How to Be Interesting
Many of us crave to be more interesting people. The question is how we might become so.
We rightly tend to associate being ‘interesting’ with achieving difference from the norm: with being able to serve up some unusual and intriguing stories and ideas. But what might be the best way to lay our hands on these?
One prestigious thesis tells us that we should try our best to root out new and well-reviewed books and articles, travel to remote places and befriend people who are prominent in the arts and business.
This correctly latches on to something — that we should aim to be different — but it entirely overlooks that, before we’ve ever read a single book, gone to any foreign country or met any Nobel Prize laureates, we are all compellingly different anyway. The problem is that we just don’t allow ourselves to come across as such.
To get a taste for this pre-existing level of originality, imagine if we placed a microphone in any of our minds and listened closely in on the chatter.
We would quickly find the most surprising, and authentically gripping information: we’d realise that we were attracted to some very unexpected people, often just the sort we weren’t supposed to have any feelings for. We’d realise that we had some hilariously personal (and shocking) takes on politics and society — and that we didn’t agree with most of the standard lines proposed to us by the media. Our anxieties, fears, hopes and excitements would show a properly distinctive and captivating pattern.
We are — though we try so hard never to admit this to ourselves let alone anyone else — already a real character.
We understand this point in relation to children. Every child under seven is fascinating. They almost never do anything interesting in the outside world, but it’s the honest, uncensored way in which they report on their inner lives that guarantees their interest. When they chit chat about their granny or their teacher or their take on their dad, we’re open mouthed.
We were once fascinating too, before we got overly worried about seeming normal.
There are of course some things that we should — as we grow up — take care not to mention to spare others hurt, but a lot fewer than we think. When we next fear coming across as dull, we need only lean in more closely on the data from our deep selves: we should, and the habit may require a little conscious effort to develop, get in touch with what we actually believe. What emerges may sound odd, but it is also liable to be hugely charming, warm-hearted and comforting — and a lot closer to what people around the table deep down feel too than what was printed in today’s newspaper.
Everyone is interesting. So-called interesting people are simply those who’ve allowed themselves to listen in on and share with others a selection of what is really going through their minds.
They have not allowed self-hatred and self-suspicion to block them from disclosing their reality. They have been confident enough to imagine that the truth about themselves could be a pleasure for others to hear — and, with a few obvious caveats, it almost certainly will be.