What interests you about people - Social Anxiety Forum
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post #1 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 07:34 AM Thread Starter
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What interests you about people


I think that building and maintaining friendships might be founded on a general interest and curiosity of one person towards another.

Maybe I'm always too concerned with myself to be able to think of the other person. But if I manage, on occasion, to pry my thoughts away from me, what should I find interesting about the other person?

Do I look for similarities and/or differences in personality and interests? Do I look for characteristics that I admire in the other person? And there must be some kind of interpersonal magic that people use to suss out these characteristics in others. I mean, they can have what appears to me to be a boring casual conversation, yet they appear to have gotten some deeper meaning out of it. And when I try to achieve meaningful conversation, people look at me like I'm speaking a different language.

So what draws you into another person's life? What interests you about a stranger, enough that you would seek social engagement with that person. How does one make social interactions meaningful and supportive, or at least, make them seem less of a burden?

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post #2 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 08:50 AM
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Most of my coworkers really liked me a lot, I don't think it was necessarily any interests that I have, it is just that I am very empathetic and care a lot when it comes to how I effect others. I think when people can start to understand that you really do care, and you don't want anything from them in return, they normally just gravitate toward you. Toward the beginning of a new job, people usually are distant from me, give me weird looks (What the heck does this person want from me?) but after being around me, and seeing that is just how I am to everyone, they start to realize I really don't want anything, and they like that.

I can relate, when people are nice to me it kind of puts me on edge too, there are too many people out there that use kindness as some sort of currency. By default, most people don't really care about the feelings of others, they are more self absorbed and seeking out their own interests. I don't play with social currency, I have no interest in it and want to socialize as little as possible. I'm not sure what binds most other people together, they are often talking about one another behind their backs, yet still hang out, it gets pretty confusing when it comes to their behavior, and it often seems self defeating. Perhaps it is just a primal need they have, to be around others, they provide one another that need, yet are still frustrated. It really goes beyond me the psychological reasoning behind it.

Outside of school, the only friendships I maintained, were alcohol and weed induced ones. Hanging out to get drunk or high, it grew pretty old, and after a while I stopped doing it. I would rather just drink alone, and do so If I had that desire to be around others, that would probably be my route, as well as going out places, but mostly just drinking at different places. Since then, I haven't had any friends, because that drive just isn't there. I'm kind of glad it isn't, when I see what people go through in order to be part of a social circle.

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post #3 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 05:52 PM
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post #4 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Erroll View Post
I think that building and maintaining friendships might be founded on a general interest and curiosity of one person towards another.

Maybe I'm always too concerned with myself to be able to think of the other person. But if I manage, on occasion, to pry my thoughts away from me, what should I find interesting about the other person?

Do I look for similarities and/or differences in personality and interests? Do I look for characteristics that I admire in the other person? And there must be some kind of interpersonal magic that people use to suss out these characteristics in others. I mean, they can have what appears to me to be a boring casual conversation, yet they appear to have gotten some deeper meaning out of it. And when I try to achieve meaningful conversation, people look at me like I'm speaking a different language.

So what draws you into another person's life? What interests you about a stranger, enough that you would seek social engagement with that person. How does one make social interactions meaningful and supportive, or at least, make them seem less of a burden?
What you say about being too concerned with yourself strikes a chord with me at this point in my life. I have far less faith in how I'll be from one day to the next to be able to invest much time in another person. It takes all my energy just to deal with myself, which I find very annoying. Fortunately I have my ex-wife and my son.

I used to have a lot of friends when I was younger - I'm not a hard person to get along with, or I wasn't before. I think it's as @zonebox said - people can sense if you're caring and decent and they'll want to be around you. It's pretty hard to fake caring about someone - or liking them. Just as I think it's probably impossible for anyone else to say what you should be looking for in another person. That's an extremely personal thing - I've been close to people that were very different to me, but there was just something about each other that we liked.
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post #5 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-15-2019, 11:49 PM
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That's an extremely hard question to answer.

Having experiences in common helps. Sharing the same values. And sharing the same objectives. Many people become friends because they have been pulled together by circumstances because they have the same set of values and objectives. People taking the same classes in university, people working for the same company, people who join a band, the "band of brothers" in the military, etc. People bond when they share meaningful experiences together. A casual conversation probably isn't going to provide enough charge because it's not a very intense experience. Then again, those same intense situations are where people make enemies, too -- they clash over values and objectives.

Notice that if you are primarily self-concerned ... well, it's very unlikely that anyone but yourself is going to have much interest in your life. If all you care about is entertaining yourself, or complaining about your problems, or even getting better, there's not much for people to bond over. (Though it also explains why people like people who appear to take an interest in them.) You need to be interested in something bigger than yourself.

This ties in with stuff I've said before: people won't spend time with you if you're not making their life better somehow. People want to feel excited and alive. If you don't make someone's life better when you're around, they won't come around. People like and respect each other when they share values because it's validating. But I think people bond over shared objectives -- because they need each other to achieve their goals and achieving those goals is what makes them feel excited and alive. A couple is going to be much stronger, for example, if they're both Christian and they both want kids (values + objectives). Fiction is filled with characters who become strong friends because they need each other to survive. A shared objective and shared meaningful experiences might be the only things they have in common.

This is what creates curiosity in many people, I think: discovering that someone else wants the same things that you want, but that neither of you can achieve on your own. You have these (possibly secret) ambitions (however abstract) and you meet someone who seems to want the same things. That creates possibilities; and because it is important to you, it fills you with a kind of excitement. A person like that has something to offer you, because they make your own goals seem more attainable. (Whereas if you both want the same thing and only one of you can have it, it makes you rivals.)

Anyway, this is all thinking aloud stuff. I don't really understand it myself, and I'm aware that there are about, oh, a billion exceptions.

I am very interested in people in an academic or clinical sense. I like to find out as much as I can about people because I like to try to figure out how they work. I also like to help people who are in need, if I can. But that's very different from wanting to be friends with someone.

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post #6 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 12:46 AM
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nothing interests me about a person until their presence in person makes me feel comfort/positive feeling. and that is something words can't describe.



the rest is honesty, common sense ( i don't like stupid people.) i love creative people, people who are good at something i'm not good at. like, i have always had something for pple who can draw. also, anyone who knows more than me/ anyone who is smarter than me = automatically in love.

yeah i met a few guys like that, but couldn't keep them friends due to a lot of crap going on in my life.
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post #7 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 12:51 AM
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post #8 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 03:04 AM
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I'm very intrigued by insightful people that care about others and take consistent action to make the world a better place.

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post #9 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 08:57 AM
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People are infinitely interesting. I could watch them all day.

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post #10 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 09:08 AM
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So what draws you into another person's life? What interests you about a stranger, enough that you would seek social engagement with that person. How does one make social interactions meaningful and supportive, or at least, make them seem less of a burden?
Also I don't do this really. I'm incapable of creating meaningful connections with people. Also most people dislike me which at this point is pretty understandable because I don't really agree with anyone.

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post #11 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 07:23 PM
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I think that building and maintaining friendships might be founded on a general interest and curiosity of one person towards another.

Maybe I'm always too concerned with myself to be able to think of the other person. But if I manage, on occasion, to pry my thoughts away from me, what should I find interesting about the other person?

Do I look for similarities and/or differences in personality and interests? Do I look for characteristics that I admire in the other person? And there must be some kind of interpersonal magic that people use to suss out these characteristics in others. I mean, they can have what appears to me to be a boring casual conversation, yet they appear to have gotten some deeper meaning out of it. And when I try to achieve meaningful conversation, people look at me like I'm speaking a different language.

So what draws you into another person's life? What interests you about a stranger, enough that you would seek social engagement with that person. How does one make social interactions meaningful and supportive, or at least, make them seem less of a burden?
I don't think I'd get along w/ someone who is picky with conversation, even little things can have meaning too, it doesn't mean you don't talk about them, as well as other more important things, etc. What would you consider is a meaningful conversation?
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post #12 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 07:33 PM
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When I'm feeling okay I really love watching other people and I often feel a deep connection with a lot of them. I've always been a people watcher - even when I was a lot younger I loved just sitting in a cafe and watching people go by. That's one reason I love cities or busy places - lots of people.

I'd go mad out in the country on my own - I can't think of anything much worse.
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post #13 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 10:57 PM
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I'm kind of picky I suppose. If someone is too perfect- too good looking, too smart, too funny, has a wonderful family, wonderful boyfriend/girlfriend, makes good money, has their whole life together etc. they won't interest me or I will be too jealous. I don't like irritating, simplistic people, or complete, total messes either. They need to be relatively open. "Private" people don't interest me. If they keep all sorts of stuff hidden and secret then I won't care to know them.

I like people who are relatively intelligent, quirky, have some faults, have interesting opinions. Kind of thinking of the woman I met at the meetup in NYC. She was pretty opinionated but not mean or nasty. Very smart but had troubles in her career and in her love life. Relatively open about things in her life. When she spoke I was interested in what she had to say. A lot of people bore me or irritate me but not her. She intrigued me.
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post #14 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-16-2019, 11:11 PM
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i'm mostly interested in other ruined and needy people.


ruined: they can't judge me too much and i wont judge them so much either

needy: i have a use to them which doesn't involve small talk


weird fringe people, because they're ruined by normal people's judgement, and needy because they're a minority.


people that are ok (mentally, physically, socially) but not vegan environmentalist wonderpeople are 99% likely to disgust me. and everyday things - eating is kind of disgusting. bodies. mouth noises. stupid comments. if they let every stupid thing in their head out, i can't really handle it unless i really like them already.


they need to be optional too. i need to choose them, not be forced to be around them. if i kind of look down on them while also kind of respecting them, that's safe. it helps when they're quiet people, the less they say while i'm getting to know them the less likely i am to start avoiding them. but they have to say something... we need something in common. etc.


not many people understand that i'm spending time with them or that i like them... because they expect me to talk to them. i go to meetups and start to like people but to them nothing is happening, or worse, they think i'm not talking to them because i don't like them. i take too long for them. they need patience if they're going to get to know me.

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post #15 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 01:08 AM
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Probably mysterious people are the most interesting. I generally find that the more I know about someone the less interesting they are.

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post #16 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 04:58 AM Thread Starter
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What you say about being too concerned with yourself strikes a chord with me at this point in my life. I have far less faith in how I'll be from one day to the next to be able to invest much time in another person. It takes all my energy just to deal with myself, which I find very annoying. Fortunately I have my ex-wife and my son.
The first rule of the jungle is self-preservation. It seems that this requires you to look after number 1 first. But this should only applicable when in danger. Maybe being too concerned with self and seeing danger everywhere is what makes a person self absorbed. So self absorption might just be another form of social anxiety?

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I used to have a lot of friends when I was younger - I'm not a hard person to get along with, or I wasn't before. I think it's as @zonebox said - people can sense if you're caring and decent and they'll want to be around you. It's pretty hard to fake caring about someone - or liking them. Just as I think it's probably impossible for anyone else to say what you should be looking for in another person. That's an extremely personal thing - I've been close to people that were very different to me, but there was just something about each other that we liked.
I do consider myself a caring and decent person. I am a 'pleaser', who only wants to please absolutely everyone. It seems that I am always liking people from a distance though. I take great pleasure in watching people. Babies thrill me. Good looking men thrill me in a different way. Often I'll see little kind things I can do for people , but I do not follow through, out of fear that it might elicit a social engagement for which I am totally unprepared. And when it's a guy, I wonder if I should make an attempt at all, because I might have unsavory ulterior motives, for a man who has committed to someone. I have a wife and son too, and I know how comforting and supportive it is to have someone who loves you. Sorry to hear that your marriage failed, but with the loving support that they provide you, one can not really say that it failed. And they must be getting something out of the relationship or they wouldn't stick with you.

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post #17 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 05:29 AM Thread Starter
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What would you consider is a meaningful conversation?
I guess that a meaningful conversation is one which has an emotional kick to it.

It could be some fact or idea or belief or value that I can relate to other things that I know or believe, because I find that sort of thrilling. But my interests are narrow and arcane.

It could be something kind that they say or do for someone else or for me. I remember some kind acts that I witness for many years. Like 40 years ago, I saw a cop stop traffic to let a schoolboy cross. When the kid got to the other side, he thoughtfully turned smiled and waved a thank you at the policeman. I feel good every time I recall that scene. A thoughtful person is interesting.

I find people who are afflicted with physical or mental problems more approachable, and am interested in finding out if there is a way I can think of to show them some kindness, and perhaps bring a smile into their day.

I find people who are shy, reticent, anxious, or in some way 'needy' interesting, because it seems that they are easier to please, with my feeble efforts.

At the bottom of it, I think my social problems stem from a general distrust of people though. I don't see that as a personal failure, however, just a result of my life's experience. But what does one look for in a person, to gauge how much one should trust them? Or do you just have to step off the cliff and take a chance to determine if someone is trustworthy?

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post #18 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 06:38 AM Thread Starter
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That's an extremely hard question to answer.

Notice that if you are primarily self-concerned ... well, it's very unlikely that anyone but yourself is going to have much interest in your life. If all you care about is entertaining yourself, or complaining about your problems, or even getting better, there's not much for people to bond over. (Though it also explains why people like people who appear to take an interest in them.) You need to be interested in something bigger than yourself.

This ties in with stuff I've said before: people won't spend time with you if you're not making their life better somehow.
Yes. People like people who take an interest in them. I feel that that is the basis of my relationship with my wife. She says that she was attracted to me because I have a "different way of thinking", whatever that might mean, and that I "make her laugh". This came across to me as her being very accepting of me, which made me feel valued and liked. Also, she was rather needy in some respects, but still able to stand on her own two feet and effectively deal with any challenge that came her way, but I felt I could fulfill some of her needs.

Nothing thrills me more than being able to please someone, and I couldn't stay away from her, and just wanted to be with her. l have found that this has been a excellent reason to be married, although neither her, nor my, sexual appetite is properly satisfied. I'm gay, and she doesn't experience any sexual desire on my part, but a great desire to please allows me to sexually satisfy her.

So it works and I am not complaining. She understands our situation and does make certain allowances for me. But neither she nor I entertain the idea of an open relationship. A person has to be young, energetic, and a little bit crazy to try that. I've got it very good and nobody has a perfect life, so I am not complaining so much as looking for ways to make life even better, by becoming a kinder, more trusting person.

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post #19 of 33 (permalink) Old 07-17-2019, 02:11 PM
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@Erroll I really like David Richo's Five A's (from How to Be An Adult in Relationships): attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowing. Basically: paying attention, accepting them as they are, appreciating what they do, showing them affection, and allowing them to be who they are.

I think that's the basis for a healthy relationship. But it doesn't answer the question of why one person becomes interested in another person in the first place (much less how two people who have similar levels of interest find each other). It's entirely possible to show the Five A's toward a person without their feelings being reciprocated. And most people do not go around with a conscious, intentional policy of trying to show everyone this level of attention.

Most people become interested in another person unintentionally. Something about them attracts their attention. Appearance is the most common way to capture a person's attention (though when it comes to platonic friends, "appearance" refers more to subcultural signifiers -- clothing and hairstyles, etc.). It's no coincidence that we use "attractive" to describe a person that attracts and holds our attention. Beyond that initial attraction, though, it's much harder to determine why the initial interest grows or diminishes. (Which is what my previous post groped toward.)

I thought more about what I wrote in my previous post as I was trying to sleep and realized just how completely inadequate it is. There really isn't a way to explain how or why two people come together and become friends. It's pretty much a fluke when it happens. People are very strongly attracted to any strong display of positive traits they esteem (ie. we're attracted to people who impress us) so the more impressive traits you have, the more attractive you tend to be. If you have a lot of traits like that, and you're good at intentionally applying the Five A's, you might be able to create and sustain friendships at will. But I don't believe there are very many people like that. Most of us can't create friendships at will regardless of what we do.

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