We’re all taught to be interesting and fascinating. In part, that’s true. There is science that shows we’re attracted to what’s different, fresh, fascinating. It’s great to be those things. And I am all in favor of it!
If you really want to know how to build better connections with people individually or in groups (an audience of any size); however, it’s more important to first be interested in them. By first making a point of being interested in others, we earn a place at the interesting table. And by being interested, we become more interesting to others because we are then differentiated as someone who cares, listens, connects and makes them look good.
Heck, as human beings, we want others to be interested in us. And being sincerely interested in others is the difference, in my humble opinion, between communicating and connecting. Everyone communicates; few people really connect.
Make Your Partner (Audience) Look Good
This is a lesson I learned over many years of business as a marketing storyteller, and on an improv stage building scenes with fellow players. One of the central tenets of improv, “Make Others Look Good,” helps create amazing scenes. If I make every scene about me, I can easily derail the story. If I support my fellow players’ choices with enthusiasm, the storyline evolves organically, naturally without splitting the focus of the story. One of my fave sketch instructors at The Second City had a saying: “The only way you create a boring character is if you, the improviser, are bored. When you are interested in making others look good, your character will be interesting by definition.” She was right – and that applies to any stage, whether it’s in business or theater.
Be ‘Interested’ First
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that kept pulling focus because they were trying to be interesting – more interesting than everyone else? It’s hard staying in those conversations because we don’t feel we are really talking to people who are interested in us.
Now, by contrast, remember the last conversation you had with someone who was genuinely interested in what you had to say – whose curiosity fueled your passion and excitement. They asked questions about you, your work, your life, whatever until they hit on something that brought you to life because they highlighted your passion. It felt really different, right? Exactly.
A few ways to get started
1. Be curious about people
2. Ask questions of your audience (“what do you think?” for example)
3. Find out what others care about first (ask your audience and customers not just what they want, ask what their challenges are as well as their successes)
4. Make others look good (make people feel smart, valued and valuable, as well as inspired)
5. Express genuine interest (this is key – no fake stuff! Ask because you want to know)
When you are interested in others, you make them feel how smart they are. When you are trying to be interesting, you are pulling focus to how smart, fascinating, interesting, (how whatever) you are. It’s OK to be interesting (hell, I am all in favor of flying your interesting flag!) – but first be interested in others. People love being around others who, by being genuinely interested, make them feel that they, too, are interesting. That’s a huge way to connect with people – by making them feel they are more interesting as well.
Header image source: Bells Design
How do you build better connections with people? Let me know. I would love to hear from you in the comments below.