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14 Simple Ways To Be A More Interesting Person

It's not about changing who you are — it's about bringing back the unexpected in small, positive ways.

Originally Published: 
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Parenting brings moments of great joy as well as regular challenges. It’s also a series of endless obligations and routines, and when you allow yourself a moment of introspection, you may worry that you’re bored, boring, or, at the very least, no longer interesting.

It’s natural to think this way. It’s also probably not true.

“It’s an appraisal,” says Simon A. Rego, Ph.D., chief of psychology at Montefiore Medical Center and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, in New York. “It’s not necessarily a fact.”

Sure, you might go out way less than you used to and are usually exhausted, but you’re still the same guy, the one who’s done fun things and always made friends and attracted your spouse. What you’d really like right now is to be more interesting, but you’re not sure where to start, when you have less energy and free time than ever.

Parenting might shrink your world, for a time, but it’s alway possible to feel and be more interesting — it just requires trying some new things and broadening your horizons.

Why? As Samantha Shebib, assistant professor of communication studies at University of Alabama at Birmingham puts it, “Interesting is an aspect of unexpectedness.”

It might mean new activities or tweaks to what you already do. But the bottom line is you have to surprise yourself and others if you want refocus and reengage attention. Here are some things that can help.

1. Brush Your Teeth

That’s right. But do it as if you’re going to write a review. You want to be able to describe how the toothpaste tasted; how your gums felt; how the water sounded. In doing this, you’re building your stamina to be undistracted and fully in the moment, a skill you’ll carry over into conversations. When someone talks, you’re not looking to interrupt or advise. Letting people go on about their interests has the effect of making you seem interesting. “You come across as being totally attuned to them,” Rego says. “People love that.”

2. Send Out More LinkedIn Requests

Or at least write your emails using the template. The site’s personal connection request restricts you to 300 characters, good practice for what makes any writing better and more interesting: brevity. Utilize this and you’ll cut out excess, giving your sentences more impact. Read it out loud — if you trip on your words, they’ll trip — before you hit send, says Lisa McLendon, professor of journalism and communications, and coordinator of the Bremmer Editing Center at University of Kansas.

3. Take In New Ideas

Otherwise, all your thoughts will be on repeat. Start reading a new newspaper section or add a few different outlets to your newsfeed. Follow some new folks on social media. Love sports? Read about a sport you rarely, if ever, play. If it doesn’t spark an interest, you’re at least in more conversations and hearing more perspectives, says Art Markman, vice provost and professor of psychology at University of Texas, and author of Bring Your Brain to Work.

4. Make A True To-Do List

If you want to be more interesting, you need options. Think about whatever has excited, scared, or intrigued you over the years, and list at least 20 things. Rather than start with, “I want to…,” use, “I wonder if…” The former triggers anxiety and kicks in the “yeah, but” response. The latter promotes exploration and helps you get past “the low-hanging fruit,” says Peter Pearson, relationship expert and co-founder of The Couples Institute.

5. Set A Limit

Whatever you pick from the above list, do it three to four times. You might think you love it, but find out that maybe you don’t. The experimentation is easier without an upfront lifetime commitment. “It sets a boundary around things,” Pearson says.

6. Remember, You’re Dealing With Other Parents

They’re also worried about being uninteresting, so make them feel the opposite. When listening, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “I get that,” to validate, but try, “How did you know to do that?” It’s a compliment and open-ended question that conveys, “I gotta hear more.” It lets the other person be the star and is fairly unexpected in conversations between men, Shebib says.

7. Let The Kids Control The Radio

Your music matters, but you need more unknown sounds. Algorithms only feed you versions of what you already like. Broaden your horizons by playing out-of-the-box stations or, say, tuning an internet radio to a random international station. Another option: Your kids. They probably listen to much different stuff. Some of the songs you’ll hate, but some you’ll like — a lot — and since you don’t have to worry about appearances, you can enjoy it freely. But don’t keep it to yourself. At school pickup say, “Olivia Rodrigo makes fun tunes.” Another dad might respond, “I know,” and a new conversation is born — having the “guts” to bring things up always gets viewed as interesting, says Markman.

8. Start Your Story With Pop

Hey Martha, guess what? It’s an immediate hook, but don’t slow down. If your main point is This celebrity was in my cycling class, there’s no need for details about your drive to the gym. If people want more, they’ll ask. Keep the story linear and concise, so it’s easier to process. “No one wishes things were less clear,” McLendon says.

9. Bring Back Some Of The Old You

You used to get indignant or make jokes, but you’ve muted that in the name of fitting in. Your uniqueness has to return in doses. Maybe it’s speaking up at a school committee meeting or making a comment to break up a heavy topic. It’s a risk, but without that tension, you’re playing not to lose rather than leaving an impression. “You seek to explore the oceans while keeping one foot on the shore,” Pearson says.

10. Dig Deeper

Whether the question comes from your kids or out of a conversation with a friend, make it a point to seek out answers instead of saying, "I don't know" and leaving it at that. This will build the curiosity habit, so when questions like Does Antarctica have a government? Or Can bees tell time? (Yep!) come up, your reflex is: “Let’s find out.” Give Google a workout. But go further. Find a book or documentary on the subject. Don’t get caught up on “importance” — so what if you’re going down a rabbit hole about different kinds of chocolate or how sewer systems really work. It’s the quest that matters. And everybody learns something new.

11. Flip The Script On Date Night

Take the reins and plan something unexpected. It doesn’t have to be momentous, just a little bit out of the ordinary. Order one of those subscription murder mystery boxes. Pick up dinner from a new place just because. The everyday is shaken up and it’s because of you. “It creates that novelty in a relationship,” Shebib says. “It makes you look at someone in a different way.”

12. Find A Good Book

You have loads of options here. Booksellers. Your local librarians. Reddit suggestions. That documentary you just watched. But another source is your dad friends. They have the same time and energy constraints so their suggestions have serious potential, McLendon says. But you’re never committed to finishing. Use librarian Nancy Pearl’s guideline for how long to stay with a book: 50 pages if you’re under 50 years old; 100 pages minus your age if you’re over.

13. Put Spontaneity On The Calendar

Pick the day that’s most open and commit to trying a new workout, meal, music — anything. Put a bunch of options in a hat and do whatever gets picked. Do it as a family, solo, or with your spouse. If it’s great, you’ve expanded your options and helped you to bond as a unit. If it’s horrible, you have a good story. And while it might seem forced, so what? “It’s still a level of spontaneity because it’s not typically what you do,” Shebib says.

14. Tell People What You Really Think

Being an attentive listener and asking open-ended questions is great. But so is asking, “Can I give you my take on it?” if you feel strongly that another perspective is needed. You’re disagreeing without judging or getting nasty, and you’re letting the other person give you the space to open up the conversation. It’s a social risk, but constant silence does you no good. Says Rego, “How will people know if you’re interesting if you don’t share anything?”

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