Everyone has the potential to be interesting.
You don’t have to be a billionaire, or a CEO, or an astronaut to hold people’s attention — you can just be you.
It’s a question of knowing how to highlight the traits that make you different from the person next to you.
Over on Quora, dozens of people have answered the question, “How do I become a more interesting person?” with insights based on their own experience. We sifted through their responses and pinpointed the most practical advice.
Read on for ways to convince other people — and more importantly, yourself — that you’re a fascinating human being.
1. Develop new skills
Ensure that other people find you interesting by making yourself helpful in any situation. That’s why Quora user Anthony N. Lee suggests learning as many useful skills as you can, from web design to sewing.
That way, you’ll always be the go-to person, whether a friend needs to create a website for her new business or a blanket for her baby niece.
2. Be curious
One way to ensure that you’re not interesting is by closing yourself off to differing opinions and viewpoints. Instead, you should actively seek out new ideas and experiences that will change the way you think and feel.
Sudhir Desai advocates being a “lifelong learner.” He writes: “Keep an open mind, be curious. Allow for a complex world with multiple interpretations. Learn things to deepen and broaden your perspectives.”
3. Learn how to tell a good story
Maybe you’ve amassed a ton of information and experiences — but if you can’t communicate them to other people, you’re sunk.
That’s why Marcus Geduld says you should learn how to be a storyteller: “You don’t just dump whatever is on your mind into the conversation; you purposefully shape it to make it interesting. … Start thinking of your life as a gift you can give to others. Wrap it in the finest paper you can find.”
Geduld says that means you need to learn how to read your audience to see how long they’ll be able to pay attention and tease your listeners with clues to the end of the story.
Interestingly, recent research found that men who can tell a good story are also seen as more attractive by women. The study authors say that’s possibly because skilled storytellers may seem better positioned to influence others or gain authority.
4. Have three good stories ready to share
Knowing how to tell a story spontaneously is a handy skill — but if you’re nervous about that, arm yourself with a few personal anecdotes you can use to liven up an otherwise dull interaction.
Writes Devesh: “Comedians don’t just talk about anything when they’re onstage. They have their act rehearsed. You don’t just trot into a job interview and say whatever’s on your mind. Always have three good stories on hand that reliably entertain, inform, or engage.”
5. Listen and show compassion
A striking number of Quora users mentioned that one way to seem interesting is to be interested in others.
This idea was popularized by Dale Carnegie in his 1936 bestseller “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Carnegie wrote: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Writes Quentin Hardy, a Googler and former editor for The New York Times: “Listen carefully to others, and try with some compassion to understand their motives and actions. Few of us are really good at this. Everyone becomes nearly infinite in their experience of life, if we listen to them with enough imagination. Working that out grows ourselves. Wondering if you’re wrong helps, too.”
6. Ask good questions
At a party, you don’t need to say much about yourself for people to believe you’re interesting. Instead, engage them in deep conversation about their lifestyle.
“Ask thoughtful (not prying) questions, as needed, about them and their interests and priorities,” says Stephanie Vardavas. “Really listen to the answers. Follow up with more thoughtful discussion and necessary questions (again, not prying). By the end of the evening they will remember you as one of the most interesting people they ever met.”
Don’t be embarrassed to ask seemingly simple questions, either. As Evan Ratliff, a journalist who’s written for publications including The New Yorker, told Fast Company: “There’s typically no point in pretending you know something when you don’t. As a reporter the goal is to gather information, not to impress your subjects. You’d think it would be different in business, but it’s not.”
By asking those simple questions, you may end up impressing your new acquaintances, anyway.
7. Say what you think
Kat Li says people who don’t opine on or disagree with anything can be boring.
“You feel like you can’t really ever have a conversation with them,” she writes. “You should try to say what you really think about some things, even if other people won’t like it.”
8. Follow your interests
Instead of learning about a ton of dull topics just for the sake of being knowledgeable, pursue areas that you actually find stimulating. That way, you’ll sound animated and engaging when describing them to other people.
“I don’t think it’s as much a matter of trying to be interesting as much as it is naturally following what you enjoy, being an avid student and collector of information that interests and excites you,” writes Renee Nay.
9. Read a lot
If you have the time and money to travel the world, great. But even if you don’t, you can still learn about different cultures and historical periods by reading everything you can get your hands on.
Books, blogs, periodicals — expose yourself to as many new stories and ideas as possible.
Based on a review of the past decade of research on the psychological effects of reading fiction, Keith Oatley told The Washington Post: “People who read more fiction were better at empathy and understanding others.”
“Read a lot — it opens up multiple new worlds to us,” says Chaitra Murlidhar.
10. Display a sense of humor
Awdesh Singh suggests developing a sense of humor in your interactions with others. “Learn to see the lighter side of the life,” he writes, “and develop a habit to be happy even in your failings.”
Bonus if you’re trying to impress a date: Research suggests men who are funny are perceived by women as more attractive, possibly because they seem more intelligent.
11. Spend time with other interesting people
Singh adds that the company you keep influences your own personality. “If you are in the company of boring people, disgruntled people or serious people, you are likely to become like them very soon,” he says. “The same is true when you have the company of interesting people.”
Consider joining a Meetup or another group of people who are motivated to pursue their interests and passions.
12. Dig deep into one of your interests
You might be tempted to become a dabbler in many fields, developing a little bit of knowledge about everything. Instead, consider knowing a lot about one topic and flaunting your expertise in that area.
April Fonti says she finds people interesting when they “really pursue one thing with great intensity and depth over a long period of time. They could be very successful scientists or just quiet loners. It doesn’t matter.”
13. Take an improv class
Comedian Bill Connolly told Fast Company that practicing the art of improvisation can help improve your communication skills in daily life. One reason why is that it makes you a better listener, focusing on what the other person is saying instead of what you’re going to say next.
“Even if you’re shy and have no intention of ever performing publicly, comedy improv will loosen you up, help you ‘think faster,’ re-learn how to be playful (something most adults have lost), and make you feel more comfortable making a fool of yourself in front of other people (a life skill that comes in handy frequently). It can open you up and help you become more engaged when interacting with other people.”
14. Be unconventional
Evan Asano says being interesting comes down to being in some way different from everyone else.
He writes: “A friend of mine after college did something no one’s ever done before (at least known). He circumambulated Martha’s Vineyard via its beach/shore. It only took a couple days and some camping gear. 20 years later he still tells the story.”
Still, not everyone has the resources or the motivation to set off on a record-breaking camping trip right now. So think about the unusual experiences you’ve already had. Maybe you’ve lived in a foreign country; maybe you sell art projects as a side gig; maybe you grew up with 10 siblings. There’s definitely something, so keep digging.
15. Embrace your weirdness
“We all have quirks,” writes Del Singh. “It is part of our being. Interesting people unleash their inner weirdness.”
Dressing, speaking, and acting like everyone else can be kind of boring — we’re not in junior high school anymore. So let your freak flag fly, and do it with confidence.
16. Open up to people
Danielle Lan shares a personal story, the moral of which is that no one will know how interesting you are unless you tell them:
“My husband has been described as boring. He’s really a very fascinating man, with all his quirks and hobbies. The problem is he never shares with his coworkers or acquaintances.
“When asked ‘How was your weekend?’ his response is usually, ‘Fine’. In fact he probably took part in a huge raid in his favorite MMO [massively multiplayer online game] before watching a new movie and finishing an interesting book. But he won’t share that with just anyone.
“To be what people perceive as interesting you have to share. That also means you have to have things to share. It’s a rare person who literally does absolutely nothing and has absolutely no opinion on any given topic. My advice is to open up.”
Indeed, research suggests that people like each other better when they each share something personal, as opposed to when only one person does.
17. Run with a different crowd
Perhaps the real reason you don’t feel interesting is because you’re spending time with people who don’t appreciate you. In that case, you should find a different community who understands how much you have to offer.
Writes Travis Biziorek: “Challenge yourself to meet new people, hang out with a different crowd, and experience people with different outlooks and views on life. I promise you’ll find people that interest you and those that find you fascinating.”
Originally published at www.businessinsider.com