When you have conversations with other people, do they listen closely to everything you say or mentally check their to-do lists? Do you wonder whether you're engaging and fascinating, or maybe just boring when you talk about the topics that interest you?
Now you can find out, if you're brave enough. In a new blog post on the Psychology Today website, clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., provides 10 insightful questions that can help you determine whether you're boring or fascinating to talk with. You can find the full list here. These are five of the best:
1. What goes through your mind while someone else is speaking?
When someone else speaks, do you actively listen to what that person is telling you, or are you planning out the next thing you'll say? Most people are likelier to engage with and take an interest in someone who's taking an interest in them. And your conversational partner is likely able to tell--consciously or unconsciously--whether you're really listening or not. It seems obvious and yet it needs saying: If you want someone to listen to what you have to say, you should listen to what they have to say as well.
2. Do you take turns with topics?
Everyone has subjects they love to talk about, including the person you're talking with. If it's someone you've talked with before, and you paid attention to what they said, you may even know those topics are. The best way for both of you to stay interested and engaged is to alternate between your favorite topics and theirs, focusing on one for a while and then the other. Do you make sure to do this?
3. Do you express curiosity about their topics?
Are you curious about whatever the other person likes to talk about? Even if it's not your favorite subject, chances are you can find some aspect of it that interests you long enough to sustain a few minutes of conversation. If not, you should still express interest and encourage them to tell you at least a little about their topic. Make sure to ask follow-up questions, which will not only let them know you're interested, but also that you've been listening to what they were saying. It's especially great if you can ask questions about something they discussed last time you talked. They'll be impressed and flattered that you remembered the conversation.
4. Do you take risks by revealing things about yourself?
You can nearly always heighten another person's interest by revealing something about yourself, especially if it's something that can make you seem vulnerable. "I made a huge mistake last week." Now everybody's listening.
5. Do people who know you seem to want to spend time with you?
When you ask co-workers to lunch or coffee, do they seem eager to get together? Do your friends and family members spend a lot of time just hanging out with you, or do they only seem interested in conversation-blocking pursuits such as watching a movie together? One likely sign that you're a good conversationalist is if people want to converse with you. If they don't want to, you may not be.
Answering these questions honestly could be depressing if they lead you to the conclusion that, yes, you are boring the people you talk to, at least some of the time. But they are also heartening because, if you are more boring than you'd like to be, they point the way to getting better. Make sure to listen as intently as you hope to be listened to, take an interest in what other people say and ask follow-up questions, and be vulnerable and real in what you say. Greenberg has some further tips--it's well worth taking a look at her full post. Soon, you may have others paying close attention to your every word.