We fear boredom — that we might be bored or, even worse, bore others.
One example: For a 2014 University of Virginia psychology study, participants gave themselves electrical shocks to avoid sitting alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes.
In a similarly themed Quora thread, users discussed what makes people boring.
Here are the highlights, so that you can identify the bores in your life and avoid becoming a bore yourself.
Drake Baer contributed to an earlier version of this article.
Instead of finding a rhythm between talking and listening, boring people are on either conversational extreme.
Quora user Jack Bennett calls it an 'asymmetry in the conversational 'give and take' -- e.g. all listening and no talking, or all talking and no listening.'
If you're emphatically boring, you're probably missing the other person's body language.
User Garrick Saito argues that what makes a person boring is the 'continual blathering and ignoring of signals and body language that say (perhaps not loudly enough) 'I'm not interested in what you're saying, but am nodding every few seconds only to be polite.''
To avoid this, learn how to listen to what people are saying with their bodies.
User Andy Warwick complains of friends who go to the pub every weekend and then subsequently get frustrated when he can't make it out to join them -- since he was going to museums, reading books, or hiking around hills.
'For me what makes a person boring is living a sedentary life without variety,' Warwick says. 'Diverse experiences improve one's conversation for those weekends when you do go down the pub. You actually have something to talk about.'
A 'boor' is somebody who's loud and insensitive to the social situation, but a boring person can also be overly circumspect.
Alexa Knowles lays it down: 'Where the loud bore believes they are the most interesting person there is, the quiet bore believes it's best to never say anything because who would want to listen to them? These are the ones that reply to every inquiry with some variant of 'I dunno, sort of, I guess.''
If you haven't thought critically about what it is you think, you're not going to have much to offer in conversation.
'People that do not see past what they were taught to believe' are the boring ones, says Maranda Marvin. 'These people can only offer their very localised view on a variety of topics.'
'To interest someone and to truly engage others, you have to be able to tell a story,' says Dave Cheng. 'And you have to care about that story. You also have to solicit stories out of others. And you have to care about those stories.'
'Boring people are usually those who can't (or won't) understand how the conversation is experienced from the other person's perspective,' says Drew Austin. 'The ability to place oneself in another person's shoes makes someone interesting to talk to.' In this way, emotional intelligence is key to conversationality.
Research into our brains reveals that we're basically hard-wired to seek novelty. It's a need that's been rattling around evolution for some 800,000 years. The conversational takeaway: If you don't provide anything new to the listener, they're not going to be stimulated.
'To me, a boring person is someone from whom I cannot learn anything new,' says Stan Hayward. 'Thus, it takes time for me to decide someone is really a boring person, though some people give out cues pretty early in a relationship.'
What makes someone boring is 'the inability to include the others with interest into the conversation,' says Marie Holland, 'which I feel usually happens when the 'boring' person just wants their point to be told with too much detail that isn't relevant.'
This goes along with the empathy thing: If you can't figure out that someone in the circle of conversation is feeling left out, you're boring.
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