Pretty much everyone’s gotten themselves into that awkward situation where you and your conversation partner run out of things to say to each other.
It’s usually followed by some confusion: Am I less interesting than I thought? Am I (gasp) boring?
We’re not trying to make you paranoid — absolutely everyone has the capacity to be interesting. But if being boring is a persistent fear of yours, you might want to check out the tips below, culled from a Quora thread titled, “What makes a person boring?“
Read on for the social behaviours to avoid at all costs and you’ll be on your way to life-of-the-party status.
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.
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.''
Lucky you -- we've rounded up a bunch of tricks for reading nonverbal cues.
Humour shows 'cognitive flexibility': the ability to assess an idea or an event from a variety of perspectives, and then, naturally, make light of it. Boring people lack it.
'I'm an easy sell,' admits Will Wister. 'I mean come on let's face it -- it's not that hard.'
Bonus: If you can make people laugh, you'll probably have an easier time picking up a date.
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.''
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.'
You'll probably feel better about yourself, too, since novelty and challenge tend to make people happier.
If you haven't thought critically about the world around you, 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.'
In fact, a 2016 study found that men who can tell a good story are more attractive to women.
What's more, Cheng says, 'You also have to solicit stories out of others. And you have to care about those stories.'
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 in an earlier version of his answer, '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.'
'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.
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.
If you've got a prepared script for every casual conversation and can't deviate from it, you've got a problem.
'There have been plenty of times in my life when someone has gone on a tangent about something I know nothing about. In order to keep the conversation afloat I'd think of any anecdote that was even remotely related.
'Good conversationalists don't have to say the right thing, they just have to say something the other person can feed off of. Conversations are like a game of catch and if you don't throw that ball back, game over.'
For Vaibhav Khatri, a conversation partner who speaks in monotone automatically gets placed in the 'boring' category.
Khatri says it makes people think you're serious when you're being sarcastic; that no one can ever tell when you're excited about something; and that 'everyone assumes that you just hate everything.'
If that's not bad enough, speaking in monotone can make you look dumb.
Dylan Woon thinks people who are 'full of negativity' are the most boring.
He breaks down the Negative Nancies into three categories:
Victim mentality: 'I'm trapped! (Why) am I so unlucky? Why me? Why?'
Scarcity mentally: 'People have snatched that opportunity away from me! Oh no!'
Blaming mentality: 'It's all because of the government! Because of the President! Because you (are) the competitor! Because of him! It's all their faults!'
Have you heard the one about the super-boring conversationalist? He told the same story over and over again! But hey, how about that one about the super-boring conversationalist?
Fatima Nadeem says 'the repetition of (the) same things again and again while talking makes a person extremely boring.'
Try reading the news or mentally reviewing the past few hours for some new material.
Boredom is a two-way street. Nela Canovic says she's bored by 'people who have a habit of saying they are always bored.'
In other words: Most people will feed off your excitement, so show some.
Mike Nudelman and Drake Baer contributed to earlier versions of this article.
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