Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

What makes somebody interesting? (Or boring?)

Do you consider yourself interesting? A good conversationalist, perhaps? Someone others enjoy talking to? The other day I was bemoaning the relentless dullness of so many of the people I meet — especially young women — and I started to wonder what makes people interesting. Dinner party-worthy, say. Or not.

I work in an industry that a lot of people consider to be more interesting than, say, insurance or carpet cleaning. It’s an industry in which people are paid to be creative. And yet some of the most interesting people I’ve encountered are not the copywriters or art directors, but the account directors and account executives.

Is it education? Life experience? An interest in the world and finding out more about it? What someone does for a living? (After all, surely an accountant is less interesting than a game ranger?)

I’d like to make generalisations, but I am not sure I can. Some of the most interesting people I have met have either not been formally educated beyond matric, led sheltered lives but harboured challenging opinions or possessed a sparkling sense of humour despite doing a boring job. Many of the young people I meet are deeply boring, but youth and relative paucity of life experience are not coterminous with being uninteresting. A six-year-old can be interesting, if you ask the right questions.

Thinking about all of those people that I find interesting, I suppose the one thing many of them have had in common is an ability to see the irony in life, to accommodate the strange and awkward truth that there are many shades of grey out there, and this world does not necessarily make sense.

In that sense, it’s easier to define what makes a person boring. Where to start? Perhaps with opinions — because without them, you’re definitely boring. The lack of a sense of humour is boring. So is a lack of interest in anything other than your immediate experience. Talking too much about work is boring. Ditto, talking too much about yourself. Also, talking too much about the same subject (a wide range of interests is important to make a person interesting). Being convinced that you are always right can be very boring, though it can be entertaining too. Knowing too little is boring, but so is knowing too much.

Ultimately, I suppose what determines whether you are interesting or boring is whether you are interested in others and what they have to say; whether you are willing to entertain a different view of the world, put yourself and your ego aside and invite a little difference in. For, if you invest just a little of yourself into the world, you will get something worthwhile back.