For a long time, I thought the key to making friends and being a good leader was to be interesting. I tried to be the person with fun stories and exciting hobbies. I thought if I was energetic and charismatic, people would like me.
But it wasn’t working.
I’d tell exciting stories at parties but feel alone. I’d lead meetings with energy but feel like no one was really on board. I’d go on dates, trying to impress, but they’d never lead to anything more.
Then I found a simple idea that changed everything for me: “Be interested, not interesting.”
This idea has changed my life. I now manage to connect with people more deeply and enjoy life much more.
Life has become more about focusing on other people. It’s made all the difference.
In this article, I’ll first explain why we feel the need to be interesting, and then explain the situations where it helps to focus more on being interested.
Why do we all want to be so interesting all the time?
The reason we want to be interesting lies deep in our evolutionary past, intertwined with the very fabric of what makes us human.
Our ancestors lived in tribes and small communities, where social cohesion was not just a pleasant aspect of life, but a matter of survival. Being excluded from the group could mean the difference between life and death.
To prevent exclusion, humans developed a keen sensitivity to the perceptions of others. We learned to gauge reactions, read emotions, and most importantly, to present ourselves in ways that would be deemed valuable by our peers. We learned to be interesting.
In the modern world, these evolutionary pressures have not vanished. In many ways, they have become more pronounced. We live in an age of social media and constant connectivity, where our lives are on display like never before. The fear of exclusion feels as potent as ever, and that inner insecurity still nudges us, urging us to fill the gap, to stand out, to be interesting.
Being interesting, then, is not just a personal quirk or a strategy to make friends; it’s a deeply ingrained response to a primordial fear. We dress it up, we refine it, and we may even see it as a form of art or self-expression. But beneath the surface, it’s a survival mechanism, honed over millions of years.
That urge to tell exciting stories at parties, to lead with energy, or to impress on a date is not merely a matter of social grace or personal ambition. It’s a manifestation of an existential anxiety, a response to a deep-seated fear that we are not enough as we are.
However, the paradox lies in the fact that the more we strive to be interesting, the more we may feel alone or disconnected. People can sense when someone is trying too hard, when the stories and the energy are more about the teller than the listener. And in those moments, our attempts to be interesting turn into a barrier, a wall that separates us from genuine connection.
This is where the idea of being “interested, not interesting” finds its profound power. By shifting our focus from ourselves to others, we not only mitigate that ancient fear of exclusion but also forge connections that are deeper and more authentic. We listen more, we understand better, and we find common ground. We replace the hollow emptiness of trying to impress with the fulfilling richness of truly connecting.
And in that shift, we might just find that being interested is not only more rewarding but also, in its own way, infinitely more interesting.
The psychological power of being interesting
The psychological power of being interested is both subtle and profound, weaving its way into the most fundamental aspects of our relationships, our sense of self, and our place in the world. It’s a shift from a posture of self-presentation to one of curiosity and engagement, and this simple change can have remarkable effects.
When we’re genuinely interested in others, we’re not just connecting on a superficial level. We’re recognizing and honoring the humanity in someone else. We’re acknowledging that they, like us, have dreams, fears, joys, and sorrows. We’re inviting them to share a part of their world with us, and in doing so, we create a bond that is both deeper and more resilient.
Being interested enables us to see others not as competitors, not as mere spectators to our performance, but as fellow travelers on the complex journey of life. It replaces the anxiety of being judged with the joy of discovery. It turns conversations from monologues into dialogues and transforms interactions from transactions into connections.
In a world that often feels fragmented and disconnected, being interested offers a path to wholeness. It reminds us that we are not alone, that we are part of a vast and intricate web of human experience. It connects us to something larger than ourselves, something more meaningful and more real.
Being interested also has a reflective power. It allows us to see ourselves through the eyes of others, to gain insights and perspectives that we might otherwise miss. By asking questions and truly listening, we learn not only about the person in front of us but also about ourselves. We discover our shared humanity, our common ground, and perhaps even our shared purpose.
It is a practice that can be cultivated and refined. It’s about more than just asking questions; it’s about asking the right questions, the ones that open doors rather than close them. It’s about listening without judgment, without expectation, without the constant mental chatter that so often gets in the way of true understanding.
And the rewards are huge. In professional settings, being interested can lead to more effective leadership, better teamwork, and a more compassionate and cohesive workplace culture. In personal relationships, it can deepen bonds, enhance trust, and create a sense of true partnership and collaboration.
But perhaps most importantly, being interested changes our relationship with ourselves. It eases the inner insecurity that drives us to be interesting, that relentless need to prove ourselves. It aligns us with a more authentic, more compassionate, and more grounded way of being in the world.
The path to being interested begins with a simple step
Imagine the possibilities that await when you approach life with curiosity rather than a desire to impress. Picture the friendships that might deepen, the connections that could flourish, and the understanding that can be gained when you truly listen to others.
It’s not about abandoning your own passions or stifling your personality. It’s about enriching your life and the lives of those around you by embracing the joy of discovery, the power of empathy, and the profound connection that comes from being genuinely interested in others.
Remember, you don’t have to perform to be valued. You don’t have to dazzle to be appreciated. Your worth is not determined by how interesting you are but by how interested you are in the world and the people around you.
Take a chance. Ask a question. Listen with your whole being. Let go of the need to be the star of the show, and instead, become a keen observer, a compassionate listener, and an active participant in the unfolding story of human experience.
In doing so, you’ll find that the most beautiful and fulfilling connections often happen in the most unexpected ways. You’ll find that being interested not only enriches your relationships but also brings a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment to your life.
Using this principle to deal with loneliness
In the video below, I share a practical strategy to using the principle of “being interested, not interesting”. I applied it to dealing with loneliness.
Check it out: