Getting over being boring


Many of us can remember situations in our work lives where we feel utterly bored by interacting with certain people around us.

We try to summon up every single skill we ever learned or practised about active listening but no matter how hard we try to concentrate and pay attention, we just cannot.

Perhaps a client drones on and on about a boring topic specific to their hobbies, or a colleague who talks with the utmost monotony, or even a boss who speaks with such a lack of enthusiasm that we would rather watch grass grow in an open field than listen to one second more of their clamouring and rattling.

So instead our minds wander to other topics, locations, and ideas.

Often following interactions with the people that we find boring, we feel guilty for not making more of an effort to understand and listen to them. But some individuals come across as boring more uniformly across nearly everyone they meet.

However, there has not been much research on what actually makes someone come across as boring.

Frank McAndrew tries to address such issues in his writing and analysis.

What exactly makes someone boring? Some attribute dullness to people in certain professions. Often air traffic controllers, accountants, insurance professionals, data analysts, and tax professionals are stereotyped in this category.

Mark Leary, Patricia Rogers, Robert Canfield, and Celine Coe found decades ago that egocentric and banal behaviours prove to be the most boring with other dull behaviours that included passivity, tediousness, distraction, ingratiation, seriousness, self-preoccupation, and low affectivity.

Examples that Frank McAndrew gives to explain how these behaviours can manifest themselves includes people who reuse the same jokes and stories, have very narrow hobbies and interests, not take interests in others, or complain a lot fit these behavioural boring traits.

Wijnand van Tilburg, Eric Igou, and Mehr Panjwani recently found in their experiments that those with boring characteristics are seen to a lack interpersonal warmth and competence.

What happens when people are boring? They get socially shunned by those around their workplaces.

Fewer promotions

Colleagues and clients then will only interact with them if they feel like they must do so or receive some form of compensation as a result.

Inasmuch, being labelled a bore in the workplace can come with serious negative career prospects. Fewer promotions. Higher chances of job termination. Lower sales growth.

How can someone improve on their perceived dullness by others and get out of the boring category?

First, ask questions. Give surveys. Utilise any way you can to get honest unbiased feedback about how your colleagues, clients, and peers find your interactions.

Second, based on the feedback, recognise if you are seen as boring by those around you. A lack of self-awareness will prevent you from changing.

Third, learn about active listening skills. Use active listening to be attentive to those who you interact with and be perceived as taking an interest in other people’s lives.

Fourth, stop complaining as often. Try to keep a journal for a day and make a checkmark for every time you notice yourself complaining out loud to other people. Then, over the course of the next week, try to reduce that amount by 80 percent.

Fifth, based on the research, stop bragging. Even indirect boasting is seen as distasteful and boring to those who listen to you. Stop trying to overtly gain recognition.

Dr Scott may be reached on [email protected] or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor