How to be interested in other people
The 10 Tips to Show Genuine Interest in Others
To truly connect with others, show genuine interest in their stories and experiences.
1. Be the 5% of what 95% of people don’t do
If you want to learn how to be interested in other people, do one simple thing. It’s the one thing that can separate you from 95% of others … Show sincere, genuine interest.
An easy way to show genuine interest in others is by maintaining eye contact. If people feel your eyes shifting away they’ll instinctively know you’re not paying attention.
Research published by the Royal Society tells us that we find people with a direct gaze considerably more likable than those who don’t. Another study from Brandeis University. says, if you want to appear smart, look people in the eye.
Which face below do you find more attractive?
The simple gesture of eye contact can help create a powerful connection between two people. However, don’t overdo the eye contact or you’ll seem like a psychopath.
- Go into a conversation trying to learn about someone.
- Take time to give people your attention, interest, and presence with eye contact.
- Stop, listen, and focus on the person in front of you.
2. Learn how to discover what people are interested in
When you learn how to be interested in other people, you realize how important it is to know what to say in the moment. But here’s a tip, 99% of people love talking about themselves. So let them enjoy center stage for a while and listen.
In addition, when people talk about themselves it gives them as much pleasure as food or money. Researchers at Harvard’s psychology department found that humans get a biochemical buzz from self-disclosure.
The Harvard researchers also say humans spend almost 40% of their conversation talking about ourselves, and our brain chemistry drives us to do it. By allowing people to talk first you give them a nice boost and the opportunity to learn something interesting to continue the conversation.
Action steps on how to be interested in others:
- Let the other person take center stage and just listen.
- Ask questions to discover what the other person is interested in. And if you find that thing that lights them up, you’re golden.
3. Leave a strong first impression
When you want to show interest in others, remember that first impressions count a lot. This is true for job interviews, first dates, and meetings.
A good first impression often comes from a friendly smile, confident body language, and a firm handshake. These things help people see you positively right away.
People decide what they think of you very quickly, and you can’t fully control that. But, there are ways to make a better impression.
One simple tip is to dress nicely. How we look plays a big part in first impressions, whether we like it or not.
“Appearance is our first filter, and it’s happening all the time,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an expert on professional success.
Let Others Lead the Conversation
Next, if you really want to show you’re interested in others, let them talk first. Resist the urge to start boasting about your achievements right away. To build trust, “let the other person speak first or have the floor first,” advises social psychologist Ann Cuddy.
- Start Strong: Always greet with a firm handshake and dress neatly.
- Self-Reflect: Record a video of yourself talking and walking. Watch it to see how you come across when you speak and move.
6. Observe your surroundings and talk about it
Look around you right now. What is one thing in the room you can talk about? If you were talking to someone right now what could you say about the things in the room? Wherever you are, you can look around and find something to talk about. A family picture, a trophy, baseball cards, art, a desk, and so on. There’s bound to be something that will spark small talk and lead to a more interesting conversation.
When you enter a room take a few minutes to look around to find something you like or would like to learn more about. Take a look below.
What can you talk about if you were in the room?
- At least once a day look around and think of questions to ask.
- Be observant, pay attention to details and then talk about what you’re looking at.
- Notice what people are wearing and compliment them and practice with friends.
4. Say their name…It’s the sweetest thing people hear
Names are the sweetest and most important sound people hear Dale Carnegie says.
When you remember someone’s name, it shows them they’re important to you. This is an easy tip you can start using today as you learn how to be interested in other people.
One of the first things you should start a conversation with is someone’s name. Learning to associate a name with a personality trait, a job, or where the person is from can help you remember. These are effective tactics to recall someone’s name and impress people with your memory.
- Repeat the name of the person you just met in your head.
- Associate a name with something you already know or an image.
5. Avoid awkward silence by thinking quicker
Pauses in conversations are very normal and to be expected. However, there are a few things you can do to avoid those awkward moments. The first method is to use situational comments.
For example, if you’re at someone’s housewarming party, ask them questions about the neighborhood, their new home, or anything related to their new experience. This is an example of what we mean by thinking quickly.
Also, pay attention to what’s happening around you and comment on it. If you’re at a bar, you can say, ”I noticed the band was great tonight, what did you think?” Then you can follow up with, “What kind of music do you like?”
When all else fails, talk about yourself. Don’t give bare minimum answers, but elaborate about who you are, and your experiences, and not just “yes” or “no”. Make it easy for the other person to relate to you. If you don’t contribute anything, it can seem like you don’t want to talk.
Action steps to learn how to be interested in other people:
- Take 10 deep breaths if you’re feeling anxious before your conversation.
- Have “just in case” questions when there is an awkward moment.
- Write down 5 things about yourself you can use to relate to people.
- Read our post: “How do you talk to people?”
7. Stop asking “How are you?”
The statement “How are you?” has kind of lost its meaning and has become a general “hello.” … This doesn’t lead your conversation anywhere. If I’m meeting someone new or meeting a friend, consider different openers.
For example, “Hey, it’s great to see you today.” Followed by, I’m so happy we’re finally getting together for drinks and food tonight.” Followed by “So, tell me what work and family have been like the last few months?”
According to Harvard researchers asking people follow-up questions is key. They analyzed more than 300 online conversations and found those who were asked more meaningful follow-up questions found the other person more likable.
“When people are instructed to ask more questions, they are perceived as higher in responsiveness, an interpersonal construct that captures listening, understanding, validation, and care.”
Examples of follow-up questions:
- What’s the best part about living in NYC?
- So, tell me more about your time in Europe?
- What’s it like to be a teacher?
- Stop asking how are you. Try, “Hey, what’s your day been like?”
- Think of more follow-up questions for different social situations.
8. How you look and sound is very important
Your face and your tone are important. Your tone communicates what you’re feeling and it’s the tone people respond to. The same thing goes for your facial expressions. If you have a flat face with very little emotion you’ll confuse the person you’re talking to or communicate the wrong message.
- Watch yourself have a conversation on video. Listen and watch back.
- Ask a friend to give you honest feedback about your tone and facial expressions.
9. End a conversation with confidence and purpose
Be Graceful and Connect: Ending a conversation doesn’t have to be awkward. A simple “It was great meeting you! I’m off to meet others, but here’s my card. Let’s chat soon,” shows you’re polite and open to future connections.
Deepen Bonds: If you feel a spark, don’t hesitate to suggest another chat. A friendly “I’ve enjoyed our talk. Would you like to continue this another time?” can start a meaningful friendship. Don’t worry if they say no; it’s not personal.
Offer Help: Adding value makes you memorable. Offer tips or introductions like, “Since you’re new here, I know some great spots to visit,” or “I can connect you with some folks in your field.”
Know When to Move On: Not every chat will click, and that’s fine. If the conversation isn’t flowing, it’s okay to politely excuse yourself. Your time is valuable, and so is theirs.
- Politely leave a conversation if you’re bored. Have conversation stoppers ready.
- If you don’t click with someone, move on.
10. Stop talking after twenty seconds
Dr. Mark Goulston, the author of Just Listen, recommends the Traffic Light Rule:
He says, “In the first 20 seconds of talking, your light is green: your listener is liking you, as long as your statement is relevant to the conversation and hopefully in service of the other person…
People who talk for more than roughly half a minute at a time are boring and often perceived as too chatty.
So the light turns yellow for the next 20 seconds—now the risk is increasing that the other person is beginning to lose interest or think you’re long-winded.
At the 40-second mark, your light is red. Yes, there’s an occasional time you want to run that red light and keep talking, but the vast majority of the time, you’d better stop or you’re in danger.”
Remember, include the other person in the conversation, or they’ll be less interested. As we’ve said throughout this post, ask questions, and always make it a genuine dialogue.
Action steps to learn how to be interested in other people:
- 20 seconds is around how long people want to listen to your comment.
- Involve everyone as much as you can in the conversation.
FAQs: How to be interested in others
Why is it important to be interested in other people?
Interest in other people is crucial because it lays the foundation for strong and healthy relationships. It demonstrates that you value the other person’s experiences and views, which can lead to a mutual exchange of respect and affection.
For instance, if a colleague shares details about a hobby, asking questions and recalling those details in future conversations can make them feel appreciated and understood, fostering a more collaborative and supportive work environment.
How can I show that I am interested in someone without being intrusive?
To show interest without being intrusive, you can practice active listening and observe the person’s response.
For example, if you’re at a social event and you ask someone about their work, and they provide a brief answer, they might not want to discuss it further. You can then shift to a lighter topic, such as the event itself, to find common ground. It’s all about balancing your curiosity with respect for the other person’s comfort level. One method to use for a balanced conversation is using the Socratic method.
What are some ways to develop a genuine interest in people I don’t find interesting?
One way to cultivate interest is by finding a unique aspect of their life or personality to explore. Perhaps a coworker seems bland until you learn they do volunteer work at an animal shelter on weekends. Asking about their experiences with animals might reveal touching stories that pique your interest.
Another approach is to consider each person as a book full of stories; even if the cover doesn’t intrigue you, there might be a chapter inside that does.
Can being interested in other people improve my social skills?
Absolutely. For example, suppose you often find yourself at networking events. By showing genuine interest in others, you learn how to start conversations, maintain dialogue, and exit exchanges gracefully.
This can be as simple as asking, “What’s the most exciting part of your job?” and actively listening to the answer, or offering a thoughtful comment that relates to what they’ve said, which can lead to a more engaging and meaningful conversation.
What are some tips for maintaining interest in a conversation that doesn’t immediately grab my attention?
To stay interested in a less-than-captivating conversation, you might mentally challenge yourself to discover two new things about the speaker. For instance, if they’re talking about gardening and you have no prior interest in it, you could ask what they would recommend for a beginner or what the most surprising thing they’ve learned from gardening is.
This way, you might find an aspect of gardening that resonates with you, like its environmental benefits, or you could learn about the patience it teaches. This approach keeps your brain engaged and often leads to discovering unexpected common interests.
Mastering Genuine Connection with Others
Understanding True Engagement: Real interest in others goes beyond manners; it’s about valuing human connections. Your curiosity and willingness to engage deepen your understanding and strengthen bonds.
A Roadmap to Meaningful Interactions:
- Authenticity: Genuine eye contact shows you’re truly present.
- Discovery: Active listening lets others feel heard and valued.
- Positive Impressions: Your body language and attire speak before you do.
- Remember Names: This small effort makes a big impact.
- Filling the Silence: Use your surroundings to keep conversations flowing.
- Observant Conversations: Items nearby can spark engaging discussions.
- Inquisitive Nature: Thoughtful questions and follow-ups show you care.
- Mindful Presentation: Your tone and expressions contribute to your message.
- Confident Closure: End with gratitude or an invitation to continue the dialogue.
- Concise Contributions: Value a balanced exchange with brief, meaningful input.
What you can do right now
Download our Tool Kit for free (mini-course, social blueprint, and more). Prepare more when you go out to socialize. We think if you join our community or read a few more blog posts, you won’t be saying, “how to be interested in other people?” or “how to be interested in others?”
But you’ll feel more confident, and prepared and you’ll know what to do next, especially, when it comes to socializing.