How to Be More Interesting: Talk Less and Listen More

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Just Listen" by Mark Goulston. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What makes a person interesting? What are some things you can do to gain the interest of those around you?

When people try to seem interesting, they tend to talk a lot. They assume that by talking about all the interesting things they do, they’ll inspire curiosity in others. But psychiatrist Mark Goulston says that to win someone’s interest, you should focus on learning about them instead of talking about yourself.

Continue reading to learn how to be more interesting, according to Goulston.

Mark Goulston: Get Interested to Be Interesting

In his book Just Listen, Mark Goulston explains how to be more interesting socially. According to Goulston, you shouldn’t try to sound interesting if you don’t want to come off as annoying or self-obsessed. Instead, by displaying sincere interest in the person you’re talking to, you’ll likely inspire them to reciprocate interest in you. Displaying an interest in others indicates that you’re self-confident rather than insecure.

(Shortform note: When you show you’re confident by displaying interest in someone, they’re more likely to be influenced by you. Research shows that when we determine whether something is going to be successful, the most important influence on our opinion is the opinion of a confident person.)

Here’s how you can develop more interest in the people you’d like to connect with and influence:

  • Investigate. Instead of viewing a conversation as an opportunity to impress the person you’re trying to connect with, view it as an investigation of that person. Everyone has something unique and interesting about them. Seek that information.
  • Ask for advice. This makes people feel interesting, intelligent, and valued.
  • Ask “big-picture” questions about their goals.
How Does Displaying Interest Win People Over? 

Similar to Goulston, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie, explains that when you display interest in someone, you make them feel valuable. However, Goulston says people open themselves up to you in return because they feel grateful to you, whereas Carnegie argues that by displaying interest in someone, you convince them you have good judgment, which is what opens them up to your influence. He explains that we tend to think highly of ourselves, so when someone shares our interest in us, we think they have good taste. 

Carnegie also shares a few straightforward tips for displaying interest in someone: 

– Remember people’s birthdays and wish them well.
– If you’re trying to influence someone that speaks another language, display interest in them by trying to learn some of their language.
– Greet people with enthusiasm and call them by their name.

When Showing Interest Backfires

When it comes to romantic relationships, experts say that when you display consistent interest in a potential partner, this increases their friendly feelings toward you, but it also causes them to desire you less. On the other hand, if you pique a potential partner’s interest in you and then display little interest (“play hard to get”), you’ll increase their romantic interest in you. However, playing hard to get will also make the other person feel frustrated and resentful toward you. So, the key to a healthy relationship is to balance between offering friendly interest and desire-inducing behaviors like flirtation and teasing.
How to Be More Interesting: Talk Less and Listen More

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Mark Goulston's "Just Listen" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Just Listen summary:

  • Why listening is the most important step in influencing others
  • How to overcome the most common obstacles to listening well
  • How to break down someone’s emotional barrier

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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