Being interested in others makes us interesting to them. No one wants to be around the world’s biggest know-it-all or the person who seems perfect all the time, yet many of us confuse being interesting with being interested.
Being interesting is all about you. It’s posting your latest photos on Instagram and Facebook and ensuring you announce to everyone how fabulous you are. Being interesting is often all about me, me, me.
However, being interested is about others. It’s listening with intention to the people around you and looking for ways where you can truly help support their goals and well being. We will look into the differences of self-centered thoughts of being interesting versus selfless thoughts of being interested in others.
In Ciara’s book Game Plan, she encourages us to have a theme that helps drive us as we pursue our goals. A couple years ago I made my theme for the year being interested in others rather than striving to be interesting. I didn’t succeed at it every day that year, but working toward that goal helped make me a better listener and more cognizant of others needs.
I was recently listening to a psychology study where the doctor would try to mediate between arguing couples. He would ask the wife to tell the husband what is bothering her. The wife explained, “I feel underappreciated at my job so I keep talking to you about it but you won’t listen. You just tell me to quit, but I don’t have any other opportunities on the horizon and we don’t have enough savings for me to not work which leaves me very worried, so I need your advice on what I should do.”
Then the doctor asked the husband to repeat what he just heard. The husband would respond with, “Oh, she’s just complaining about her job like she always does.” The husband was not truly interested in what his wife had to say so he was not listening with his heart.
The doctor tried to get the husband to look deeper, to take an interest in what the wife was actually saying and how she must be feeling. “But what did you hear?” The doctor asked again. “What words, what feelings? Did you hear fear? Anxiousness? Did you hear her ask you to listen and offer her your advice?”
The doctor then asked the wife to state her concerns again, asking the husband to listen with intention so that this time he might really hear what she said and be able to respond to it. It is that intention that makes all the difference in being a good listener and truly being interested in what another person has to say. Be engaged. Be part of the conservation. Be an active player in an open dialogue, not the dominator of it.
Taking interest in others doesn’t just mean listening to them, it’s also about respecting the value they bring to your life and reinforcing and taking interest in those connections with them. If you have a friend who loves attending business seminars, be sure to invite them any time you plan on attending a business conference. Likewise if that same friend simply hates something such as rock climbing because they have a fear of heights, don’t be inconsiderate in making activities they would not be interested in the only time you’re offering to connect with them; instead value your shared interests and connect with them on those shared interests. Value them for the shared interests they strengthen in your life and don’t try to put them in situations they don’t want to be in.
The Interested Challenge
I challenge you in the next week to focus on being truly interested in others rather than trying to be the most interesting person in the room. Listen with intent the next time someone talks to you and you just might be surprised about how many shared interests, passions, experiences and dreams you have in common.