“We are all self-absorbed, locked in our own worlds. It is a therapeutic and liberating experience to be drawn outside ourselves and into the world of another.” — Robert Greene, The Laws of Human Nature
People who are bad at social interactions play the lazy game.
What’s the lazy game?
According to Vanessa Van Edwards, lead researcher at The Science Of People, it’s our tendency to let social interactions proceed naturally, without any deliberate effort from us to be interesting.
“Social skill” is named a skill for a reason. If you don’t deliberately work on it, you don’t get better at it.
There’s an art to interacting with people. And if you understand it, you don’t need to be a good talker to be interesting.
As Robert Greene explained, most people are naturally self-absorbed because we all want to impress. But trying to impress is different from being impressive. If you’re ready to master the art, here are five things you can start doing today.
1. Don’t play the lazy game
This is the major difference between interesting and uninteresting people.
If you’ve come across socially magnetic people, you’ll realize that most of the things they do rarely happen by chance. From the way they dress up for the occasion to how they talk, sit, and walk, they make sure they put some deliberate effort into it.
Interesting people are not lazy about appearing impressive in social interactions. When celebrities show up for talk shows, some even go as far as doing an opening dance, then they start the talk with a small joke about themselves. These things don’t just happen, they are planned.
Here’s a simple secret uninteresting people don’t understand: Being interesting requires deliberate effort.
Don’t say “I’m naturally not just an interesting person.” Or, “I’m an introvert, therefore, I’m not interesting.” That’s the lazy game.
If you want to be interesting, take deliberate steps. Show up to the occasion looking good, comfortable, and confident. Know the impact you want to leave on the people you meet. This simple mindset alone is the foundation for good social interaction.
2. Have a few go-to stories
When I resumed college as a freshman, I had neither a friend nor a hostel to stay in. And because I got to school late on my first day, I had to squeeze myself into a small abandoned room within the school for the night.
That day still retains its trophy as the worst day of my life.
Part of the ceiling was opened. Rats and cockroaches were flying around the room. I couldn’t get five seconds of sleep.
I have told this story over and over in social interactions, and it never ceases to crack people up.
I have been on several occasions where one story changed everything for me. After a few experiences, I thought to myself, “What if I could deliberately orchestrate this?”
Stories are like the cheat codes to being an interesting person. A great story could open doors to endless interesting conversations. And what’s even greater is that we all have stories.
Think about your best or worst days. Think about your birthdays. Think about life-defining moments. They are all great stories you can share to bond with and entertain people.
Related: How To Be A More Charismatic Person
3. Change the way you look at social interactions
As the American author, Wayne Dyer once said, when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
Most people look at social interactions the wrong way. Instead of seeing it as an opportunity to network and learn new things, they try to use it to get validation from others.
They get so worried about being liked that they never try to ask the question “Do I like them?”
The more they try to impress, the more apprehensive they become. They turn inward. And before they know it, the signs of anxiety begin to manifest in their body language.
If you want to be an interesting person, you must learn to take the opposite direction. Look outward. Instead of wondering if they like you, ask yourself, “Do I like them?” “What’s interesting about this person (or people) that I’d like to explore?”
Looking at social interactions like this suddenly changes it from a scary activity where you’re afraid of being judged to a fun thing. You’re no longer the one on the spot, trying to impress people. You’re the observer, finding what’s interesting about others. As Rober Greene wrote in The 48 Laws of Power,
“Each person you meet is like an undiscovered country, with a very particular psychological chemistry that you will carefully explore.”
4. Ask stimulating questions
Stimulating questions are different from personal questions. And you don’t want to mix them up, especially when you’re meeting someone new.
A personal question invades someone’s privacy. A stimulating question, on the other hand, encourages someone to speak more. Simple examples are questions like, “What book has impacted your life the most?” Or, “What’s your favorite movie of all time?”
When you ask someone questions like these, it opens endless doors for people to talk about the things they genuinely care about — in this case, a favorite book or movie.
Think about it.
A conversation is only as interesting as the kind of questions you ask. Dull questions will put a conversation to sleep. As Vanessa Van Edwards explained, people who have boring conversations are simply people who never ask stimulating or interesting questions.
A rule of thumb is to have some go-to stimulating questions in your pocket, just in case you need them.
Also read: How To Be More Social
5. The beautiful mess effect
Remember the story about my worst first day in college?
The major reason it works isn’t just because it’s a funny story. It is also great because it puts me in a vulnerable place. People like it when you can take a little joke without feeling offended. It shows that you accept that you’re imperfect.
In psychology, this phenomenon is called “The Beautiful Mess.” And it explains that embracing your vulnerabilities makes you more charming.
This may seem counterintuitive. But when you think about it, it makes sense.
It’s not your vulnerabilities that make you off-putting. It’s how you handle them. If you appear like you hate yourself because of your vulnerabilities, then, you’re not going to create a beautiful mess effect for yourself.
On the other hand, when you take your shortcomings in a lighthearted way and even laugh about them, you empower other people. People no longer see your shortcomings; they see someone who has a strength of character.
Furthermore, when you’ve accepted yourself, you won’t feel the pressure to impress people in social interactions.
The major point in this article is simple: As Ryan Holiday wrote in his book, Ego is the Enemy,
“Impressing people is utterly different from being truly impressive.”
When you’re impressing people, the spotlight is on you. But someone who is truly impressive has figured out a way to make others the star. This is what interesting people do.