To Attract Others, Don't Be A Bore

By: Paul W. Swets

There have been blogs posted here and similar references made on "Now Hear This Entertainment" to building relationships and there being no such thing as having too many contacts.  Thus, it's fitting that this week a guest blog is presented on the topic of attracting others.

How do you attract the attention of a business person or friend?  Should you talk only about yourself and your accomplishments?  Think about it.  Would you want to listen to a friend interested primarily in himself or herself?  Boring!


Think about boars.  They:

don't show interest in others
don't care what you think
don't ask you questions

To attract friends or business associates, you don’t want to be a boar.  You bore them.

You do need to ask good questions.

Warning: not all questions are good questions.  Bad questions, asked only for the purpose of giving your own opinions or drawing attention to yourself (e.g. "What did you think of my performance?") shut the door to better understanding.  The listener feels used, not affirmed.  Constant questioning also can make your friends uneasy.  They wonder, Why the inquisition?  Good questions keep your companion in mind.  They don't intimidate.  They don't make the person feel awkward or invaded.  They don't stop the flow of communication-they start it!

Even if you recognize in yourself a habit of asking the wrong kind of questions, the kind that repel people, you can learn to ask good ones and draw people in.  You can make effective adjustments in your conversational style by using the following techniques.

1.  Reduce Implied Threat
Emotions may be involved in your conversation.  Even a simple question may suggest a subtle threat.  Your friend wonders, Will you use the information you are asking for against me?  Why do you need that information?  Are you going to judge me by how I answer this question?  Reduce threat by making your purpose clear.  For example, you can say:
    Just for my information...
    I'm trying to decide which microphone to buy and I'd like your opinion.
    I'm interested in your thoughts on a decision I'm trying to make.
    Honey, our checkbook balance is very low. Do we need to buy that guitar now?
Stating your purpose clarifies your intentions and breaks down defenses.

2.  Ask Simple Questions First
With a new person, begin with nonthreatening questions that call for a yes or no answer.  "Are you okay?"  Then you can move to open-ended questions that draw out the other person's thoughts.  "What do you like about your new gig?"

3.  Listen Prudently
Listen to other people's tone of voice and even how fast they answer.  Consider not only the meaning of their words, but what the words imply.  This extra information helps you know how best to respond.  For example, reticence to discuss a topic might suggest there is something more to the topic that your friend wants to share but he is not sure how you'll handle it.  You might say, "I notice you are hesitant to talk about this. Would you rather talk about something else?" or "Am I missing something?" or "Does this bring up some thoughts you would like to share?"

When you ask good questions
    · you earn the right to be heard by taking the time to listen
    · you meet other people's needs for attention and give them a chance to tell their stories
    · you might learn something new!
    · you establish rapport and strengthen friendship--which multiplies happiness

People are normally honored when you care enough to ask about their thoughts or achievements. You attract them to you.

Paul Swets earned his doctorate in communication at the University of Michigan.  He is the author of four books, including The Art of Talking So That People Will Listen (Simon & Schuster).  For more information, visit his website at

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