Well hello there from isolation.
Guess what? I made a new video for you. And I’m really proud of it. And I think you’re going to love it.
It’s about how to be a more interesting and engaging person in any interaction with someone through 5 quick principles you can instantly apply. And since most of us are having long-distance conversations with everyone right now, the ability to talk effectively has become utterly essential.
Can’t wait to see what you think…
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How can you be a more interesting person? I was recently reading a book called On Writing Well by William Zinsser that I found absolutely fascinating and I think is a great read for anyone, whether you’re a writer, an aspiring writer, or simply someone who wants to take these principles of great writing and apply them to your life. It was once said to me that any book on writing is actually a book about life and I think that there’s a lot of truth to that.
Now clearly, it would be an insult to the writing profession to assume that we can suddenly just be a great writer by applying certain principles. It takes an immense amount of hard work over time to be a great writer but there are principles that are mentioned in this book that I believe all of us can adopt today that would not only make us a more interesting writer but would make us a more interesting speaker, a more interesting partner, a more interesting person at a dinner table, that if we applied them, our charisma would instantly be lifted.
So I want to take you through five of these, one by one. One of them comes from me that I’ve added into the mix but four of them have been inspired by Zinsser in his book.
Number one: Never be afraid to write about a place that you think has had every last word written about it. It’s not your place until you write about it.
Now I think, in life in general, a lot of us are afraid to talk on certain subjects. We’re afraid to talk about certain things, whether it’s relationships, or places we’ve been, or stories we’ve got in our lives, because we’re almost afraid that we don’t have anything to add to the conversation. If I took that view that I could never make a video about something that’s been said before, I would never make a video. What hasn’t been said about heartbreak or love or romance over the last couple of thousand years? Even if you say, “Well yeah, but dating apps are new.” What hasn’t been said about dating apps?
The point is, it’s not my delivery on a subject until I’ve delivered it. So if you’re a dinner table and something comes up that you feel like is a kind of tired subject or people talk about it all the time, remember you haven’t had your input into it and you may have your angle, your unique way of looking at that thing or simply your truth about that thing and that is worth something.
Number two: There is nothing more interesting than the truth.
So many of us tried to find the wittiest, cleverest way of saying something, instead of just saying the thing that’s true for us. Whenever anyone speaks or writes or makes a video or tells a story at a dinner table, there’s often a tremendous amount of ego involved and the ego element can actually get in the way of the truth because we’re so busy worrying about how we say something that we don’t stop to think, “Is this really true for me? Am I actually being vulnerable here? Because if I am, I’m probably going to make a connection.”
In the book, Zinsser talks about how, when editing other people’s writing, he’ll often find those first few paragraphs that they write are so concerned with their grandiosity or their ornate language or being interesting in some storytelling way, that it takes three or four paragraphs before he gets to anything real. Interestingly, Zinsser says, “What I’m always looking for as an editor is a sentence that says something like, ‘I’ll never forget the day when I…'”
He says, “At that point, I think, ‘Aha, a person.’” Isn’t that everything, by the way? In conversation when we’re talking to someone – on a date, when we’re speaking to a family member we don’t see very often and therefore we don’t feel like we really know that well anymore, when we’re seeing a friend, or meeting someone for the first time – the moment of connection is always that moment where they say something that’s real and you go, “Aha, a person.”
Number three: Go with your interests. Zinsser writes, “No area of life is stupid to someone who takes it seriously. No subject is too specialized or too quirky if you make an honest connection with it when you write about it.”
I have found this to be true of so many things in life, not just in my personal experience that what I talk passionately about, people tend to connect with me on – and, of course, if I’m interested in it, it’s much easier for me to get passionate about it in the first place – but I’ve also noticed it about the way I received subjects from other people.
I’ve heard people talk about wine, not a subject that I’m inherently fascinated by, but when they talk about it, I find myself interested in wine. I think, “Oh, I would like to take that wine tasting trip in Napa and try that different red and look at the differences between them.” When someone talks to me about something that they are interested in and they get passionate about it, they are able to instill that… It’s like they can infect me with that passion.
And that’s a power we all have of transference. What is persuasion but a transference of energy? I can persuade you to see the value or the interest or the intrigue or the fascination in a subject if I myself get passionate about it, but it’s far easier to get passionate about something when we don’t have to generate interest because that interest is inherent to who we are.
Number four: Your weaknesses are your strengths. This is something I’m throwing into the mix along with the very profound advice that Zinsser is giving us.
I have found over the years that we massively undervalue our weaknesses as a source of likability and a source of connection and relatability. I look at my life this year and I’ve been enjoying having these conversations – on podcasts this year, interviews with you guys here on these videos – that are more vulnerable, that are more open. And not that I wasn’t myself before, but I have just decided to show more of myself this year. I guess because I’m feeling a little braver, a little more comfortable in who I am, and more excited about the impact that sharing more of myself can have in helping other people.
The comments that I’ve received as a result of that this year have been amongst the most beautiful comments I’ve ever received in my 12 years of doing this. And that has been as a result of sharing more of myself, which has, in no small part, involved sharing more of my weaknesses. Your weaknesses are a window through which other people can look and say, “Aha, a person.”
Number five: Approach situations where you feel out of your depth with a sincere curiosity.
Zinsser refers to a situation where he was going to write about baseball. And although he’d been a baseball fan in his lifetime, he had never been a sports writer, and so he felt very much out of his depth in going and talking to the kinds of people that he was talking to who knew the game inside out and may not take him seriously.
He wrote, “Strictly, I had no credentials. Any of the men I approached with my notebook – managers, coaches, players umpires, scouts – could have asked, ‘what else have you written about baseball?’ But nobody did.” This is the interesting part. They didn’t because I had another kind of credential: sincerity. It was obvious to those men that I really wanted to know how they did their work. Remember this when you enter new territory and need a shot of confidence: your best credential is yourself.”
I think that there is something extremely beautiful about that, that there are many conversations in which we find ourselves very much out of our depth, out of our element. We find ourselves in that awkward situation where somebody is telling us about their career or a project they’re working on that we know nothing about, and instead of expressing a sincere curiosity about that thing, we nod along like everything they’ve just said makes sense. And that’s a barrier to connection because people feel a disconnect. When we just nod along, they may not consciously be able to articulate it but they can feel that there’s a lack of connection there, that there’s sort of a hollow acknowledgement of something they just said that doesn’t represent real understanding, especially because there’s not a follow-up question that comes that shows that you’ve understood.
So instead what we should do is be more vulnerable, be more open about what we don’t know but make up for what we don’t know by genuine, sincere curiosity that makes the other person feel important, feel acknowledged, and feel complimented by our interest.
What I love about all of these is that they’re principles you can apply today. Whether it’s in your business, your love life, your social life, you can start doing them now. Whatever age you are, whatever gender you are, if you watch my videos and you want to have more impact and presence in life, this is relevant to you.
If you enjoyed the way that Zinsser breaks down how to be more interesting in writing and you like that kind of very principle-centered approach to how to do it, I have something from my own life that is going to make a huge difference for you. It’s literally a free training where my brother took an interview I did on radio, looked at the first five minutes, and asked the question, “Why is it Matt was able to have impact in those first five minutes? What was he doing?”
So in this free training, you get to listen to the radio interview, these five minutes, and then look at Stephen’s play-by-play analysis of what I was doing in that room in those five minutes. Once you hear this, you’ll have a completely different set of principles and techniques that you can apply to the first five minutes of any interaction you ever have, whether it’s in business, your love life, or your social life.I think you’re going to love this. It’s super practical. It’s at this link. It’s called the First Five Minutes. I’m looking forward to your feedback. I’ll see you there. As I said, check it out at this link.