So often in social situations we feel compelled to be interesting. We believe this is the way to draw others to us. And then, to see how effective our efforts are, we monitor others for signs of interest in US. But, the skill that’s actually needed to build and enhance relationships, whether romantic, professional or platonic, is cultivating and SHOWING interest in OTHERS.
As Dale Carnegie once said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Feeling and expressing interest in others can be challenging for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes, we’re genuinely NOT interested in the other person and what they’re saying. Assumptions and judgments can interfere with our ability to become interested in others—we think we already know the other person and what they’re about. As a result, we’re don’t approach them with curiosity. Letting go of these judgments and assumptions helps interest grow.
Social anxiety, which leads to hyper self focus and negative thoughts about the self can also interfere. When we’re in our heads, trying to think of interesting things to say, it’s difficult to show interest in the people around us even if we feel it.
So, the next time you head into a networking event, go on a date, or out to lunch with a friend, take time to think about some things you’d like to learn about the other person. Approach them with interest and curiosity. In addition to eye contact, body language, and facial expression, express interest by asking questions and attending closely to what they are saying. You may find that by expressing interest in others, people actually become more interesting.
Dr. Lisa Napolitano is an expert in cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and other mindfulness-based treatments. A licensed psychologist in New York and Florida, she is the Founder and Director of CBT/DBT Associates, a boutique psychology practice group. Dr. Napolitano is an expert in the treatment of stress, anxiety, worry, and emotion regulation problems. She has specifically designed her treatment approach for executives, attorneys, and other high-functioning individuals whom she believes shouldn’t have to sacrifice their careers to manage their stress and work on developing their potential.