What makes someone more interesting than another person? That’s not always an easy question to answer. There are a lot of subjective viewpoints that are hard to measure especially when it comes to personality traits.
On average, I’d say that less than half the people I’ve met in my life have been interesting. It’s not that they are bad people; there is just nothing about them that makes them stand out in any way. But this makes me wonder what really makes someone interesting. Are there common traits that interesting people share?
Overall I think interesting people share general personality traits rather than specific ones. I can say this because the opposite of these traits are all things shared by uninteresting people. But I don’t want to say that you need all of these characteristics to be interesting. Only one or two are needed. However, having more of these would help in being interesting. While having none of these probably means you’re rather forgettable.
When it comes right down to it, what you do matters. No one remembers the person who always takes the safe, easy route. For example, do you spend every day in a cubicle filling out useless forms because the job is safe and secure or are you chasing your dream?
It isn’t as if someone who works in a cubicle is automatically uninteresting. They still can do interesting things in their free time. But if their free time is spent mostly playing video games or watching movies, they’re unlikely to get the experiences that make them memorable.
History is full of examples of people who play it too safely. They live their lives without risking for something better. Of course, these aren’t the people that you usually hear about. The ones you normally hear about are the ones that did or said something no one else did or accomplished something despite all the odds. Doing interesting things always includes an element of risk.
Everyone who starts a business, gets their PhD, becomes a writer or other similar things all take on risk to do it. Even hobbies such as traveling, mountaineering or white water rafting include risk. But these are the type of people I remember, not the ones who stay at home watching television every night.
I like to think of curiosity as a catalyst to risk-taking. If you’re curious what life is like in Spain, you’re more likely to travel there. Curiosity is what gets you questioning the world and your place in it. This changes you from a passive bystander in the world to being more active.
Also, it’s the key component to imagination. Making your mind wander through endless possibilities for you and where you can take your life. Some of the best ideas happen when you just let your imagination run wild.
And a little bit can go a long way. All it takes is for you to let loose your curiosity and wonder why everything is the way it is. Let out any questions you have and see what answers you come up with.
Everyone has opinions. The thing that sets interesting people apart from other people is that their opinions are unique and show a different point of view from other people. Forming your own opinion is important. If you’re just repeating what other people are saying then you’re not offering anything new or interesting.
The same goes for people who are afraid to say their opinions. Opinions are naturally divisive since others are free to form their own perhaps differing views. And some people seem to voluntarily withhold sharing their opinion unless it is very popularly held since they could cause conflict. Doing this just makes you boring and predictable.
Presence is a hard-to-define quality. You know it when you see it. In the theater they call it stage-presence. Basically, it is the mesh of your confidence, self-belief, strong body language and how well you socially interact. It isn’t always necessary to have presence in order to be interesting, but it helps.
Imagine it as if you’re watching a rock group perform live. If the group comes on stage and just plays and sings without showing any emotions or moving around at all, it would lead to a dull performance. This is true even if the songs are good.
The delivery and interaction you have with people can make all the difference. I’ve known people who can say the most boring everyday things with such presence that they don’t seem to be saying anything boring at all. Similarly, I know people who have interesting things to say, but don’t back it up with presence so it comes off more uninteresting than it actually is. Just this little twist can make all the difference.
Any other characteristics you think make people interesting?
photo credit: slalit