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?

What makes you interesting

Did you catch the trick in the title? I’m not asking: Are you interesting? It implies that you already are interesting. Even if you don’t think so (and I didn’t for a long time), you can learn about your innate ability to be interesting right here!

If you were to list 3 things that make you interesting, you probably would answer that in the same way I would or your neighbour would. The most common pitfall in reflecting on what makes us interesting is that everyone thinks about it in the same way. Which, in fact, nullifies being interesting. And this brings me to my first point:

Circumstances don’t make us interesting.

We tend to think that our circumstances are what contribute to how interesting we are. There are actually 2 types of circumstance that create the interesting trap.

  1. The ones in which we’ve had no choice (gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, childhood, etc.)
  2. The ones in which we’ve had a choice: the results we’ve achieved in our lives (roles, profession, hobbies, money, friends, etc.).

Linking our circumstances to this definition of interestingness brings about a small problem. In groups, where you share certain circumstances with others, the criteria would slowly dwindle away. For example, a group of Indian women who are in the medical profession, what would then make each group member interesting? Which brings me to my second point:

Our total circumstances may contribute to being interesting but ultimately it would be relative to others.

If you were to add up all the circumstances of each group member, even then, you might see some differentiating factors. But how would each individual stand out on their own or be unique? To answer that, we would need to veer away from circumstances to something else.

Uniqueness cannot be based on any one trait or circumstances simply because it would cease the moment another acquired it. Instead, how we interact with the world or experience it is our uniqueness.

There’s nothing wrong with viewing our circumstances as contributing to who we are, in fact, our circumstances help to bring about connection. When we relate to others because of shared circumstances or experiences, we tap into our ability to connect with others.

Circumstances are how we initially relate to others.

If you’re a woman you can relate to other women, if you’re Indian, you can relate to other Indians.

The conundrum, then, is how we connect with others while seeing our uniqueness.

Our uniqueness is determined by how we experience our world which would inevitably be different for each of us, even with groups that share multiple circumstances. How we interact and show up in this world is innately unique to each of us.

This uniqueness has nothing to do with our personalities (i.e. introvert, extrovert) either. It’s deeper than that. It has to do with how we choose to show up, behave, take action while having those circumstances and personality along for the ride (of life).

Your collective experiences of interacting in the world is entirely unique to you. You own those experiences, those stories. And everyone, including you, has a story that’s unique.

To hear about my story on what makes me interesting, head over to the podcast episode 3: What makes you interesting?