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In Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends And Influence People, he listed genuine interest as one of the most important aspects of a good relationship. I can’t agree more with that statement! In all of my interactions with people and my discussions with people who I think interacts well with other people, this concept has proven itself over and over again. So why is genuine interest so important in relationships? How do we go about showing genuine interest?

Imagine having the following two conversations:

A Conversation Without Interest

“Hi Bob”
“Hey Jim”
“How was your weekend?”
“It was great! I went fishing with my son at Lake Tahoe and we spent so much time together!”
“Oh, good. Are you enjoying this show we’re doing?”
“Yeah! I love it, it’s my first show ever!”
*got a grape while Bob was talking* “Hey, good for you. The weather’s been pretty nice lately huh?”

A Conversation With Genuine Interest

“Hi Bob!”
“Hey Jim!”
“How was your weekend?”
“It was great! I went fishing with my son at Lake Tahoe and we spent so much time together!”
“That’s great! It’s really awesome that you’re spending so much time with your children.”
“Yeah, it’s not easy to find time these days, but you got to make the time for your family.”
“Oh, definiately. I have two kids and …”

What Genuine Interest Says

Which of the above two conversations would you rather be involved in if you were Bob? (If you picked the first one, umm.. you’re kindda weird! Leave me a note though …) Probably everyone has had the first conversation with someone at one point or another. On the surface, Jim is asking a lot of questions and technically “demonstrating interest”. Yet, as the receipient of his questions, Bob would feel annoyed. Why is that? Isn’t he doing a good job keeping the conversation flowing?

Well, yes, the conversation is “flowing”, but it’s about to be shut off really soon. That’s because Jim isn’t demonstrating any understanding of what Bob is saying. He is going from topic to topic, practically oblivious to Bob’s answers. In fact, if you just take out Bob’s lines, you have basically a script that Jim prepared. In that case, what’s the point of Bob even being there?

And that’s exactly the point! From the meaning of life, we know that people want to exist. When people follows a script like and you might as well not be there, it demonstrates your complete unimportance to them. It’s almost like trying to have a conversation with a tree, except the tree happens to ask a lot of random questions. You can not exist and it won’t make any difference in the conversation!

Now consider the second conversation where Jim shows genuine interest in Bob. If you take out Bob’s lines, it’s clear that part of the conversation is missing. It is clear that Jim values what Bob has to say. If Bob didn’t exist, Jim would be less of a person because he wouldn’t be able to learn the things he did. That is to say, the conversation itself provided a lot of value to Jim, and Bob, as a participant of this conversation, is very important in Jim’s mind. As a result, Bob exists more just by telling Jim what he knows!

So now that we know how important genuine interest in people is for relationships, just how exactly do we go about showing it?

How To Be Genuinely Interested

Let’s say you are talking to someone, and you find yourself being really really bored. How do you turn it around and make the conversation interesting by showing genuine interest?

The answer is – you don’t! Take a moment and think about what genuine interest means!! It’s genuine interest! That’s real interest in the person or subject matter the person is discussing. There is a set of things you are really interested in that is very tied into your feelings. This is not something you can change in a few minutes, or even over a period of months or years. You just can’t have genuine interest when you’re not interested!

The thing is, you already know how to show genuine interest. If you’re interested, it doesn’t take an article to tell you how to act. If I’m interested in baseball, I ask a lot of questions about baseball. If I’m interested in reading, I ask questions about books I’ve read, books I want to read, etc. Every single person already does this part really well!

The real key that isn’t so obvious is talking with people who you are not genuinely interested in. If you are bored with a topic or person, leave. That way, you have more time to pursue the people and conversations that you actually are interested in!

After all, what’s better – 50 routine, boring conversations, or one conversation that opens your mind and really allows you connect with someone? Plus, that one conversation takes a lot less time than 50 boring conversations!

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26 Responses to “How To Be Genuinely Interested In People”

  1. Scott M on December 26th, 2007 9:55 am

    So what do you do if you are bored by almost everyone? What do you do if it takes 100, 200, 1000 boring conversations to find that one person you are interested in?

  2. Warren on December 26th, 2007 2:37 pm

    That’s a really good thing! It often DOES take 1000s of conversations to find a really really interesting one. However, once you’ve found a person who has insightful ideas, people like that tend to stick around forever, and that’s how solid friendships form.

  3. Scott M on December 26th, 2007 4:15 pm

    Probably explains why I haven’t found any good friends in the past several years… :)

  4. seg on March 12th, 2008 9:05 am

    Oh so close, but then you stopped!
    You’re right, you can’t force genuine interest, however our bodies our rigged in such a way that we can direct our attention. When we’re uninterested in a conversation, we’re focused on the wrong things, namely the things that don’t interest us. The answer is not to give up and leave. The answer is to draw focus to the things that do interest us. Sometimes these things must be unhidden. If someone is talking about sports, and you think sports are stupid, instead of walking away, ask the person why they like sports so much.
    Their answer will help you understand them better, and could even change your own feelings on sports.

    That I think is the essential ingredient here. Willingness to change. If you’ve already made your mind up that sports are stupid and you believe you are right, then you can’t have a genuine conversation without blatantly switching topics. But if you’re willing to discover something new, to change, you’ll find that you may relate to the other person’s love of sports. (Its complex, challenging, its pure… whatever) This will most certainly bring up your own memories of similar activities that you are passionate about, and now with something analogous to talk about, you have genuine interest.

  5. Warren on March 12th, 2008 1:08 pm

    Hi seg!

    Thanks for dropping by – those are really insightful comments!! I think you’re very right that you can try to focus your attention and learn more about the subject at hand. Although, I think in that case, you have some inherent interest in getting along with that person, or maybe in learning something new.

    Those definiately sound like the right thing to do if you’re open to discovering new interests (which is great when you’re not busy :-) ) and meeting people!

  6. jerry on December 9th, 2008 10:11 am

    Don’t you think some people are just wired to not be interested in people? If I need a good heart surgeon I want someone able to focus on the job at hand. I could care less about a Genuinely Interested Conversation from him.

  7. Ameatabh Bachan on March 5th, 2010 8:31 am

    Oh man, if I followed this advice I wouldn’t talk to ANYONE! And unfortunately as a result wouldn’t make an money/earn any business. Would rarely have intimite time with a woman. I’m hoping you’ll she dsome advice on how to BECOME genuinely interested when you’re not at all.

  8. Cameran on March 30th, 2010 3:55 pm

    Hey folks, thanks for the advice yet..i’m having troubles still finding genuine interest, I thought i was reading things on self development as well as spiritual development to help me see what I would like in a girl..well i found that special person who basically is all of the things i’ve read lately, I started asking questions on career goals and virtues..etc. :S this makes me confused because now i feel like those were my 50 boring questions without interest, I was looking for a lable..not the person :( I feel like a complete idiot. I’m still holding a persona..:( I don’t know what is interesting to me! ha and i get upset with myself because no matter how hard i try things come back to me…me me me’s fucking stressful! i don’t want things to be about me anymore..i want to be genuinely interested!

  9. Zoe on August 27th, 2010 8:50 pm

    This is a topic worth developing more. And Seg has it right. You cannot just walk away from everyone that bores you because for me that would be everyone I’ve ever met, pretty much.

    I don’t know if it has to do with self-centeredness or maybe higher self-awareness – who knows, but most people have nothing of any interest to me to say. I really don’t care about their kids play, or the stress on their job, or how their flower beds are full of weeds. Why would I?

    So the key here is to bluff… bluff interest – as all the sales people in the world already know!

    But here in lies the rub. I’m not a sales person and I can’t bluff interest, at least not often and not for very long… a minute or so maybe.

    And inside of me, all the while, I’m fighting an angry feeling coming over me of how I just want to get away from all of this non-sense conversation… meaningless details I don’t want to hear… that are burdening my entire being.

    So… I come on the internet to search “how to be nicer” or “how to have interest in people” (when really you don’t give a hoot). And in my reading I’m coming to the conclusion that its just a skill that you have to develop. As one person said above, you know how to show genuine interest in things you are interested in, now you have to memorize what that looks like, sounds like, etc, and do exactly that when involved in conversations that bore the living crap out of you. That is the skill. Take deep breaths often, and I would imagine, just like any other skill we learn, the longer we do it the better we will get at it. Eventually, I imagine it will become like second nature.

    But I want to know where I went wrong in that I use to tolerate these non-sense conversations so much better than I do now. It’s like I hit a place where I decided I really don’t have time for you. Which is not nice. And my goal is to be nicer.

    I think its about slowing down and realizing its okay to be bored by someone … and there is a reason we want to show interest- and for whatever that reason is, we need to practice and perfect our genuine (looking) interest in others. Fake it ’til you make it baby!!

  10. Simon Cox on September 26th, 2010 1:12 pm

    This is soooo true!

  11. jack on October 2nd, 2010 6:47 am

    joe and cameran i get u. I feel the same thing.
    the thing is why do we talk about the lamest shit when good relationships are totally possible with the people around us. i feel like such a loser. makes me wanna go get baked just so i became interesting..also i totally get you about having the convos. always coming back to ‘me, me me me me! Even i am bored of me, why am i always talking about myself im not sure…

    this is such an interesting topic im really glad i stumbled around onto this website…it really gives me something to think about..thanks!

  12. marjorie on January 13th, 2011 11:34 am

    I found this article not to be of as great help as the others.
    As you pointed out, you already know you’re not genuinly interested. So your suggestion is to “leave”. But what if that’s not an option (as in most cases)?

    You meet a friend of yours on the train, sitting next to each other you have no choice but to engage in a conversation, because you’re definitely going to meet him again at a party or whatever and I mean you kind of know each other so it’d be just awkward not to talk. You dont even dislike him, you just have nothing in common whatsoever.
    I wouldn’t be asking this question if it didn’t happen to me all the time. Do you have any suggestions on that?

  13. nina on January 28th, 2011 2:26 pm

    my god
    everythin u said was about me ; lol; i suck
    i will do my best next time

  14. Aaron on February 17th, 2011 2:54 pm

    Hey what’s up guys? Aaron here, just wanted to say something. Was reading some of these comments on here and you actually CAN become more interested in what people have to say, I’m living proof of that in my own life. When I was younger I could really give a crap what another person had to say and strangely enough I was more worried about what they thought (as if I could read minds or something…whatever). I would act in a way that I thought would try and make them think better of me, if that makes any sense…it often led to me feeling like I had to impress people which never worked out the way it was planned. I would never listen because I was too busy trying to make others think I was cool by talking about myself, I was wrong ok.

    But I think that we become more interested in people as we grow, as we mature mentally and learn more about people…all of you here reading this already have at least a basic interest in people right? Otherwise you wouldn’t be here reading any of it. I think the more we try to learn about people, we become more interested in people overall, kind of obvious in a way but also somewhat elusive…anyways, that’s my two cents on the matter 

  15. Mary on April 27th, 2011 10:06 pm

    I have a major issue with the phrase, “how are you?” It’s just like saying “hi” no one usually cares how you are, it’s just a greeting. Most don’t even look at you or even stay in the same room for an answer! I find it incredibly rude. One person I work with says it everytime when she comes on shift in passing as she walks away. So I stopped trying to answer. Then one day out of the blue she asks me and I don’t notice that she’s actually waiting and looking at me for a response. Then she’s like “Mary I asked you how you were?” Now I look like the rude one… That’s what was going through my mind anyway. I was going to try and explain but it seemed like so much effort and you know those people that you don’t think would get it anyway? Well she was one of those.

    I am an introvert and meaningless conversations bore me and drain the energy right out of me. So I dont waste my energy on people who aren’t bothered themselves. I act more like a mirror, whatever I get from other people is how I reflect back at them. Usually this helps motivate me to open my eyes for any genuine interests or at least a laugh or two. I’m not one to make the first step because my time is precious.

    NOW saying all that… There is a reason why I ended up here on this site. Clearly my practices are not working the best for me. Most people I come across, I don’t even like. I think that’s because the interaction stays on such a superficial level and I want to know the person so fast like how I know my friends. To get friends you have to meet a few strangers first and that’s what puts me off. Everything in my life I do, I do it for a reason. Talking to someone new doesn’t have a defined outcome or result of friendship or common genuine interedts and could be a waste of time. It is this mentality I am trying to change.

  16. Mary on April 27th, 2011 10:31 pm

    Also one other aspect is that “you can’t be friends with anyone else in the world until you are friends with yourself”

    When you find yourself shooting others down as boring, finding faults etc you may be doing it so you feel better about yourself or so you have rejected them first. (so if they reject you later it doesn’t matter because hey, you didn’t like them either)

    The problems you can fix are always only the ones inside yourself. In this situation I think a look inside is most important. There’s so much “wrong” with me lol

  17. ENFP on April 29th, 2011 3:36 pm

    I suggest you read Type Talk At Work. You being an ISTJ are biased and are generalizing what people are actually interested in reading about, which is how to act interested, everyone knows how to be interested, but what is difficult for many other introverts it is finding their inner charisma in order to play off the interests of others.

  18. Michi on July 3rd, 2011 7:22 am

    Zoe you rock! Ever thought of publishing your thoughts?

  19. Seth on September 26th, 2011 9:51 am

    It’s true that it’s more “genuine” to leave environments and people behind that you have no interest in. Here’s my question to you: In environments where you are “stuck” and find nobody to interest you, what do you do then? Please e-mail me.

  20. Ijon Tichy on January 15th, 2012 12:13 pm

    How on earth would I be able to function in corporate life as a corporate drone, which is only way for a person with rather limited skill set to earn his keep, if I’d simply just walk out from any or all conversations I find uninteresting? That would simply mean that I’d never ever again talk to any mindless drone like myself. And that would mean I’d be out there robbing people with a knife to earn my keep. Now that would be a real disaster to everyone, wouldn’t it?

  21. Fcuk. You. on April 6th, 2012 10:46 pm

    Hahaha! You asked that people leave a donation for you!? You can’t even type using proper grammar or correct spelling!! GET A JOB! STOP STEALING ADVICE FROM COPYWRITTEN MATERIAL AND ASKING TO GET PAID FOR IT.

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  24. lulufly on March 12th, 2013 7:06 pm

    Use socializing as a way to get to know yourself more .as “introverts” we tend to know ourselves pretty well but when you talk to others you learn about another side of yourself, the social self and your role in your community. I actually dont believe that theres such a thing as intovert/extrovert, I think that people who are labeled as introverts just have a sense of higher meaning in life.

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