4 Ways Not To Be Boring
Even though I’m a decent writer, I’m not a very good talker. I ramble. I say “uh” when I try to find the right words. At least when I write, I can edit out all the “uhs” and my rambling, but when I talk, I don’t have time to edit. I just go on and on and on. In other words, I’m boring.
I’m an expert on boring. I’ve been told I’m a boring person. People aren’t usually that bold and tell me to my face (only a couple people have ever done that), but I can tell. My voice is monotone. I can belabor a topic. When I start talking, people around me start yawning (or try to suppress the yawn). The good part about being boring is that I can deal with boring aspects of my profession better than most, so my co-workers usually don’t question what I do very often because they don’t want to be bored. That’s great for my professional life, but it’s not helpful socially.
Since I’m aware that I’m boring, I consciously figure out ways not to put people to sleep. That’s an advantage I have over other boring people. A lot of boring people aren’t even aware of their dull nature. I’m not the most scintillating conversationalist, but I at least pick up on the non-verbal signals of those around me. I notice the yawns and see the glances at watches and cell phones. And I take those cues as unintended insults. So when I have to make small talk, I have four techniques that I use to try to hide the fact that I’m boring.
People love talking or thinking about themselves. Whenever I see an acquaintance nodding off during a conversation, I ask a question. A question, even a stupid one, keeps people’s attention. “How are you today?” is a boring question, so I replace it with something topical like, “Did the traffic suck today, or what?” I also ask “What do you think about ____________ ?” questions. For example, I might ask:
“What do you think about the game?”
“What do you think about the president’s speech?”
“What do you think about tensions in the Middle East?”
That’s the good thing about questions. Once I ask a good question, I usually don’t have to say anything else. Nobody knows I’m boring.
Asking questions also makes people think that I’m interested in them. I’m not, but it helps if they think I am. People are more tolerant of a boring guy if they think the boring guy is interested in them.
KEEP IT SHORT
People have short attention spans, and it gets worse when you’re a naturally boring person.
When I start to lose somebody’s attention (and I’ve already asked my good question), I just say something like, “I’ve got to get something to drink,” and move on. That way I don’t have the chance to be boring.
Supposedly P.T. Barnum said: “Always leave them wanting more.”
P.T. Barnum wasn’t a boring guy. For me, it’s: “Leave them before they get bored.”
TALK ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS (or football)
In school, I was a borderline social outcast until I learned to start talking about football. Once I did, I became accepted by jocks, wannabe jocks, and nerds too. Well, I was always accepted by nerds because I was one, but that’s not the point. Even though I still wasn’t invited to the cool parties, I could show up without getting kicked out… as long as I talked about football (and NOT comic books or role playing games).
As I got older, I realized that not everybody talks about football. That’s where relationships come in. Everybody is interested in relationships, even people who aren’t in them. I don’t talk about my wife and kids because if you brag about how great things are, then people get bored, but if you talk about family squabbles, THAT’S really interesting stuff, but then the family gets mad, and it’s not worth the headache to be interesting. So I talk about relationships that I’m not involved with.
Reality shows are great for conversation because nobody likes anybody on reality shows (especially shows involving housewives), so you can say horrible things about these reality stars without any repercussions. I’m usually a season or two behind on most reality shows, so I can pretend to listen while the person I’m talking to catches me up. Talking about reality shows keeps me (and others) from talking about the relationships of people we know. I don’t talk about relationships of acquaintances or co-workers because that would be gossip, and gossip is bad (but very interesting).
Even people who are bored by tedious details will listen to stories. The great orators use narratives as metaphors for the points they’re trying to make. The stories are almost always lies, but the audience usually falls for it. Before I got married and had kids, I used to tell outrageous stories about my personal life (chronicled in my ebook Having a Few and Getting Some), and I was stunned by how many people actually believed my stories were true. I guess it’s tough to tell when a guy with a monotone voice is lying.
So basically, if you tell really short stories about relationships and ask a question every once in a while, then you probably won’t be boring. But since I’ve gotten married, I don’t tell outrageous stories about my personal life.
Every once in a while, I check to see if I’m still a boring guy. I deviate from my own rules and just start talking about what I want to talk about. Sure enough, within seconds people around me start yawning. I just have to accept that I’m a boring guy when I talk. The best that I can do is follow my four tips and hope that nobody realizes I’m a boring guy. I guess it’s okay to be boring as long as nobody else knows about it.