4 Characteristics Interesting People Have

Characteristics of Interesting People

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?

Common Characteristics

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.

1. Risk-Taking

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.

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2. Curiosity

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.

3. Opinionated

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.

4. Presence

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

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Comments

  1. This is a great topic. And although, I think it’s probably covered in ‘presence’, the thing I most commonly associate with interesting people is a sense of humor. The people in my life that are the most interesting are also the ones who laugh loudly and often.

    • Interesting people often do have a good sense of humor. It goes along with being good at socializing with people. Although, I don’t think it is necessary for interesting people to have a good sense of humor, but it helps.

  2. I guess I’m halfway interesting ;) I definitely take risks and am curious, but I don’t know if I possess the third and fourth qualities. I think most everyone’s interesting, though. Even people who don’t chase their dreams. The reasons why they don’t can be extremely interesting.

  3. I love this post! This is exactly what I’ve been leaning towards for so long. I’d like to see what other characteristics people attribute to interesting people. I wrote a post on the most interesting person I know and it all comes down to curiosity. Or at least I believe…

    http://almostbohemian.com/curiosity/

    I think another thing that you really nailed it with is presence. It is hard to define, because even quiet but in control people have a huge presence. This is something I will have to really reflect on and consider for a future post! Thanks for the inspiration!

    • I’ve noticed that quiet and in control people can have a good presence too. It is sometimes a hard to define quality about people that can really draw you in.

  4. Hey Steve,

    This is good as it gets people to ask, “Am I interesting?”
    We all are unique. But, are we interesting?
    A good book is: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.
    He basically asks whether you’re living a story worth telling or not.
    The good news is that a story can be changed at any time. Especially when you’re the author!

    Live it LOUD!

    • Hey Rob, I think you raise a good point about the difference between unique and interesting. They aren’t always the same thing. I also like asking yourself if you’re living a story worth telling or not. I often ask myself that very question.

  5. I absolutely agree with this post. Sometimes, you meet people and you can’t put a finger on what makes them stand out. I guess a lot of it would have to do with confidence which part of presence. If people are comfortable with who they are, they become interesting. And in a way, attractive. Thanks for sharing Steve!

    • I think being comfortable is important both for confidence and becoming interesting. It just shows that you know and accept yourself and that can help make you stand out.

  6. I like this post…makes sense to me! How about passion? I know there’s overlap with some of the others, but I could see it on the list, too.

  7. I agree; I’ve met very few people that I would consider interesting. I guess I’m 3/4 interesting. I guess I’m a risk taker and curious, I’m opinionated but I keep them to myself around people I don’t know well/don’t assert myself, and I can have presence (can it come and go?)-some nights I’m just “on”.

    Great post!

    • Oh yeah, I think it can come and go. I’ve had really “on” nights and I’ve had “off” nights before. I think it all depends on the circumstances and where you are. Hmm, does that mean presence can be conditional? I think you’ve given me something new to think about.

  8. I think something that makes someone interesting is being a great storyteller. I’m not talking about someone who will tell a story but drag it out way to long. A masterful story teller who knows how to structure it and keep it the right length. People love to be around great story tellers.

    • I admit that I can get hooked to some people’s story telling abilities. It all depends on the person and the story. However, unless they have several good stories to tell, I might just think the story is interesting, not the person. But if they do have several stories to tell and they get on a roll, I can’t help but listen in.

  9. Steve,

    Great post. I enjoy being around people who have the a curisoity that inspires them to try things different. I like people who have a sense of adventure and in order to be sucessful there is definitely a risk reward relationship. The characteristics that you covered in this post are the characteristics I look for in the people I spend my time with. Thanks for sharing.

    • Frank, I like being around people who have a sense of adventure too. You’re right that part of being adventurous is having a curiosity to try different things. There is something fun about being around people like that.

  10. Steve,
    I think you nailed this. Especially with “The Presence”. I attribute that “presence. to having confidence not to be confused with arrogance.

    It’s that “je ne sais quoi”. They have that magnetic personality that you hope just hope rubs off on you…

    By coincidence, I just wrote the anti-thesis to this post over at my blog. You should check it out. I hope it makes you laugh and smile.

    “how to be a boring person” at
    http://www.annieandre.com/2011/05/bore-everyone-10-steps-to-being-a-boring-person-and-live-a-dill-life/

    cheers and have an INTERESTING DAY STEVE. :)

    • It’s so true that confidence and arrogance are not the same thing. Confidence makes you want to be around that person, while arrogance wants you to be away from them. It’s one of those things that helps get you that magnetic personality.

  11. I like this post and completely agree.

  12. Steve – I think you covered the main ones.

    I might add that because interesting people are curious, they are also good listeners and they love to find out more about other people. No one likes to hear someone blab on forever about themselves – it’s a give and take exchange in learning. This is why I think travelers are such interesting people – they like to hear about what other people are doing.

    I get what you are trying to say with “Opinionated”. Normally, I would view this as a negative trait – someone who has their mind made up and this is the way it is. Think of anyone you had to work with in the past where it’s “my way or the highway”. There’s nothing wrong with having formed your own ideas on matters – that’s what make you unique. However, I think interesting people are always opening their minds to new ideas and suggestions, and constantly adding to their world view.

  13. Vacuous. Interesting to WHOM? To me, an interesting person is one who attracts me in some way and I can never honestly predict what that will be. I have found some mousy, insecure cubicle dwellers to be more interesting than some world travelers I have known. I’ve known some shut-ins with more fascinating (and thus interesting) inner lives they express over a cup of coffee than a roomful of well-paid intellectuals.

    We are all different with different tastes and desires and there can be no one or three or five things that any two or ten people will settle on and agree are the definitions of what is ‘interesting.’ Unless, of course, you like to label things to their lowest common denominator, appealing to what is ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ for five minutes. Like what falls into a prescription for popular social behavior. The manner of a clique, perhaps?

    Risk-taking, curiosity, presence, opinions? That covers almost everyone at some point in time or other. By this definition, all children are most interesting than any adult. There, I can agree.

    What about a morbid sense of humor? Or a small nose? A gift for mimicry or the ability to play the lute? An interesting person might be someone who takes an interest in something other than the self, someone who sits quietly in the back, observing, the one whose name you never knew because you were too busy being attracted to the shallow characteristics of those who only want your attention.

  14. RA Hamilton says:

    Strange. The author seemed to actually have a legitimate point until he / she got to number 4. Appearance? How is that interesting? It’s as if they really didn’t have a 4th point but had to come up with something.

    A person’s experience, intellect, family, friends, current projects or even the hardships they may have endured would have rescued this article.

  15. Steve,

    Where was I when you put this post up?! All 4 points are bulls-eyes!

    “there is just nothing about them that makes them stand out in any way”
    ~that’s exactly right. This doesn’t mean they aren’t good, honest folks. It doesn’t mean that more than half the people in your life have no value… it just means they just aren’t that interesting.

    “They live their lives without risking for something better.” ~For something better… for them, for a neighbor, for a friend, for a stranger, for the world… ANYthing.. If you’re just taking up space and not even thinking about what you have to offer… you’re wasting space and oxygen. It could only be the block you live on or the apartment building you live in, (while you sit on the couch and play your video games) what do you “risk”? Are you going outside and talking to the children or young people about maybe planting some flowers somewhere there have never been any? These risks may be incredibly personal or small to another’s mind, but what is “interesting” is that you thought of it and are trying to make a “better”…day, place, even, a better you.

    Curiosity… What? Are you a mole? Curiosity can make you get out of bed everyday! What possibilities are in this brand new day? Walking down your street, maybe walking out the front door- is there going to be a grizzly bear trying to get into the barn, are you going to have to stay inside until the cow moose with her gangly young one wonder back off your porch? Are you going to hear something today that will change how you see something? Is someone going to need your help? If you aren’t curious, what are you?

    Well, ok. Opinionated, I may very well be. However, there is the flipside and that is a fence-rider, and of course in MY opinion, they are the worst type of critters walking around taking up space. Use your head, form an opinion, at least the beginning of one, to give you a place to start. Your opinion does count. Own it. Don’t be a fence-rider, there is no honor in that.

    Presence is a great one! (Nothing there about appearance.) Presence and how you described it with “it is the mesh of your confidence, self-belief, strong body language and how well you socially interact.” Dead-on What I tell my trainees, when they get the first-time-out-jitters and don’t think they’ll pull it off, (because your presence is very important) “Fake it” Fake it until you have it down. Fake it until you believe it. When you believe it, so will others.

    I’m glad you included a link to this one! I loved it. Thanks, Steve. ~Amber-Lee

  16. Hey Steve,

    Dude, you write some great posts and this one is no exception.

    The fact that it makes me wonder if ‘Interesting’ is really what these 4 points describe or if there’s more to it, makes it even more thought provoking.

    When I got married we wrote our own vows (ahhh) and put a phrase in there about ‘celebrating our differences’ which is something we want to aspire to and remember in our relationship when we have differences of opinion rather than arguing our point of view.

    Personally I find people fascinating. Period. But you’re right, some more than others. What I particularly love is when I find a whole new dimension to someone I know quite well (e.g. recently at a party a fellow football-dad reluctantly took the mic of a karaoke machine. He sounded awesome! Turns out he is in a really cool band which I never new and revealed a whole new side to him I didn’t know about).

    Anyways, another great post my friend!

  17. Thank you so much for this
    I’ve just randomly googled “What makes me an interesting person” to help me with my personal statement, it’s helped a lot!

    Lets hope it gets resultssssss

    xo

  18. Caleb Williams says:

    Check, check, check, and check.

  19. Oh dear, a list of things which makes someone an insufferable bore, this is the wish list of the un-self-confident and the bad habits of the arrogant.

    We all wish to be the centre of attention, to be adored and to have everyone think we are hilarious, just imagine a room full of ‘centres of attention’ AMAZING PARTY!!

    The complete opposite is really true, we are interested in people who are interested in us. If you like me, I am more likely to like you, if you ask me all about myself and treat me with the respect I believe I deserve, then I will think you are amazing and interesting.

    Want to be interesting?

    1. Listen to people, ask questions
    A question proves you are listening and gives the talker an excuse to talk more, make the odd quip or joke and make sure you smile and nod

    2. Be friendly
    Face the person you are engaged with, don’t exclude members of the circle you are standing in, be respectful, smile and use people’s names

    3. Talk, but not about yourself
    If someone asks you a question, answer it and ask them the same question or a question on the same topic, really no one wants to hear your long rambling funny story, above all get in the game, comments and questions, even if you think they are stupid, are better than silence

    4. Compliment
    A genuine compliment is worth more than any story, smile or joke, and false flattery is the worst sin

    5. Be honest
    You ARE original, but you end up saying the same banal comments as everyone else because you panic or you think your comment may be stupid or obvious, really honestly, say what’s on your mind, it is NOT stupid and it is almost certainly original, and original is interesting

  20. I agree, I would love to know how someone can become interesting without pushing the boundaries of their personality too far. You know? I want to be a much more interesting person without compromising so much of my personality that those that know me well can tell that maybe I am trying too hard to be something that I am not.

    I think when I was in high school I had alot more presence. I wasn’t exactly the most confident person in the world, but I dared to be different and didn’t really conform to being and looking the way others did. However, I think slowly as I grew into adulthood I lost that spark…now I feel just like everyone else and it kills me to think that people probably now view me as forgettable because I lack the characteristics of an interesting person. I am a bit curious at best.

Trackbacks

  1. […] This article was actually (ahem) interesting but I need tangible, direct suggestions, like stab a stranger on the bus to make a strong presence on the bus, etc. (One website suggested you could be interesting by telling someone if they french kiss you, you’ll buy them a drink, but that’s seemed too direct for me.) […]

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