Six Reliable Ways to Be Boring

Whether you are giving a talk, working with a team or meeting one-on-one, how do you know if you are engaging your audience or boring them? The article below by Loran Ekroth explores 6 communication behaviors to keep an ear out for in ourselves and others. Heads up!

“Someone’s boring me. I think it’s me.” – Dylan Thomas

Six Reliable Ways to Be Boring

By Loren Ekroth

The topic seems tongue-in-cheek, because I assume you readers don’t want to be boring. Here are brief descriptions of 6 of the most common ways conversationalists bore others. You will almost certainly recognize people you know, but it’s unlikely that you’ll see yourself doing any of these. (I’ll explain later.) So, here they are, in no particular order:

1. Includes too many details, doesn’t get to the point. “The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.” -Voltaire

Principal villains: a. “Know-it-alls” who are specialists on a certain topic and try to share all that they know, and b. folks who somehow think that every detail of their personal lives, all important to them, is equally important to others.

I know two people quite well who almost always insist on providing a long preface (back story) before they get into the substance. I don’t need to hear all that as part of a social conversation, so it’s frustrating.

2. Telling the same old story over and over again.

When you ask, “How’s it going?” you are likely to hear the same story you heard during your last encounter. It’s predictable, thus boring, especially if it’s a “victim” or “ain’t it awful” account.

In order to deflect this possibility, I often ask “What’s new and good?” so I can hear something new and positive. Usually there is, and I prefer to hear that.

3. Persisting with topics others are not interested in

There is a song in an old Rodgers and Hart musical, Babes in Arms, called “Johnny One Note.” One note is fun in that musical, but one topic is rarely fun in a conversation.

You all know people who are so committed to a particular area of interest, often their work, it’s all they want to talk about. Examples: Their insurance sales; or the home they are building; or the bridge tournaments they’re playing in.

Often, if you introduce another topic, they’ll somehow steer the conversation back to their pet topic.

4. Dull expression: Flat or monotone voice, motionless face and body. Mumbling, talking very softly thus hard to hear and understand.

If a lot of effort is required to listen to a person, most of us will eventually give up in frustration. Generally, people prefer some “life” in the way others talk. Even if the topic lacks interest, the manner is entertaining.

5. Showing no interest in the other person, only yourself ME, ME, ME, but no WE.

We eventually resent self-centeredness because it breaks a cardinal rule of quality conversation, which is “mutuality.” Good conversation must be collaborative, not competitive.

I notice that people who are predictably self-centered are avoided. Those who know them give them a wide berth so that the “ME person” has to seek out others as targets for their talk.

6. Babbling on at length and not listening to others.

Why do they do this? Sometimes, because they’re uncomfortable with silence, they “fill the airwaves” with their own talk. Sometimes, because they are not much interested in others, they prefer to entertain themselves with their own talk.

(Perhaps this person should join a self-help group called “On and On and On Anon.”)

Exception: Sometimes the compassionate thing to do is to listen to others as a sorely needed act of compassion – even if we feel the impulse to flee. And so we give them a listening ear, even though we may have heard their story before, because “that’s what friends are for.”

Finally, many boring people I know aren’t aware that their behavior bores others. The behavior is in their Blind Area that others notice, but they’re not aware of. Moreover, these folks are usually offended if you point out what they’re doing, and they will usually deny it.

YOUR CALL TO ACTION

I’m sure you don’t see yourself using any of the above behaviors. But, perhaps you recognize your boss, or co-worker or a good friend in one of these descriptions. What action can you take to help them be more engaging? Share with our community below.

Used with permission of Dr. Loren Ekroth, publisher of “Better Conversations” newsletter. Complimentary subscriptions at www.conversationmatters.com.