Psychology Today blogger Gretchen Rubin has some interesting tips for you. Especially if you, yourself, are not that interesting. Based on some elementary psychological principles, speech patters, and body language, you can tell if you’re the life of the party like you ought to be, or a dead, dead, dead fish. Here’s her list with a little of an explanation from us as to what that exactly means for you.
1. Repeated, perfunctory responses
These are the types of responses cartoon characters give as they offer a comically big yawn. Any kind of “go on,” type of response such as: oh, oh really, interesting, etc. means that your audience isn’t really listening. Maybe they’re hearing you, but they’re just being polite. Mentally, they’ve checked out or are waiting for you to say something they actually care about. Gretchen also writes that simple questions such as “when did you move here,” indicate disinterest, but that’s sort of the same thing.
Interruption can boarder on the impolite, but it always indicates a need to get a word in, and more often than not, this is because something you’ve said is decidedly unboring. It’s king of like Crossfire without all the angry bowties. She expounds that a request for clarification is the more polite flavor of this. What did you mean by ___? When exactly did that happen? These are the types of questions that show people are genuinely interested. Less so, “then what?”
3. Imbalance of Talking Time
This one is a bit tricky because it can go either way, and can be interpreted in several fashions. However, for the most part, an imbalance of talking time means that the conversation is not interesting to at least one member. Either 1) you’re not allowing your audience to participate in the conversation, so even if you’re talking about interesting things, they’re not as engaged as they may otherwise be, or 2) you’re simply not talking about interesting things. Either way, a lopsided conversation rolls along like a bicycle tire of the same shape.
4. Abrupt Subject Change
This is another sign that things are going exactly swimmingly. If you’re expounding on the lackadaisical but ultimately heroic travails of one Col. Geoffrey Spicer-Simson, and you’re heretofore entranced lady-friend asks out of the blue if you’ve heard Lady Gaga’s new single, it might be time to rethink your obscure, British maritime references (or your lady-friend). If this happens, though, fight the urge to continue to tell your tale of the sea. Allow them to take the helm of the conversation for a bit, and it maybe be salvageable.
5. Body Posture
It’s intuitive that an attentive listener will be facing you, but the more intresting thing to look for that Rubin brings up is a phenomenon called “The Measurement of Fidget.” Besides being a good album title, this refers to a paper written in 1885 by Sir Francis Galton. Anedotally, he observed that disinterested people slouch and fidget more. We probably can’t put it any better than Rubin put it herself: “An audience that’s sitting still and upright is interested, while an audience that’s horizontal and squirmy is bored.”