Now before you read that title and think…”this guy’s fishing for compliments”, believe me when I say, I know exactly how and why I’m not interesting. Or at least how and why I wasn’t that interesting and the shortfalls I have, even now as an adult.
It all came to me in a blistering second of self realisation. And it happened on a dance floor. I was eleven years old. The world revolved around me. Heck, when you live in a town of 478 people called Moulamein and you’re 11, what else is there? I was at a Blue Light Disco for under agers held at the Moulamein RSL Club. The lights were strobing and flashing, I was dressed in KISS attire and even though I didn’t know why people kissed, I knew I wanted to that night. The world revolved around ME. I was chatting in a really cool manner with some mates when I asked a random question. It was left field, and I didn’t really anticipate the impact that would be felt via the extremely honest answer I received. I turned and asked one of my mates, “do you think I talk too much about myself?” My friend didn’t hesitate…”Yes. Way too much”. Wow. Slap me now. I knew I’d thought it may be true but now it was definite. It was confirmed by a third party – heck – a second party.
It’s stuck with me for this long. And why? Because I was soon to realise the world didn’t in fact revolve around me…or because of me…or even in spite of me. The world just revolved and I was one of the tiny, little ants going about their business. Deep for an eleven year old, eh? However not all lessons were learnt that night. Fast forward just eleven years later and I was again beginning to feel the sting of rejection. I wanted to be an actor. Hell, if the world didn’t revolve around me I may as well try to make it! I’d just finished my degree in self gratification – BA in Acting for Screen and Stage, when we were told to go to Sydney for some “go sees”.
A “go see” is literally that. You walk into flash buildings with flash people called Casting Agents, Directors and Management Agents, and you talk to each other for the Agent, or Manager or Director to work out whether you have the “it” factor. They are sussing out whether or not you are interesting or not. Tough gig. Particularly when all that is going through your brain is “you talk about yourself too much”. Now, if I could go back in time I would probably treat these “go sees” differently. I answered all their questions with the same boring answers I bet everyone else did. “So, Adam, tell me what you dislike in this world”. I pause. ”Poverty…I don’t really like the fact there are poor people out there…” Yawn. “Umm…Rude people. They kind of ruin my day…” Snnnoorre. Really, that’s what I said. ”Poverty and rude people”. Now I know what you’re thinking. They’re not that bad an answer, but yeah, couldn’t you think of something better to say?
And hence, my topic. “How to be interesting by someone who’s not”. The problem with a conversation is, you don’t necessarily have the time to plan for the best responses to things. You answer with what is going through your mind at that exact second. Later that night you will toss and turn thinking “why didn’t I say this, or that”. Too late. So what’s the solution? What can you do to better prepare?
For starters, it’s not all about the conversation. If you cheated in a test, you looked at the back of the book before trying to work out the answer yourself, right? It’s like that with being an interesting person. If you just fake it, study it, but you don’t really own it, you’ll end up in the same place. I have a huge disadvantage in that I don’t really follow sport. Weird right? I read an entire newspaper except for the back few pages – because I’m not interested in sports. But that makes it really hard to relate to people when nearly every other person on the face of the earth watches or follows at least some kind of sport. So what do I do about that? Nothing. I change the topic – or ask questions so I find out more.
People feel more intelligent when they are explaining something to someone. They feel like an expert on the subject. That’s now what I focus on with sport conversations. I admit to being naive, but ask questions anyway. That way I find out more about the other person and the subject they are passionate about.
The other thing I learnt from my dramatic realisation on the dance floor of the RSL and later on with my acting “go sees”, was that whilst we are ants in a universe of endless space and time, we are still ants with purpose – just not to exist solely for ourselves. It is more purposeful and interesting to contribute more to others than it is to yourself. People appreciate and are interested in new initiatives, in creations, in developments that encompass a whole community not just an individual. People like to relate to others but find something new in the way that they relate to them. It’s why comedians get so many laughs at their stand up gigs. They are saying what you already know, but from a different and interesting angle. People like to laugh. Find the funniness in every situation and you will soon find that special, interesting element that keeps the conversation or mood going.
People like honesty but not brashness. They like a belief system that represents the good of the community, not the just one, single person. Most of all, they like to know there’s something in it for them. That’s it. As I heard in a sales conference years later, the customer wants to know “WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME”? And it’s not just customers, it’s people in general. The reason people switch off in conversations or turn their back when your’e saying something that’s important, is that it’s not important to them. They don’t see a game plan with an end result that makes their life more pleasurable or fulfilled.
My friend on the dance floor years ago was really telling me that I wasn’t contributing to his life. The agents that didn’t pick me up as an actor, who instead sent me a letter saying “thanks for coming in, but you’re not right for our books” were really saying “you won’t earn us any money”. The most interesting people I know in this world, are the ones who are interested in me when I talk to them. They may be important, famous even, but they take a genuine interest in me. And that’s the answer to this question. If you want to be interesting in this world, you have to be interested in others…and a little bit funny. Funny helps too.
David Brent from the UK office is running Wagga Wagga Real Estate Company Fitzpatricks Real Estate and it’s Prankster Day in the office! Adam Drummond plays David Brent in this second season of the Fitzpatricks Christmas Special
I love things to be black and white. There is a clear line between one side and the other. Unfortunately I have had to come to understand that life is full of greys. I thought of an analogy (from an experience that actually happened in real life) to put into perspective both sides of an argument.
Two cars are driving in the same direction, one directly behind the other. For clarity, the car behind is a safe distance from the front one and is not tail gating. The car in front uses the right indicator to turn right. The car behind runs up the back of the front car and causes an accident. It’s as if the back car didn’t receive a warning that the car in front was turning. Who’s in the wrong? At first, you will come to the credible conclusion that it was the car behind. It even states it in the book on driving doesn’t it. However what if I told you that whilst the front car used the blinker to indicate, the blinker was not working and thus the rear car had no idea the turn was about to happen? Is it still the second driver at fault? There are three types of people in the situation of the first driver. Those who don’t bother to indicate, and turn anyway. Those who indicate and let others know their intentions. And finally those who believe they have indicated, but actually haven’t.
If you can think of every argument you’ve ever had with someone, think of yourself as the first driver. Have you caused the accident by not checking your equipment? Probably less than 1% of drivers will check their brakes and indicators prior to driving and not including a check at the mechanics. Most of us find out about by one of three means. A cop pulls us over. Another motorist or friend lets us know. Or, we end up in an accident.
Then we have the three types of second driver. There is the driver who blames the one in front for not indicating. The driver who understands that equipment and human error are sometimes to blame and forgives the front driver. And finally, the driver who is prepared for the unexpected and avoids the accident altogether. In an argument which one are you?
The point of this analogy is that NOT all outcomes are caused by black and white circumstances. There can be grey in everyone’s different perspectives and grey in both sides of a story. The challenge of course is to put yourself in the other’s shoes. Nobody ever truly wins an argument when they don’t understand where the other is coming from. Are you the type of person who can acknowledge the grey without requiring the black and the white?
We all know people who turn without indicating deliberately. They are above having to show their intentions. Usually in an argument they are the ones who have done no research, have no empathy and have no intention of backing down. They are often the bullies at school who turn into bullies in life. We all know people who believe they have indicated who haven’t. They swear they were in the right because their intentions were right. It’s not until someone else points out some facts that they begin to question their side of the story. And finally, we know of people who are so diligent, so amazingly in control, that they know their equipment is working properly from the outset. These are the leaders of the world. The people who know what they want, where they are headed and how they are going to get there. They don’t have arguments, they have constructive conversations. ”Crucial conversations” as one book calls it. They know of the grey syndrome because when they are the rear driver they’re ready for accidents that haven’t even happened yet.