How To Always Be The Most Interesting Person In A Room

“When you go fishing, you don’t bait the hook with the strawberries you’d like to snack on; you use what the fish prefer: worms.”… Dale Carnegie (1888-1955)

Carnegie lived in a simpler age, but I’m pretty sure he knew a bit about basic interpersonal skills.  I’d certainly trust him more than most of the road-kill advice on today’s interwebs.

Carnegie’s advice was to focus on what others want and care about. So why do so many of us believe we can obtain self-actualization by trying to impress others?

Carnegie observed:

“Yet in our interactions with people, we always barge in talking about what we want, which is a complete waste of time and effort.”

Yes, everyone wants to be the most interesting person in the room.  We all want to be the person that everyone loves and wants to be friends with.

Honestly, I just wanted to be the Dos Equis guy, but forty years younger: that handsomely coifed and confidently poised dude that’s always the center of attention.

He can speak Russian… in French. Superman has PJs with his logo on them. His tears can cure cancer… too bad he never cries.

Yeah, sorry Zander, it’s only an ad.  And, while the coif is real, that guy’s just an actor – did you know the Dos Equis guy is actually Russian and Jewish? Impersonator, or not that man is a role model for the rest of us.

What about the rest of us? Most of us don’t have a lifetime of experience and travel, which are the underpinnings of self-confidence and charisma.

But here’s the secret: that is not what actually makes you the most interesting person in the room.  To be the most interesting person in the room, you just need to be the most interested person in the room

People naturally gravitate to other people that are genuinely interested in what they are doing and what they are passionate about – key word there being ‘genuinely’.

To become the most interesting person in the room you don’t need to accumulate a lifetime of awesome experiences.  You just need a little practice becoming interested in others.  You can start by following the guidelines below:

  1. Develop a curious mind. If you develop the qualities of curiosity and empathy you will almost certainly attract new friends; you have to keep your ears and mind open. If you are truly eager to learn about someone and understand their perspective on life, you will have no problem being genuinely interested in what they have to say, even when their political opinion completely contradicts to yours.
  2. Be an active listener. I still remember when I was a kid and my mom told me, “you have two ears and one mouth for a reason.  Shut up and listen more.”  Listening is great, but you have to be an active listener by engaging with questions and with your body language.  Fun fact: if you sit or stand in an engaging position (i.e. leaning into a conversation) it actually forces you to listen better.
  3. Be present and stop multitasking. When you’re engaging with someone and you’re thinking about what to make for breakfast tomorrow, people can tell. You can read it in your eyes and in your body language.  So stop worrying about all the other shit in your life and just be present.

I met with a C-level executive at a top media company when I was in my early 20’s.  He was well known for ‘booting’ vendors he didn’t like.  After a two-hour lunch, he surprised me by saying, “Zander, we are going to get along very well.”

When I asked him how he could tell, he told me, “you were fully present and engaged for over 2 hours and didn’t check your phone, ONCE.”  That company would go on to purchase over $40M in product from my team that year.  That’s how valuable it can be to just be present.

You may not realize it, but you already have everything you need to be the most interesting person in the room.  While, fun stories about saving kittens in Buenos Aires and playing ping-pong with the president of Malaysia are cool, they aren’t necessary. Just focus on being interested and you will be interesting.

I’ll leave you with this little nugget from Mr. Carnegie to help us bring it full circle:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

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