In this post, I talked about how to be part of a group conversation without having to say anything smart or funny.
One member of the SocialPro community, Miriam, wrote me:
“But what do you do if you don’t like the subject or aren’t interested in talking?”
I love that question.
Once, at a friends dinner, I just didn’t want to be there. I didn’t like anyone there, and I wasn’t interested in their conversations. I was so bored and zoned out that it must have been obvious. Afterward, my friend said: “Can’t you even pretend to be interested?”
Sometimes I’ve been at places where people have been really boring. I’m totally indifferent to sports, and when my friends talk about soccer, I still zone out.
But that dinner was different. It wasn’t the conversation. It was me.
Most conversations in life have the potential to be interesting with the right mindset.
I later learned that assuming that people are boring and that I don’t like them has been my ego defense mechanism. This was pivotal in my life. Let me show you what I mean.
When I was nervous to meet new people, as a defense, I assumed that I wouldn’t like them. That gave me an excuse to not try to interact with them.
That was my brain’s way to keep me from risking rejection. (Thanks, brain!)
I’m not the only one with ego defense mechanisms:
“It’s crazy. I want to be the one everyone wants to talk to or likes talking to. But at the same time, I don’t like talking to anybody.”
It’s normal to feel like this. But you don’t have to give in to the feeling. You can socialize even if your brain wants you to think that you don’t need to.
– Be open to talking to people even if you think you won’t like them.
– Be open to engaging in a conversation even if you think it might be boring.
In my last post, I showed how you can be involved in a group conversation by showing with your body language that you are listening.
This has a second benefit: By forcing yourself to pay attention, the conversation becomes more interesting.
This is the same effect as when you’re half-watching a movie. Then, if you re-watch it later and pay full attention, you’re likely to think it’s much more interesting than when you didn’t pay full attention.
Lesson learned: When we pay attention, the conversation becomes more interesting.
This means that we can learn to feel more interested in others by paying more attention. This is what’s called cultivating an interest.
When you pay close attention to a conversation like this, questions will pop up in your head. I’ve talked about how to do this in these two articles:
Let me illustrate how this works.
By paying attention to something (like a conversation), it creates interest to understand more. This makes our curiosity grow, and questions will start popping up in our heads to satisfy that curiosity. This helps create interesting conversations.
By regularly paying attention in conversations, we will develop our natural curiosity which will, in turn, help us come up with more questions. Instead of being in your head thinking about what you could add, be in the topic. Ask a question whenever you wonder about something.
It’s genuine curiosity, and because of that, no one will think it’s weird that you are engaged, even if you generally don’t talk much.
Let me know what you think in the comments.