in the District of Columbia, who knows what could happen if you start practicing your Henry Kissinger imitation?

Breakthrough! Choose a person to have a conversation with. Long before you speak, use your prior knowledge of that person to answer the question (“Three”) at the end of the second paragraph above this one. Open the exchange by focusing on an interest that you know or suspect the person has. (“So how much golf have you been able to play this spring?”) Encourage that person to express attitudes, beliefs, and opinions for a time before you convey your own. Follow your statements with other questions that keep the person engaged. Those on the other end of such a conversation with you may not quite be able to put their finger on it, but they’ll be sure of one thing. They find you interesting!

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