Dr. Wijnand Van Tilburg has a keen interest in boredom. In an interview with Radio New Zealand (RNZ), Social Cognition Researcher Dr. Van Tilburg says that people often judge others as boring before meeting them. These assumptions are based on knowing that the other person engages in stereotypically boring activities (like a job or hobby).
In one of his latest papers, Dr. Van Tilburg discovered what traits people consider to be boring. He was initially seeking to look into stereotypes. But he also figured out ways to train yourself not to be boring.
If you’re assumed to have nothing interesting to add to the conversation, you’ll be considered boring. And it might be a bit of an uphill battle for you to prove that you’re not boring.
Working with numbers (such as banking, accounting, and data analysis), “people who talk a lot but effectively communicate nothing,” people who don’t talk enough—are all considered to be stereotypically boring.
Avoiding interpersonal reactions and being less warm and competent are considered to be boring traits.
Competence plays a huge part in stereotypes. People strangely assume that those who work with numbers are less competent (and thus, boring).
Warmth is also important. As the interviewer points out, someone could read a telephone book out loud and make it interesting. Improvisation, anyone?
Asked how much they’d need to be paid to hang out with a boring person? The average response was $43 per day.
Additionally, people who feel threatened are more likely to stereotype others.
Being warm and personal could potentially help decrease that perceived threat. Dr. Van Tilburg says that when people fear that others might find them boring, they’ll stereotype the people who intimidate them as boring.
“Do your best whenever possible to also show some other sides, and don’t give up…show people that they’re wrong about their stereotypes.”
Basically, it comes down to your elevator pitch. How you describe yourself matters. How you engage in conversation matters.
But being bored isn’t entirely a bad thing. Boredom can also serve as a catalyst for life-changing inspiration. And in a digital age of goldfish attention-spans, don’t be too hard on yourself.