“I’ve lost interest in socializing. I find most people boring, so I don’t develop meaningful connections. I think I come across as rude or a snob. How can I become interested in people enough to make friends?”
One of the best ways to make friends is to have a genuine interest in others. However, that’s easier said than done. People can usually tell if you’re not really interested, so forcing yourself or pretending isn’t a great solution.
The good news is that you can develop your interest and curiosity just as you would develop other skills in your life. Here are our best tips on how to be curious about others.
1. Have realistic expectations
You’re not going to be intensely interested in everyone you meet. That’s just not possible. You’re also not going to be as interesting in the daily life of a stranger as you would a friend or someone else that you’re close to.
Don’t expect yourself to be over-the-top excited to talk to anyone you meet. Instead, try to keep an open mind. You don’t know that this person will be interesting, but they may be.
2. Challenge your perceptions
Ask yourself why you don’t find other people interesting. What would someone need to do for you to find them interesting? Are you more interested in people who are similar to you or those who are different?
Often, we aren’t interested in people because we hold some preconceived ideas about them. We may assume that they are shallow or boring. Perhaps we think that they won’t be interested in us, so we close ourselves off as a way to protect ourselves.
3. Work on your inner critic
You may not have enough mental space to be interested in others if your mind is overloaded with anxious thoughts about yourself, the world, the future, and the past.
Let’s say you’re out in the grocery store, and you run into someone you vaguely know but haven’t really talked to.
“Oh, I should have worn something nicer. They’ll notice the stains on my shirt. How embarrassing! I’ll come across as rude if I don’t say hi, but what if I do and it turns into a long conversation I can’t escape from? Maybe they don’t want to talk to me. What should I do?”
With all these worries bouncing around, it’s only natural that there isn’t any room for thoughts like, “I wonder how they’re doing.”
If you have this problem, it may help to read our guide for people who feel that social anxiety is ruining their lives and our article on what to do if your social anxiety is getting worse. If self-criticism is a serious issue for you, a good therapist may also help.
4. Notice details about others
When you catch yourself being in your head, try to bring your attention back to the present moment. Get into the habit of noticing things about the people you’re talking to. What color are their eyes? What are they wearing? Do they seem confident or insecure?
You’re more likely to find people interesting when you pay closer attention to them.
5. Write down what you’ve learned
Try keeping a diary and record your social interactions. Try to elaborate on the things you’ve noticed and what they may mean. Why do people talk about the things they talk about? What does it say about them?
Say you’ve noticed that one person in the group was quiet, and another person made attempts to include them in the conversation. You may write, “Alex made sure to turn towards the shy people in the group. It shows that he is attentive to others and cares about making other people comfortable.”
Or if there is someone who takes their music very seriously, you may write about that. “Andie takes pride in knowing about local bands and music trends. It seems like creativity and individuality are important to her.”
Try to keep a non-judgemental attitude when analyzing others. You’re practicing empathy, curiosity, and compassion. Soon, you’ll discover that everyone you meet is an entire world.
6. View the conversation as a process
When we talk to someone, our conversation isn’t just about the actual details of what we’re talking about.
Small talk usually isn’t interesting. But it’s often a necessary step in establishing rapport with another person. Small talk says: I care about being nice to you and opening a door for future communication.
Let’s say someone is telling you about their backpacking trip. Now, you may not care about their trip all that much. You’re not interested in the country they visited, you don’t see what’s so interesting about seeing old temples, and you don’t need to know what they ate there.
But think of it this way: their story is not so much about what they did but what they gained out of it. Are they proud of themselves for doing something they were afraid of? Did they challenge themselves by trying new things?
When someone is telling you something, they’re not just sharing facts: they’re sharing their passions, personality, beliefs, and feelings.
7. Learn to move past small talk
You’re going to find conversations boring if you let other people dictate everything about it. Take an active part in your discussions. Change the topic to something that you find more interesting. Offer stories of your own. Ask questions and share your perspective.
Conversations are a two-way street. Think of them as a dance: there should be a give-and-take. You have just as much responsibility in making your conversations enjoyable as your conversation partner.
To learn more, read our tips on having deeper conversations.
8. Learn from differences
Sometimes we struggle to connect to people when we feel that we have nothing in common with them.
But imagine the extreme case of meeting someone who shares your exact opinions, tastes, values, and beliefs. You’ll run out of things to say pretty quickly if you just agree on everything!
We can learn a lot from people who come from different backgrounds and hold opposing beliefs. Remember to come from a place of respect. Having different opinions doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong.
9. Try to meet people you will find interesting
You have more chance of being interested in people with whom you share common interests, at least in the beginning. Getting to know people through shared hobbies and activities gives you something to talk about and bond over. Make an effort to find like-minded people to talk to and see if you can get curious about getting to know them.
10. Read literature
Fiction books can be a great way to develop empathy. That’s because they can transport us into the mind of someone else.
Try to read books that take place in different countries, at different times, or are from the perspective of people who differ from you in age, gender, race, sexual preference, or personality. Doing so will help you become more interested in how people’s background influences their feelings and behaviors. You can get ideas from books that sparked empathy in others.
You can also listen to podcasts that include interviews with other people who are talking about their life.
11. Trust your instincts
Sometimes, you won’t be interested in someone despite trying all these tips.
If you’ve given someone a few minutes of your time but still don’t feel interested, don’t pretend. People can usually tell when you’re pretending, so it’s not worth it. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t be nice. You should. But don’t pretend that you want to get to know someone when you don’t.
Often, our lack of interest is there for a reason. Perhaps your gut is telling you that this person won’t be a good person to have in your life.
Common questions about being interested in others
Why am I not interested in talking to anyone?
If you feel that you can’t get interested at all, it may be a sign of depression, anxiety, or low self-confidence. Talking to people may feel like it’s more effort than it’s worth, especially if you are afraid of rejection and don’t have positive models for relationships in your life.
Why do I lose interest in conversations?
You may lose interest in conversations if they remain at a surface level. We can only be so interested in small talk. You may be struggling to connect to people on a personal level. If conversations feel one-sided, we’ll lose interest pretty quickly.
Why do I lose interest in people?
Losing interest in people may be a sign that they don’t share similar values, goals, or interests. It’s normal to lose interest in someone if they are judgmental, unsupportive, or not emotionally available.