Are you boring?

Seven tips for knowing if you’re boring someone.

In one of the popular movies, a quirky documentary called Sherman’s March, the documentary maker’s former high school teacher tells him, “As people get older, they get more like themselves.

And you’re getting more boring.”

Like most people, probably, you have several pet subjects that you love to talk about – subjects that are sometimes interesting to other people, and sometimes not.

Don’t get started on happiness, or obesity, or children’s literature, or Winston Churchill, unless you really want to talk about it.
(Manage to be very disciplined about not talking about your children too much.)

A list of signs for you to look for, as indicators that you might be boring someone.
Just because a person isn’t actually walking away or changing the subject doesn’t mean that that person is genuinely engaged in a conversation. One challenge is that the more socially adept a person is, the better she/he is at hiding boredom. It’s a rare person, however, who can truly look fascinated while stifling a yawn.

Here are the factors you should watch, when trying to figure out if you’re connecting with someone. These are utterly unscientific – sure someone has made a proper study of this, but these are just observations.

Repeated, perfunctory responses

A person who says, “Oh really? Oh really? That’s interesting. Oh really?” is probably not too engaged.

Simple questions

People who are bored ask simple questions. “When did you move?” “Where did you go?” People who are interested ask more complicated questions that show curiosity, not mere politeness.


Although it sounds rude, interruption is actually a good sign. It means a person is bursting to say something, and that shows interest.

Request for clarification

A person who is sincerely interested in what you’re saying will need you to elaborate or to explain.
“What does that term mean?”
“When exactly did that happen?”
“Back up and tell me what happened first”
…. are the kinds of questions that show that someone is trying closely to follow what you’re saying.

Imbalance of talking time

You notice that many people fondly suppose that they usually do eighty percent of the talking in a conversation because people find them fascinating. Sometimes, it’s true, a discussion involves a huge download of information desired by the listener; that’s a very satisfying kind of conversation.

In general, though, people who are interested in a subject have things to say themselves; they want to add their own opinions, information, and experiences.

If they aren’t doing that, they probably just want the conversation to end faster.

Body position

People with a good connection generally turn fully to face each other. A person who is partially turned away isn’t fully embracing the conversation.

Along the same lines, if you’re a speaker trying to figure out if an audience is interested in what you’re saying:

Audience posture

Back in 1885, Sir Francis Galton wrote a paper in 1885 called “The Measurement of Fidget.” He determined that people slouch and lean when bored, so a speaker can measure the boredom of an audience by seeing how far from vertically upright they are. Also, attentive people fidget less; bored people fidget more. An audience that’s upright and still is interested, while an audience that’s horizontal and squirmy is bored.

Often remind yourself of La Rochefoucauld’s observation, “We are always bored by those whom we bore.” If you are bored, there’s a good chance the other person may be bored, too. Time to find a different subject.

Have you figured out any ways to tell if you’re boring someone?

Tell us. We, at Pathfinders like to share with others. It’s an art of conversation, whether at simple tea party or dinner, networking sessions, sales talk, or giving a speech.


Suresh Shah, M.D., Pathfinders Enterprise

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