Want people to think you’re interesting? Be interested.

There’s never been a time in world culture where it was so easy and so useful to be informed. You only need to sip from the Internet fire hose of facts, ideas, opinions, theories and stories to enrich your life and the lives of others.

I touched on this subject in my post about conversational narcissists: People who monopolize conversations in the misguided belief that they and their experiences are interesting. Perhaps they are, but the monopolists don’t take the time to learn about their audience to discover what they care about. You may also remember this post, citing motivational speaker Joe Caruso’s maxim: People don’t like me. They like themselves when they’re with me.  How do you make people feel liked? By shutting your mouth except when it’s time to ask another open-ended question, a question that is appropriate because you’ve really been listening to the previous answers.

But I write this post in the context of social media. Whether you’re an engaged citizen of the world or a business building relationships with customers, you serve yourself by serving others with information that is relevant, useful, entertaining, inspirational.

If you’re blogging or Facebooking for your business — and you should, as I exhorted here last month — only 10 percent of your content should be overtly promotional. The rest should be indirect, giving readers information, inviting them to comment and share, displaying your personality.

How do you get that content? You are interested. You read industry journals, business magazines, newspapers and books. You network. You attend conferences and webinars. You chat with people at all levels of your company.  You watch TV, and I don’t just mean the local news and sports. If you don’t already, watch something lowbrow.

(An executive with a major foundation used to watch American Idol just to have something to talk about around the water cooler the next day. One morning he shared that practice while breakfasting with some male business acquaintances. When they poo-poohed his story, he flagged the waitress down and said, “So, do you believe they actually voted Kyle off last night?” Without prelude, she exploded with umbrage at the judges and the less-talented contestants still in the running).

I like this adage: Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss things, small minds discuss people and the smallest of those discuss themselves. Be interested in the world and in others. Assuming they’re well-mannered enough to turn the tables and say, “Now tell me about yourself” you’ll be able to share ideas relevant to what you’ve learned about them. And how interesting is that?

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