Here Are 8 Things Interesting People, Such as Elon Musk, Do Differently
Elon Musk is arguably one of the most thrilling and interesting entrepreneurs alive today. But he’s a terrible speaker. In September 2017, Musk addressed a crowd at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, to announce SpaceX’s plans to land an unmanned spaceship on Mars in 2022. During his presentation, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO mumbled, stuttered and exhibited general unease.
But that doesn’t matter. In fact, his bad public speaking makes him only more interesting, because it makes him more relatable. Musk is an intriguing public figure due to his larger-than-life ideas and accomplishments, not how well he speaks about both.
Being a gifted speaker and conversationalist is a characteristic that many interesting and charismatic people possess, with good reason. We are naturally hardwired to respond positively to storytelling, according to sociologist and TED Talks speaker Brené Brown. If you want to be fascinating, storytelling is a prime talent to perfect.
But if speaking isn’t your thing, here's a reason to cheer: There are plenty of other interesting characteristics and behaviors. Click through the next eight slides.
Interesting people engage and ask questions.
“Interesting people have a special magnetism. They tell incredible stories and lead unusual lives. But what exactly makes them so captivating? They’re curious more than anything else,” Dr. Travis Bradberry writes.
Curiosity leads to really wondering about the world and the people around you. It's asking questions about others' opinions and figuring out their areas of expertise and interests.
There are few people who don’t enjoy questions about themselves. It makes us feel “seen” and special. So instead of launching into a long spiel about yourself, start with, “I’d love to know what you're thinking/where you’re from/what you’d like to change.”
Interesting people tell stories.
As stated earlier, people are hardwired to love storytelling. If you can tell stories, you’re already ahead of the curve. (Also, interesting people tend to do interesting and risky things, so there is ample material to fuel the storytelling.)
"We like hearing the story about hardship, risk taking and failure after failure," said Carmine Gallo, author of The Storyteller's Secret: From TED Speakers to Business Legends, Why Some Ideas Catch On and Others Don't. "Of course, there has to be some success at the end."
There’s science to support that these failure-to-success stories actually cause our brains to release the pleasure chemicals dopamine and oxytocin, which leave us wanting more.
Interesting people are deeply passionate about something.
Interesting people often have a calling -- a life’s work. Take, for example, Scott Harrison, the founder of the nonprofit Charity Water.
Charity Water brings clean water sources to developing countries all over the world, and Harrison, who had found glamour and success as a New York City club promoter before founding Charity Water, spoke about being desperately unhappy and directionless about his life of clubs and parties.
He found his life’s work after taking a leap and going on a volunteer trip with a floating hospital to Liberia, where he served as the trip’s documentarian. During that time, he discovered a dire need for clean water sources. Harrison used his impressive contacts and publicity skills to create, brand and grow Charity Water, and his passion and devotion to the company and its meaningful work make him fascinating.
Related: How to Be More Than an Average Joe
Interesting people want to do interesting things.
While you don’t have to scale Mount Everest or learn how to fly an airplane to be interesting, doing those things doesn’t hurt. Interesting people are drawn to learning, traveling to unfamiliar and exotic places and accomplishing new things that are challenging and out of the box.
Also, when you do interesting things, you collect experiences, contacts and stories that become apparent whenever you open your mouth. One of the best ways to amplify doing interesting things is to find someone else who likes doing them -- and buddy up.
Interesting people are open about who they are.
Interesting people are open. The individual people gravitate toward aren’t tight-lipped and closed off. Part of being an open individual means possessing self-awareness and acceptance. You know the good, the bad and the ugly about your life.
You may not be totally comfortable about everything, particularly the failures, but being open means sharing more than just the good and finding a way to talk about yourself that puts people at ease. Tone and body language matter.
Interesting people are always learning.
Interesting people are deeply curious, so it makes sense that they’re always learning and trying to improve themselves. They do this through not only traditional means, such as reading, school and instruction, but through traveling, following current events, speaking to experts and knowledgeable perspectives and seeking different experiences.
Bill Gates is a big nonfiction reader, and he’s very open about why he reads: to self-improve and learn about the way the world works -- and better it. As one of the richest men in the world, Gates proves that he’s interesting not only because he’s a multibillionaire (which scores him points), but he’s also someone who uses his time to learn about what areas in education (e.g. customizing student learning) and health (e.g. eradicating malaria) he can funnel his enormous wealth to its best use.
Interesting people love to share and teach what they know.
"Interesting people love sharing what they know and have learned with others," writes Travis Bradberry, co-author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0. If you have an enthusiasm for something, like an article you’ve read or a fascinating subculture you’re researching, generally you can’t wait to share what you’ve learned, whether it’s through social media, conversation, lecture or writing an article or book.
Sharing knowledge from an array of diverse and fascinating people is the foundation of success for TED Talks. Obviously, there’s an unyielding demand for interesting people to teach what they know.
Interesting people listen and are fully present.
Listening is a lost art, but when you’re a truly curious person, you want to hear what someone else has to say and learn their perspective. An interesting person doesn’t monopolize conversations, because they actually want to understand as much information as possible from as many people as possible.
Interesting people understand that people love talking about themselves. There’s actual science to back up people's need to share their thoughts. Harvard neuroscientists found that we are chemically rewarded when we share our thoughts.
Talking to an interesting person is a rather unusual experience, because they’re able to give you their full attention. They’re looking at you (not their phone or out the window) and really listening, asking related questions and nodding, and they also have engaging body language, with their feet and body pointed toward you, good eye contact and are smiling (or at least not scowling).
Being present and engaged is so rare in this day and age of short-attention spans that to speak to someone who is fully present is a truly fascinating experience. Try giving this experience to someone in your life, if you haven’t already.