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4 Ways Not To Be Boring

February 13, 2014
The least he could do is try to stifle his yawn when I'm talking to him.  (image via Wikimedia)

The least he could do is try to stifle his yawn when I’m talking to him. (image via Wikimedia)

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.

ASK QUESTIONS

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).

TELL STORIES

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.

From → Pop culture

43 Comments
  1. I have difficulty speaking as well! I can write anything, novels, plays limericks, but when I have to speak I am nearly a mute. They say “those who can’t do teach”, well it seems for me and a lot of other writers “those who can’t speak, write”.

    • I’m glad you responded. I was wondering how many writers go through the same thing.

      If you write limericks and recite them, most people won’t think you’re boring (if they’re the right kind of limericks).

      • Hahaha!!!! Well despite my Irish heritage I’m not good at coming up with limericks. It’s like signing, you don’t have to be good at it to like doing it. LOL

  2. There’s some brilliant advice snuck in among all this self-deprecation.

    Thank you!

  3. Everyone on WordPress is socially deficient. Why do you think they blog? It’s like listening to a book on tape. No interaction. Zero. Zip. Zilch.
    Why bother having a conversation when you can just tap at your keyboard? That should have been Way # 5. Don’t talk. Blog.

    For the record, you’re SO not boring. It’s everyone else I was talking about. And by everyone else I meant me.

    • How can the Queen of Snark be boring, Samara? 🙂

      • How about, I’m sitting here like a zombie with a laptop blogging. At 2 am.
        I’m the most boring, mundane person in the universe.

        Is it 2 am where you live, X ?(she asks, trying to pry what time zone he lives in out of him).I’m not. I’m just playing. I’m an insomniac.

        And I love that we hijacked Jimmy’s blog! He waits forever to answer comments, and the Queen does NOT like to be kept waiting. He also needs to update his tweets. look ->

        X, your last post was amazing. I would have commented if I wasn’t a socially deficient self-absorbed blogger.

        • I’m in the same time zone as you are, Samara. In fact, since there is a way you can find out yourself, I can just tell you that I live near Boston.
          Your last post was great, too. But sometimes I just can’t find anything to say, so I don’t.

          • OMG, I’m always near Boston! My college BFF lives there. I could drive to your house with my eyes closed. If, for instance, you needed me and squirrels had attacked my face- I could still get there.

            How on EARTH would I find out where you live? That’s creepy. Can people find out where I live? That’s creepier still. Please tell me that’s not true.

            I’m on my phone, and I suddenly realized we’re not on either of our blogs. We’re pulling a Trent-Art blog hijack! Do you think Jimmy will mind?

            • Samara, please don’t drive to Boston with your eyes closed, especially not in this weather. Also, if squirrels were to attack your face, I think I should be the one driving to help you.
              When you leave comment on WP, you leave a record with your IP address and whatever e-mail you have connected to the blog. It’s often possible to find out from the IP address the general area where someone lives, at least within a few miles, and some people even connect their real-name e-mail to blog, thinking that it’s not visible – but it is to the blog where you left your comment. I had made this mistake myself. If you actually leave a comment on my blog, I’d be able to tell you what I see.

              • Okay- you now officially have me freaking out, inspector gadget.

                If Jimmy Norman shows up wandering around my neighborhood because you just gave him a cyber road map to my town, I will NOT be happy.

                • Sorry, but it’s better to know these things in advance, don’t you think?
                  And if Jimmy were to show up looking for me, I’d be honored. 🙂

                  • Then you don’t know Jimmy like I know Jimmy.

                    • As in, “HEEEEEREEEE’ JIMMMY!!”? 🙂
                      And, can you please say at least something like “worst post EVER” anywhere on my blog so I could tell you what’s in your WP footprint?

                    • I’m commenting now. Because seriously dude, that shiz should have been FP’d.

                  • You know what? Your last post should be FP’d, dammit. I’m emailing the people in charge.

  4. To an extent, I agree with samara. That is one of the primary reasons I decided to put up a blog. I know that between my mind and my tongue the words are stuck somewhere.

  5. Hmm… That’s pretty good advice if you find yourself at dull parties or on delayed trains (or wherever you end up with people you don’t know or like much, but if you never talk about what you want to talk about, you’ll probably miss all the other people who are actually interested. ..

  6. I’m convinced that I am most certainly not the boring one — everyone else is, that’s all. Football? Relationships? Television? Bah! I write books. About people who fall in love with toasters and overthrow Apocalyptic Cheeseburgers. (Well, maybe not the cheeseburger bit, but the toaster part is one hundred percent truth.)

    On a slightly more serious note (as I’m rarely more serious than slightly not-sarcastic), thanks for the laugh. We should start a Boring Elocutionist Club.

  7. I suspect I am boring as well. I could pick up a tip or two from here 🙂

  8. I used the Ask Questions one a lot. Of course, since I tend to be a good listener, it usually means I end up bored more than the other person.

  9. Ok, so I’ve just been totally skewered. I wrote this: http://thewriterslairblog.com/2014/02/13/lost-in-translation-storytelling/

    and posted it just seconds before reading your post! Color me stupid.

    Great post.

  10. Oh, and you’re better than a decent writer. I always look forward to your stuff!

  11. I think you have really great advice here. I employ the “Ask Questions” method A LOT, just to steer the attention and obligation to talk off myself. I’ve also noticed that if you rarely talk and you suddenly open your mouth, then all heads turn to you. The problem then is that the expectations are also now sky-high…I’ve also seen the polite and subtle look of “Oh, is that it?” 😉

  12. I enjoyed reading your post and I wasn’t bored the least bit. Some observations–asking questions implies tactfulness. I’ve inserted my foot in my mouth many times. I might add to the, “Ask Questions” part–establish commonality. Find something you and the other person have in common–then discuss. The tell stories suggestion was great–I’ve found that self-deprecating humor/stories worked for me.

    • Tactfulness can be an issue sometimes. The good thing about being boring is that when I accidentally say something tacky or tactless, people usually don’t notice. And if they do, then I’m no longer a boring guy; I’m a tactless guy. I’m not sure which one is worse.

  13. Ha! So glad I am not alone in this. When I am talking, people also yawn. Often. Or they don’t listen in the first place, and when I (finally) stop talking they realize the silence and then ask ‘What did you just say?’ Most times I don’t bother repeating, so I too prefer writing. Just because somebody is a boring talker, though, doesn’t mean they don’t have to say interesting things.
    Thank you so much for this post!

    • I think a lot of it is the voice. I know some people with booming voices, and I swear they’re duller than me, but their tone and inflection make them sound more interesting than they really are. Do you have a quiet voice?

      • Thanks for answering!
        No, I have a deep, full voice which most people allegedly find more attractive and worth listening to. Maybe I’m just talking too long before I get “to the point”, but there’s always time to learn.
        You’re writing is awesome, by the way. Thank you for doing and sharing it!

  14. That’s why I prefer writing; it’s such a luxury to edit comments and come out sounding reasonably interesting.

  15. Love this post and the conversation:) I’m the opposite. I’m the extrovert. I teach high school and I’m making them study public speaking this year. They started out hating me. I’m glad I still have tires, but they’re beginning to love it. I’m glad. I was getting worries about my safety. Great post…

    • I remember being in high school watching other students stand up in front of the class mumbling from the notes they were clutching. Now, I watch adults rely almost completely on powerpoints. I’m not sure that’s any better. It’s a good sign when your car makes it through the year unscathed.

  16. Speaking isn’t my problem, it’s speaking “truth with grace” that I struggle with!

  17. Your real problem isn’t that you are boring. You’re just too concerned with what other people are feeling. Truly boring people are never that considerate. They are totally oblivious to any signal except, “I’m sorry, I really have to go,” and walking out the door. Blame your mother for raising you with manners. 🙂

  18. P.T. Barnum wasn’t a boring guy.  For me, it’s: “Leave them before they get bored.” I myself tend to be a boring person. I think I can walk away with having learned a thing or two from your blog. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Reblogged this on Evan Thomas.

  20. Nice! One thing: I don’t think that talking about boring things and boring people when you talk makes you a completely boring person. There’s more to everyone than that.

  21. The Idea of story telling works the best. It is the most interesting thing to keep people occupied of all ages. The post is really nice and helpful. I liked the other points too and will use them for sure. 🙂

  22. Reblogged this on makeyourvoicesmatter and commented:
    Wow..couldnt agree with you more..I too stammer while talking because i link events with other events ..but people dont see that connection most of the time.We writers are better on the page than anywhere else

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