(Talk/discussion given at LoveSpringSF on 3/7/12)
The way we think about being ‘Unboring’ or ‘Lit Up’
First, as a disclaimer, we want to make it clear that we don’t equate “boring” with quiet or introverted- that’s not the same thing AT ALL- quiet people can be powerful seats of awareness and connection. On the flipside, being lit-up or interesting is not showmanship, or performance- we are not here to be entertainers. The premise of tonight, and why we went out and did all the surveys and research on this subject, all turns on the idea that we are here to be lit up and connected and fully alive and empowered- in the most genuine way for us. Also, it’s not binary- the same person can contain both fascinating and tedious elements. It’s more a state of being than a personal trait.
We each come into the world curious and enthused- as learning machines, relationship machines. Children are infinitely interested and connected and therefore fascinating. Think back to childhood. – picture a kid in a field in the summer, playing with bugs, riding a fat tire bike, rigging up a tree house, making up songs- so free and present. And in this presence, they can see in a new way- it’s why they come up with the most unpredictable fresh things.
Yet, somewhere over the course of our lives, we often learn to shut down or put on masks- maybe to fit in with a certain culture or family, to not have attention drawn to you, to not make waves. You may be culturally informed that being a “Tall Poppy” is a sure way to get cut down. We say- if you want to be really enlivened and enlivening you may have to unlearn those ideas. We come from the perspective that each person is infinitely interesting and unplumbable and changing daily- not that there’s something to fix, but possibly something to let go of so that you can REVEAL.
This can result in being in places where your brain is screaming inside your head- how did I get here? I would rather be anywhere else than having this superficial interaction. I wish I didn’t have to be courteous. The opportunity cost of being in a boring space feels onerous. So, can we actively change even those situations- when we’re with people not accustomed to going deep, to connecting? Yes, by being the change, by looking for the connection ourselves.
Break for active inquiry. Pair up. 2 minutes each. Describe your most interesting person and why. Switch. Now describe a boring person and why. Share what you learned.
The foundations of not boring: Core Attitudes that make people “lit-up”:
The core attitudes toward the people we like being around, who are charismatic and not boring exhibit are as follows:
Toward self: I’m okay. I’m glad to be me. I’m alive. I make myself comfortable. I can forget myself and not be self conscious. I like myself. “unerring, irrational belief in herself”
Toward others: Other people are fascinating, and always changing. I like other people. One participant said: “I don’t know anyone who is boring”.
Toward the world at large: It is infinitely exciting. There is never a lack of things to learn, to investigate, to try. Things are always changing. I like life, I like the world. What will happen next?
How not to be boring
1) Don’t be bored: The simplest way to put it: if you don’t want to be boring, then don’t be bored. Interesting people are interested. To arouse a feeling of interest, a good 1st step is to get in touch with your own wonder on a pretty constant basis. Seek actively to shift your own ways of experiencing the world.
Activity, in pairs: INTERESTED-NESS EXERCISE: What do you remember in the last 24 hours? List them. Are you noticing? What ideas caught your imagination? What emotions did you have? When did you get turned on? What left you going, hmm? What’s been interesting to you?
In our circle, the conversation on who the most interesting people were had a lot of comments like “People I learn from”, “People who have a deep repository of knowledge and share that” “Michael Krasny on KQED, because he can discourse intelligently on almost any subject”.
And, it’s not about the quantity of the experiences you have. One of the most insightful comments of the evening was: it’s not how many experiences you have had, but how you take those experiences and reflect on them and integrate them into who you are”.
2) Give and receive: Interesting people exude inquiry and wonder and consciousness and thought- they are open on both sides- receiving and giving- they are open. In fact, the most interesting people are channels, seemingly more than themselves. Open in an expressive sense, and open in a listening sense- and the listening extends to an overall sensitivity and an ability to tune in to what is happening, where the spark is, where the energy is, and follow that thread. In Kabbalah, there’s a story about being a pipe- equally open at the top to receive, and open at the bottom to give, so that things just flow through you. If you’re closed at the top- closed to receiving, you get depleted- and if you’re closed at the bottom- you take and take and eventually combust. This listening translates into what one person in the groups called “deep intuition”.
3) Get in your body: Charisma has a kinetic energy. Are you alive in and connected to your body? As Jarrett Sleeper says: “Keep your vessel open and pliable and strong and capable- and it will be mirrored in your psyche. Make divinity a good home- dress it with the things divinity likes: love, nurturing, beauty, care, celebration, appreciation.”
Jarrett talks about going to the zoo and seeing the tigers- seeing how they sleep, walk, how their noses wiggle, how they breathe, even hunch. It’s fascinating- and they are just being themselves. Some people are like that, they are just so there. Even their stillness has kinetic energy. You can watch them sleep and not be bored.
This translates into the voice, too. When you are interested it comes out through you: you flush, your heart beats faster, you’re aroused. And the speech pattern that is connected with this, according to research, is slightly aroused, also. According to researchers, “The most charismatic speech is calm fluid fast, with limited ums.”
In our circle, people used phrases to describe this like: “She had a certain sparkle” “She exudes a sense of being all there, all in” “She operates in a place that is her own particular zone of genius” “He was all grace- so there.
BORING, MEET LIT-UP!
Boring is isolated. Lit up is connected.
Boring is self absorbed and intent on the message it wants to deliver- context be damned. Lit up is curious: it asks questions, why, how, what. Lit up seeks connection. It actively looks for the next hook, the link in the chain of conversation. How are we common, how are we alike? It values exploration and truth finding and discovery over certainty.
Boring is insecure. Lit up likes being in their own skin.
Lit up is grounded in themselves- they like themselves, they have opinions or beliefs, and know what you care about- and in this security that they are okay, they are able to relax into forgetting themselves. They can lose their self consciousness in order to be present with others, be present to their own experience. Boring is anxious and self absorbed, which makes it impossible to connect.
If you are easy and unaffected, real- then people can dock in. They can find a way in, and not be skating along the surface. You can’t connect to an anxious person until they relax and take their own seat. And Disconnection? Boring.
Boring is timid. Lit up is brave.
Boring doesn’t want to say things that will offend or cause conflict, to look different or be different. Boring is defensive and protective- it discourages other’s original thoughts.
But when you say the honest thing, the bold, direct thing, the thing no one wants to say, the room sighs with excitement and relief. The heart of originality seems closely tied to honesty- to saying what is true. Not to offend, not for shock value, not “I’m just being honest” when I’m really being an asshole. But saying what is really happening for you.
This means developing the core Lit up skill to be present and respond in the moment. Not combative, but experimental. Be challenging. Be specific. Expressive. Be clear.
Boring is stuck. Lit up is dynamic.
Boring believes it has all the answers. It doesn’t explore. It’s risk averse. It’s one dimensional. Getting caught up in your identity. Lit up has FUN. Lit up isn’t afraid to fail.
Edward de Bono wrote a book called How to Have a Beautiful Mind- and the keys to that were cultivating a lifelong habit of “Listen, question, speculate.” The speculation part is fundamentally creative and free thinking. Don’t be afraird to be wrong.
The list of characteristics people thought were the most boring all seemed to have an aspect of STUCK: vagueness, vacuousness, unconsciousness, negativity, whininess, pettiness, always talking about problems, not grateful, repetitive. In the words of one participant, “I’m tired of hearing about how she doesn’t like your husband and her bad experience with hair color”.
Boring is selfish. Lit up is generous.
Boring doesn’t share what it knows, it’s arrogant. Lit up sees others as inherently valuable. It shares, connects, gives. It is interested in others, and shines it’s light on other people in the room. Boring doesn’t engage.
It’s not a mandate to open up this way- it’s a choice. You have one life, and so do the other people who interact with you. Maximize it for all involved- don’t waste it. So go on! Get out there, let your self shine out, connect- and light up the room.