• Wiehann de Klerk

Be Interested, Not Interesting

People care about themselves, they don't care about you; how to get the most out of your relationships.

Be interested in others

Have you ever met someone that always talks about themselves? I have, and I'm sure you have too! Someone that talks about themselves all the time is either lonely and lacking the ability to make friends, or has zero Emotional Intelligence (EQ). A lot of people have Intellectual Intelligence (IQ), but very few have EQ. Howard Gardner, the influential Harvard theorist, defined EQ as "the level of your ability to understand other people, what motivates them and how to work cooperatively with them." You cannot understand somebody else if you're focused on yourself, motivate somebody else if you focus on your own motivations, and you cannot work cooperatively with somebody else if you only think about what you can get out of the cooperation.

Philippians 2: 3 - Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

Firstly, you cannot understand somebody else if you're focused on yourself. For example, you cannot understand someone that is passionate about rugby if you are focused on yourself and your passion for soccer. You just can't. You must set aside your own passions, and embark on a new discussion of a sport you are not aware of or might not even like. Speak about rugby and focus on them. When you focus on them, you can identify what they are passionate about. Once you identify what they are passionate about, you can understand them. Secondly, you cannot motivate somebody else if you focus on your own motivations. The reason you get out of the bed in the morning is different to the reason someone else gets out of the bed in the morning. Find out their reason, and then you can dig deep, find their motivation and use that to motivate them when you need to. You cannot motivate a meat-hungry dog with a carrot stick, but watch out for the motivated rabbit. A leader knows the motivations of his followers. Thirdly, you cannot work cooperatively with somebody else if you only think about what you can get out of the cooperation. I've been in business for a while now, and I've noticed how there are so many people who want to cooperate but don't know how to. I once had a guy that sells stationary asking me to tell my clients to buy his stationary. I asked, "why?" His response was, "because I'm local." You must have a better reason for someone to cooperate with you. It's not about what you can get out of the cooperation; it's about what they get out of it. How will cooperation with you result in a better outcome for my customers and me? Not the other way around. So, if you are able to understand others, motivate them and cooperate with them, you have EQ.

"You cannot understand somebody else if you're focused on yourself, motivate somebody else if you focus on your own motivations, and you cannot work cooperatively with somebody else if you only think about what you can get out of the cooperation."

EQ, to define it simply, is the ability to be interested in others rather than yourself. You cannot understand, motivate or cooperatively work with others if you are interested in yourself and trying to be interesting. Instead be interested in them. Being interested in others rather than being interesting is the first step to making more friends and having more influence. No one likes to have a conversation with someone that only cares about themself because let's face reality; no one cares about you. They care about themselves. Everyone in the whole world cares about themselves. Yes, there are some situations where they don't care only about themselves such as married couples and their love towards each other, or the love of a mother towards her children. In addition, there are some situations where people live out their lives for a cause such as animal welfare - in these cases; they care about more about the animals than they do themselves. However, most of the time, people care about themselves; their future, hope, happiness and liberty. A friend of mine recently gave blood and good on him for being generous and caring. However, what a lot of people don't know about this activity is that, contrary to most beliefs, people give blood because it benefits them. They feel something by doing it. For example, they might feel generous, caring and good. They seek the pleasure of the compliments they receive for being generous. People give blood because it makes them feel like they are giving something back, and being generous. Same with donations. People donate money because it benefits them. They feel like they are a good person. Everything you do, you do to benefit you. There is nothing wrong with this. It's just the way it is, most of the time in the world today.

"The higher your interest in the success of others, the greater your success will be."

Now, if everything we do is for us, despite the goodness of our actions, why do we continue to talk about ourselves when we converse with others? If we know that the person we are conversing with cares about themselves, should we not care about them also? If we cared about what they cared about, they would like us more. Let's say that a lady by the name of Kate loves coffee. Kate met John, and they started conversing about different beverages, and John informs Kate of his hatred towards coffee. John hates what Kate loves. Did John leave a good first impression? It certainly wasn't a good conversation starter so probably not. To have EQ, you must be able to minimise differences and maximise sameness. However, John did the opposite - he maximised differences and reduced similarities. The result was a lack of rapport and respect. He should have said, "wow that is awesome Kate, what's your favourite coffee shop?" He should have refrained from mentioning his hatred towards coffee. However, he only cared about himself. Instead of appreciating Kate's comments and her love for coffee, he immediately disregarded her love for coffee to elevate his hatred of it. The result - Kate doesn't care if John hates coffee and John doesn't care if Kate loves coffee. A lack of sincere interest will spring forth a lack of respect.

"To have EQ, you must be able to minimise differences and maximise sameness."

There is this notion of relationship building in the world today stating that the more interesting you are, the more friends you will have. For a long time, I believed this also. I tried my best to be funny, cool and spontaneous so that people would like me more. These actions did result in many friendships. However, the friendships and relationships were not long lasting. It was only when I embraced the power of sincere interest in others, that things changed. I stopped caring about my display of me and started caring about their display of them. Life became about we, not me. I started to care about what they said, loved and cared about. The higher your interest in the success of others, the greater your success will be. When you adopt this psychology, you are able to honour others. To honour others means, to put others in high respect. High respect means you find them to be impressive and important. Kate's opinion on coffee should be important in the eyes of others. It should be impressive. It is impressive that she loves coffee. Why does she love it? Where did her love for it come from? What is the story behind it? These are the questions that John should have asked her. Make her feel special about her love for coffee. Sincerely care about the opinion of others - understand that the opinion that matters is theirs, not yours. Do this, and you will have too many friends (trust me, this is possible), not too little.

"I stopped caring about my display of me and started caring about their display of them. Life became about we, not me."

There is no situation where it is impossible to increase sameness with others. When you spend time with someone, find out what they like to do, love to do and care about and converse about these things. Every person in the world has things in their lives that are important to them. Find the gold in the treasure chest - once you find out what they love, it is important to relate to it. Let's refer back to John again. It is clear that he hates coffee. However, he can still converse about it. He can still speak about it and relate to it. If Kate asks him if he loves coffee, he could have said, "I have had a few bad ones in my life, but a good coffee always gives you energy, I can certainly attest to that." Here, he avoided the negative and embraced a positive aspect of Kate's loved beverage without bringing up his feelings. Again, why bring up your feelings when others care about their feelings? Bring up Kate's feelings, and her feelings are love towards coffee, not hate.

Proverbs 11:27 - Anyone can find dirt in someone. Be the one that finds the gold.

Now, let's look at a more serious, value-based and controversial example - a Christian meeting an Atheist. Let's assume that the Christian already told the Athiest about their faith, and immediately got bombarded by a number of debatable arguments. What should a Christian do in this circumstance? In this situation, it's easy - tell them that they are right. But what? That's crazy! Why would a Christian tell an Athiest that they are right? Well, first of all, let's be clear about one thing - both the Atheist and the Christian is right. If any Christian had the same upbringing as an atheist, they too would be an Atheist. Your values come from several things, linked together over a specific course of time, depending on your family and their ties to the past. Some examples of where your values come from include family, social influences, the workplace, educational institutions, life events that carry significant value (such as death and divorce), religion, music, culture and historical events that brought significant trauma and/or emotional instability (such as world wars and the great depression). There are a number of things, that combined, create or change our values and believes. For example, the Atheist might change his mind when a significant scientific discovery proves him completely wrong. However, in this present moment, he believes that he is right. From his perspective, he is right. When we converse, we need to care about the perspectives of others. Therefore, he is right even if you disagree, disapprove or dislike his opinion.

“In order to be interesting to others, you must be interested in others.”

What are some things that you did wrong in the past when it came to conversing with others? What can do you to make those things right, and if you can't make it right, what can you learn from those mistakes? In what aspects of your life, right now, can you use the material presented above?

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