Boring people are everywhere – at work, at your kid’s school, maybe even at home. But perhaps the only thing worse than be trapped in a dull conversation with Mr. Monotonous is discovering that, actually, the boring one is you.
Don’t panic. You might be boring now, but that doesn’t mean you have to be boring forever. You just need to be aware of the warning signs and make a commitment to course-correct.
Psychologist Barbara Greenberg has come our rescue with a short questionnaire at Psychology Today that you can take to determine whether you’re boring the people around you. In her questions, some specific themes emerge for you to consider.
Your listening skills
Being un-boring isn’t just about saying all the interesting things that pop in your head. It’s about being a true participant in the conversation. That means actively listening to what the other person is saying rather than day-dreaming about how you can cut in to steer the conversation back to you.
Curiosity is your friend here, too. People know you’re listening—and are genuinely interested in what they’re saying—when you ask sincere follow-up questions. “So what was the best thing you ate during your trip to New Orleans?” or “Oh, that project sounds so challenging; tell me more!”
Talking too little or too much
We try to impart the practice of ‘taking turns’ in a conversation with kids at a very young age (if you haven’t seen that viral video of the dad “talking” to his baby son, now’s the time). And then we grow up and find ourselves either totally dominating a conversation or sort of mumbling our way through. Both are boring.
There’s a balance between expressing a mutual excitement or interest in a topic without totally stealing the conversation away.
You don’t need to divulge every last deep, dark secret in order to be interesting, but allowing yourself to become vulnerable on occasion by sharing fears or anxieties builds emotional bridges with others. If you’re too walled off, it may be hard for others to connect with you in conversation.
This does not – I repeat, this does not – mean you should complain incessantly about your awful co-worker or your lazy spouse while the pair of eyes across from you glaze over. That’s not being vulnerable; that’s being boring. Snap out of it and shift the conversation to a fresh topic.
It also doesn’t hurt to have a couple of go-to anecdotes, stories or questions you can pull out from time to time if you feel the conversation screeching to a halt.
You can tell when someone’s just not that into your conversation, right? They’re looking at their phone a little more than is polite, glancing around to flag down the restaurant server or just generally seem distracted or disinterested. Watch for signs that your current topic has overstayed its welcome.
In other words, do people seem to want to be around you? If they do, you’re probably not boring.
If you’re still not sure, go take Greenberg’s full questionnaire.