Be Interested. Be Interesting.

by Jessica Gendron

[Editor's Note: Here is a paradoxical blog post we wrote a while ago.  Maybe they're both right?]

A big part of Social Excellence is the ability to have meaningful dialogue with other people – even strangers.

Curiosity opens the door for you to approach people and ask questions.  We talk a lot about curiosity in Social Excellence, but we rarely talk about being interesting.  Being interested in what the other person has to say is incredibly important, but maybe equally important and sometimes forgotten, is that you, yourself have to be interesting enough to talk to.  People don’t typically engage in a conversation with a person to talk nothingness.  They want to learn something, be impacted somehow, get an opinion or talk about something they care about.  You have to be able to contribute to the conversation in order for it to be worthwhile.

I’ll be direct.  Here’s what I mean:

You have to read.  Read a variety of different things.  Read books that are popular – fiction, non-fiction, biography, etc.  Read the newspaper.  Most colleges and university are begging their students to read the newspaper to the point that they give it to you for free!  Read blogs.  Gold star for reading ours, but read different ones, ones that have to do with your major, things you’re interested in, things you would like to know more about.  Read gossip magazines.  Yep, I said it, gossip magazines.  People talk about this stuff and people care about this stuff.

You have to watch television.  Here I go again acting crazy.  Yes, I said “Watch television.”  But watch a lot of different types of shows.  Watch the news (liberal and conservative stations, both viewpoints are informative).  Watch morning news shows (Today Show, Good Morning America, etc) not only do that have news, but they have human interest stories, and segments about things you should know about from credit card interest rates to sunscreen.  Watch popular sitcoms.  Watch Saturday Night Live.  Watch syndicated old school shows too.  Watch entertainment TV.  Watch sports.

You have to do stuff.  I don’t mean any stuff.  I mean all kinds of stuff.  You have to volunteer, go to movies, go to the theater, see a ballet, a speaker, travel, see the United States, see the world.  Do stuff you wouldn’t normally do.  Do stuff that’s outside your comfort zone.  Take a hike.  Go for a bike ride.  Walk.  Take Salsa, Ballroom, or swing classes.  Do some yoga.  Climb a mountain.  Go camping.  Visit a hospital, visit a school, business, church or neighborhood.  Don’t just sit in your room with your friends and do the same boring stuff you always do.  Take risks and do stuff.

You have to listen.  Every person is an information hub.  Listen to learn when they talk.  Everyone has something that they can teach you, but you have to listen, encourage them to expand more, and listen some more.  Talk to lots of different types of people, learn from their experiences, information, opinions and viewpoints.

You have to agree to disagree.  People don’t have to agree to have a calm, civil and informative conversation.  Be okay with disagreement, but don’t get belligerent.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  You may not agree, but you don’t have to.  Listen to what they have to say and understand where they are coming from regardless of how you feel.  Be comfortable raising questions that may cause a healthy debate.  The goal is to learn, not persuade.

Be your own information hub.  People like to talk to others that they can learn from.  When you are informed of current events, news, television shows, activities, etc. people will want to talk to you.  This does not give you permission to be a gossip queen.  If it didn’t come from a source that is legally responsible for the information – don’t spread it or cite your source.  Don’t feed the rumor mill.  People will trust what you say less, tell you less,  and talk to you less if you aren’t a reliable source. 

Be interested.  Listen to people and be curious about them.  Learn from them.  Be interesting.  Be someone that others are curious about.  Be someone others can learn from.