How do you become the most interesting person in the world?
To be sure, I’m not referring to the silver fox from the Dos Equis beer commercials, who once ran a marathon just because it was on his way, whose organ donor card lists his beard and who speaks fluent French — in Russian.
The bar doesn’t have to be that high.
In a noisy world where personal branding is a professional imperative and where we constantly compete with equally qualified rivals for clients, jobs, promotions, assignments or funding, not to mention admiration and affection, being just a little more interesting and memorable can be the deciding factor in our favor.
The following list of seven rules should yield some promising results for those who want to up their game with some new skills and behaviors:
1. Master conversational skills. The ability to converse is a key competency for successful client pitches, board room presentations, management meetings and the myriad hallway conversations that influence major business decisions. Skillful small talk and more substantive conversations can make anyone more interesting, provided one has something interesting to say. To get better at it, widen your interests and learn about anything from current events to local issues. Keeping conversations balanced by showing sincere interest in others is critical. A report in Psychological Science cites a study that shows that people who engage in deeper, more substantive conversation are happier than those who keep interactions superficial. Happy people are definitely more interesting than miserable ones.
2. Learn to make a solid business case. Occasionally we get lucky. We ask for something — resources, money, time, support — and we get it. But for the most part, the higher the stakes, the more scrutiny our requests are under. Entrepreneurs, managers and executives who cannot make a solid business case, linking needs to strategic goals, detailing risks, opportunities and projected ROI, based on research and analysis, are discounted by the decision-makers who can green-light a project. By clearly showing value, telling a compelling business story and answering tough questions from stakeholders, we become valued players in a serious game.
3. Cultivate a reputation of expertise. Experts are in demand. Turn on any television channel and you can watch a parade of authorities in various domains give their perspective on healthcare, airline security, the economy and climate change, to name a few. Particularly in times of uncertainty, we corner the experts to get answers and find out what can be done to either avoid loss of some sort or make gains. If you’re more of a generalist, find ways to go deep into a subject matter that can benefit others, and share that information where needed. A key is to make specialized information accessible and easy to understand. Otherwise, you’ll notice eyes glazing over and confusion replacing curiosity.
4. Resolve conflict and dispute between others. In a recent executive coaching survey, CEOs mentioned “conflict-management skills” as their top priority. Being able to help others resolve disputes and conflicting agendas is not just an asset in the C-suite, where leaders have to manage the expectations of a multitude of stakeholders. Even among friends, those who can keep a cool head and balance reason and emotion when arguments threaten to spiral into conflict and hostility, have the respect and admiration of their peers.
5. Build relationships and connect with people. Whether we are individual contributors, startup entrepreneurs or corporate leaders, we need the help of others to accomplish our goals. Being an interesting person helps in building and managing relationships, but the reverse is also true. If we actively engage others, by, for example, inviting someone to lunch, involving a co-worker in a project, asking for a favor, offering support, or sincerely inquiring how someone is doing, we not only become visible, we become relevant. That’s the foundation of mutually gratifying relationships. Make it a goal to communicate authentically with others and become more interesting to them in the process.
6. Engage in active listening. Aside from the fact that engaged listening makes us better informed about people and issues, giving someone our full and undivided attention can have a profound effect on their perception of us. Listening attentively is a “giving” rather than a “taking.” Contrast this with the person who primarily keeps the focus on themselves and the difference becomes crystal clear. When we’re listened to, we matter. Those who do most of the talking believe they matter. We become more interesting when we listen to others.
7. Live life and share experiences. “Life is best lived inside, behind a desk,” said no one, ever. Our experiences and what we choose to share are what make others take an interest in us. People often live vicariously through the adventures of their more socially active peers. It doesn’t have to be running with the bulls in Barcelona — we easily become a little more interesting when we discuss experiences of enjoying a meal at an exotic new restaurant, learning a challenging skill like waterskiing or attending opening night at the museum.
Standing out in a positive way has wide-ranging benefits. These rules are merely a starting point as we manage ourselves to become the most interesting person in the world.