How to be interested in other people

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 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.

Action steps:

  • 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:

  • 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

One of the main reasons why people want to learn how to be interested in other people is because they realize that first impressions are important. For interviews, first dates, work meetings, etc.

First impressions are tied to things such as positive body language, confidence, a firm handshake, or a great smile. All of which will help ensure a good first impression. The unfortunate truth is that people make judgments about you within milliseconds, and you can’t really control people’s judgments in such a short time. However, science has uncovered plenty of ways to tip the odds in your favor.

The easiest thing you can do is dress well. Whether we like it or not, looks are a significant part of making a good impression and appealing to people.

“Appearance is our first filter, and it’s happening all the time,” says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Executive Presence.

good impressions

The second strategy is to let people talk first (as we said above). Fight the urge to brag about your accomplishments and expertise within the first few minutes of a conversation. If you want to establish trust, “let the other person speak first or have the floor first,” social psychologist Ann Cuddy says.

Action steps:

  • Focus on the basics: Always a firm handshake, and look polished by dressing well.
  • Take a video of yourself talking/walking and see how your face and body look when speaking.


#4. Use their name. It’s the most beautiful 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.

Action steps:

  • Repeat the name of the person you just met in your head.
  • Associate a name with something you already know or an image.

#5. Prevent an 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 house warming 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, 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?”


#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?

talk about the room

Action steps:

  • At least once a day look around and think of questions to ask.
  • Be more observant, by paying attention to the details and then talk about what you’re looking at.
  • Notice what people are wearing and compliment them and practice with friends.


#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?

Action steps:

  • 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.

Action steps:

  • 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

As you learn how to be interested in other people , you’ll realize how important it is to end a conversation gracefully. Or, just have a friend come save you!

Here are a few conversation closers:

“It was great meeting you! I haven’t met everyone yet, I’m going to mingle around. I’ll see you soon.”

“It was great meeting you! Here is my card if you ever want to reach out. Talk soon.”

However, if you want to establish a more meaningful relationship with someone – Simply ask the person if they want to continue the conversation another time. Save this strategy for people you feel a real connection with. This might scare you a bit, but we promise it’s worth the risk!

If they say, “yes”, then you’ve made a new friend! If they say “no” don’t worry, it doesn’t mean they don’t like you. You can also end a conversation by asking, “What can I help you with?”.

Here are some examples:

“Because you’re visiting for the first time, here is a list of great places to visit in town.”

“I know a few people in your industry, I can introduce you to a couple of people on LinkedIn if you’d like?”

Lastly, sometimes people just don’t click, and that’s OK. A Princeton researcher found that a listener’s brain patterns often mirrored those of the speaker. The closer the brain patterns match between people, the more likely two people will like each other. If you’re not clicking with someone, politely leave the conversation. Don’t waste your time or theirs.

Action steps::

  • 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-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.

 We hope the 10 tips above have helped you learn how to be interested in other people. Now is the time to take your conversation skills to the next level! 

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, “learn how to be interested in other people”.

But you’ll feel more confident, and prepared and you’ll know what to do next, especially, when it comes to socializing. 


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