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How to make yourself sound incredibly boring

June 20, 2009

I realized something last night: If I met me, I would think I was the most boring person in the world. At least at first.

This isn’t to say that I am the most boring person in the world (I’m not! I swear!), only that I might seem that way initially.

My new coworkers (who are fantastic, by the way) took me to dinner last night, and they tried to ask me questions about myself. I am really bad at answering questions about myself. The following exchange happens to me constantly.

Them: “What do you like to do in your spare time?”

Me (a.k.a. the deer in the headlights):What do I like to do in my spare time? Have I had any spare time recently? Yes, yes I have. What did I do with it? Oh, right ….

“Uh, I like to read.”

It’s the truth, but it’s not a particularly complete (or compelling) answer. Sometimes I attempt to expand on it, but if not, there’s the inevitable follow-up question.

Them: “Oh, me too! What kinds of things do you like to read? Science fiction? Biographies?”

Me: Uh … “I’m interested in everything.”

This is also a true statement. And, of course, it tells the asker absolutely nothing about me. I realize this, and I attempt to list some things I’ve read lately. “I just finished Slaughterhouse Five” or “Right now, I’m reading a book of Celtic myths and a pretty trashy mystery novel I picked up on a whim” or “I’ve just started reading Mark Felt’s memoir.” These answers are slightly better. Sometimes I’ll add that I read a lot of news, magazines, blogs and RSS feeds; more rarely I’ll specify which ones.

But the best conversations come when I can deflect the question back onto the asker.

Me: “What about you?”

For some reason, other people usually have a more well-defined answer for what they like to do (or, for this specific example, what they like to read). And when they mention specific genres or particular books, I’m usually able to react in some way: offer opinions if they mention books I’ve read, ask questions if they mention books I haven’t.

It’s funny — earlier yesterday, I had read Ben Casnocha’s post “How To Be Interesting.” In it, Casnocha references an old post by Russell Davies, who makes two assumptions about interesting people:

  1. They are interesting because they are interested.
  2. They are interesting because they are good at sharing.

I think I’ve got the first one down. But the second one is a little trickier. Am I bad at answering very general questions because I really have nothing to say, or is it because I have so much to say I can’t decide which answer should come out of my mouth? I certainly hope it’s the latter.

Either way, I need to come up with a better answer for when people ask me about my hobbies.

What say you, readers? What makes someone interesting? (What makes someone boring?) Have you ever had trouble defining your interests, and if so, what did you do about it? (Or are we still in the same boat, sadly, sans T-Pain?)

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Alissa Griffith permalink
    June 20, 2009 3:27 pm

    “Uh, I like to read.” LOL!!! I’ve given this answer many times too. It’s weird when ppl ask an avid reader what she likes to read. The obvious answer is “everything”. LOL! But if you think you sound boring, I think I sound superficial, shallow, self-absorbed and slighty oxymoronic when I say “read (everything from Cosmo to Time Magazine to memoirs to ill-written novels), write, shop, talk, Twitter, Facebook”. Hahaha. I’ve never really thought about this. Great post!!

  2. Natalie DeBruin permalink*
    June 20, 2009 3:37 pm

    I worry about the superficial and shallow, too; I can’t claim to have in-depth knowledge of anything, really. And it does sound a little self-absorbed — so now we’re arrogant bores. Haha. Good to know I’m not the only one.

  3. rp johnson permalink
    June 20, 2009 11:51 pm

    When people ask me this, I say I am reading material on things I feel that I should know more about. Of course, this changes from time to time. I am reading your blog because Tyler Cowan mentioned it on his blog, “Marginal Revolution”. And he also mentions an article in the July/August Atlantic on “Why The Economist makes money while Time and Newsweek are trying to stay alive”. As a budding journalist, you probably have already read this article.

    I make an effort to let people know I like to read, so they often suggest things; some of which are good, others not so good. And I like to talk about what I am or have finished reading, so pretty soon people have an idea that I have odd tastes in reading. Oh, I don’t watch TV news; in fact I don’t watch TV at all.

    This may sound arrogant, but I’m not really, just retired and have time and resources to do what I want now.

    like your blog, I bookmarked it.

    rp

  4. Natalie DeBruin permalink*
    June 21, 2009 1:11 am

    “I am reading material on things I feel that I should know more about.” I like that.

  5. Mel permalink
    June 21, 2009 7:49 pm

    Heh, I didn’t think you were boring! 🙂 I completely understand the answer — I read everything, too, but I’ve learned that people don’t want just that answer, so I’ve come up with other, more pat responses to give. But my last few books were the Sookie Stackhouse novels, ‘Dixieland Delight: A Football Season on the Road in the Southeastern Conference,’ the latest Buffy and Angel comics, ‘Watchmen,’ a couple books on Flash and CSS, and some trashy historical romance novel (a variation on the “forced marriage” plot). It’s kind of hard to sum that up in a few words, so fantasy/sci-fi seems to work. 🙂 Honestly, I just push on the “everything” answer because I absolutely LOVE to share books with other people, so I’m always curious what’s in my collection that I think you need to read.

  6. Natalie DeBruin permalink*
    June 21, 2009 8:23 pm

    Pushing on the “everything” answer is a perfectly legitimate response. I just need to come up with a more specific answer for myself so I’m not struck dumb when it comes up. 🙂

    And if you want to recommend anything, please feel free! I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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