What makes you interesting to others

It’s not a question you can ask, can you? It would be weird even if you asked a friend what makes you interesting. Not because you asked but because their definition of what makes you interesting wouldn’t be the same as yours or mine.

So, then why bother discussing this? Well, when you can understand how people define their interestingness of another, you have an opportunity to show them how unique you really are.

And not because you’re trying to change how the other person sees you but because it offers you an amazing opportunity to relate and connect authentically in your relationships.

Let’s back track a bit to meeting new people. When you meet new people you often find yourself in the question and answer type of conversation (small talk), much like an interview a journalist does.

And once someone hears a bit (a tiny bit) of your story, they latch onto a certain element of it that stands our in their mind. For example, as a person of colour with Indian ethnicity, non-South Asians find my ethnicity very interesting. Even when I’ve known them for a while.

I get questions about the meals I cook at home to what kind of traditional dresses do I have and how often do I wear them. What are the holidays I celebrate, etc.? You get the point.

This type of questioning happens when your circumstances are in contrast to the other person or group. They could latch onto to your profession or your family, etc. because it’s natural to pay attention to the differences.

Our brain notices a difference, focuses on it and then needs to somehow understand it enough to have it fit into one of the narratives they already are familiar with. Otherwise, it will cycle around in the brain causing a bit of distress until it gets resolved.

That’s how you can sort of know what makes you interesting to others. The questions they ask to you are sometimes a reflection of what they perceive as interesting about you.

Now, when I get questions about my ethnicity, do I think it contributes to my interestingness? Before, I would’ve said Yes but now I believe it’s not our circumstances (like my ethnicity or job or the city I live in) that make me interesting. Why? Well, there are close to 1,5 billion Indian people in this world. That makes me, well, kind of boring.

So, what do you do, when someone finds an aspect about your life that’s interesting and you don’t?

My race is not the most interesting thing about me; in fact, it’s the least.

For starters, we aren’t going to change how the other person behaves but what we can do is change how we respond to questions. Changing our response changes how we feel in the conversation and even offers a wonderful opportunity to share our most authentic and interesting self.

Let’s take the question: Do you cook curry?

It’s a Yes/No question that we often answer with an explanation of why our answer is Yes or No. For example, “Yes, it’s what I like to cook and know how to cook.”. Yet, again, cooking curry is not exactly interesting. It’s still commonplace.

And what more, is that it isn’t really sharing anything about me to lead to a better dialogue. So, let’s rewind.

Person: Do you cook curry?

Me: I don’t cook curry and I love to cook, I’m a self-taught cook and I’ve been introduced to recipes by Lorraine Pascale and Curtis Stone and love trying new stuff like…

That’s my true story and if I did cook curry I would still share more elements of my journey with cooking. By answering the question this way, I don’t reduce my story to a Yes or No and I let it take space (by adding in a few details in 2 or 3 sentences).

Your story has a right to take space and so does everyone else’s.

I’ve used this technique in answering “common” questions that I get and what happens about 90% of the time is that someone (let’s say you’re in a group) will connect to some part of what I said.

So, in the curry example, someone might also enjoy Lorraine Pascale’s cookbooks or they may like some the dishes I mention, etc. People have an opportunity to relate to me because I’ve given them the opportunity to do so.

I share more about this in podcast episode 3: What makes you interesting to others?