How to Be Fascinating in 5 Easy Steps

If you watch Switch and Shift TV, you already know my favorite hobby: I collect fascinating people! I’ve been doing it my whole life, though since my first tweet in 2009… let’s just say, social has been like kerosene poured on the flame of this great hobby of mine.

Because I’ve gathered so many fascinating people by now, I’ve picked up a thing or two that makes many of these folks so worth knowing. Without further ado, here are five things that come quickly to mind about how anyone can become fascinating themselves.

1. Read.

You know that saying, “Leaders are readers?” Okay, I can’t stand trite mnemonics either. But this one happens to be completely true. Interesting people read – a lot. For a great place to start, try The Business Heretic’s Bookstore. Not big into reading? There are other ways to consume interesting material. Try Or a podcast, like Shawn Murphy’s top-ranked “Work That Matters”. Watch a TED or BIF talk. The key here? Open your mind – and fill it with something more compelling than reality TV.

2. Make friends with a weirdo.

Or if not a weirdo, at least seek out and intentionally spend time with someone completely different. Are you a political zealot? Have lunch with someone from across the aisle. An engineer? Go find yourself an English major, or vice-verse. In my tweet stream just yesterday, a 20-something remarked how her 70-something coworker and she discussed their love of the same author. Her tweet ended with #whoknew? My thought: Now they’re both more interesting for knowing each other!

3. Diversify.

People worth knowing (and worth employing… and worth being, for that matter) are “shaped like a T,” as our friends at VALVe like to say. That is, they’re deep in their area of specialization, but also broad in many other, unrelated areas – like a letter T, broad across the top but deep in the middle. What outside of your specialty interests you? Don’t hide it, and don’t squelch it. Instead, foster it, run with it, add to it. People will find you an irresistible conversation partner.

4. Don’t just switch jobs: switch careers!

IDEO and Continuum are two global design firms that go out of their way to hire people with incredibly diverse backgrounds, like architects, artists, and biomedical researchers. Sticking them together in a room to design the next killer product for a client? That’s all in a day’s work at these two iconic firms. Or maybe you’re a poet who wants to transition to consulting. On a recent episode of Switch and Shift TV, I spoke with Dorie Clark, author of Reinventing You. That poet-turned-consultant is one of dozens of examples in her book.

5. Waste Time Productively.

The most fascinating author alive today may well be Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink, Outliers, and The Tipping Point. In this insightful interview with another of my favorite authors, Wharton’s Adam Grant, Gladwell shares how he stumbles upon ideas for future books. Key word: stumbles! Few people have mastered the art of the productive time-waster like Gladwell, but now that we know his secret… well, you can take it from here.

6. Volunteer.

Want to be more fascinating? Stop focusing on yourself, and redirect your energy to serving the needs of others. Whether it’s transforming the lives of poor families – and whole villages – on a global scale as they do at Heifer International or packaging food for a local organization battling hunger, even a couple of hours a week will give you something to talk about that lights you up, infects your conversation partner with energy, and isn’t about you. If anything will make you more interesting, this will – just please, don’t be sanctimonious about it. That’s not interesting at all.

There you go: I promised you five tips, and gave you six… which leads me to my final (seventh) pointer in becoming more fascinating: surprise people! Heck, surprise yourself while you’re at it. I didn’t know I had seven tips to help you to be more fascinating when I started writing this. But thinking of all of the extraordinary individuals I’ve met over the years, seven was a breeze – I’m fairly confident I could go on for at least twenty, and probably more.

But I won’t, and here’s why: I want to hear what you do to make yourself a more appealing conversation partner to others. What’s your favorite tip? You see, I already know what I know. What other people know? Learning that is a big reason I jump out of bed in the morning.

Please, fire away in the comments below. What’s your number one trick to being a more thrilling version of you?


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Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Muzammil

    Give examples. No matter whom you’re talking to, in my experience, I’ve found that people enjoy when you give them examples from their community or sport or something they can relate to quickly. An appropriate example brings smile on their face and this means you have their attention. It also means they have got your point.

  • Ted, sharing good stories – an appropriate one – from depth of experience goes a long way toward making an individual fascinating. Particularly when you can tie it to a situation, problem or opportunity your conversation mate is facing – and within the story itself, offer an example of ways to overcome, improvise and adapt. Teaching rather than preaching!

  • John Bennett

    OK, here’s one I think fits: Do something nice for a stranger (empathy for the unknown person). There’s a great bank commercial that ran recently here in Connecticut: coming out of a coffee shop with coffee and a donut, she (1) slides her cup lid under a wobbly table occupied by two strangers, (2) unwound a dog on a leash around a tree, and (3) wrapped her foil around a street vendor’s radio antenna… Neat sentiment!!!

    • Anne, awesome point! I taught English in Boston to people from all over the world – 78 countries over 9 years. I feel like I’ve traveled the world because they brought it to my classroom and my home. Same gist, methinks.

      • All of those, together, make for a sure-shot fascinating person! Thanks Pearl. I couldn’t agree more.

  • Anne Horel

    Listening to other people’s stories will not only be fascinating for you, but will ultimately make you more fascinating to others. Imagine going to a party and getting ten people to tell you something about themselves or stories from their past. Through them you may have heard about what’s its like to backpack through New Zealand or how to find house sitting opportunities or what it’s like to be a Conflict Resolution Facilitator. It’s almost like becoming fascinating through osmosis!. As Dale Carnegie said, “To be interesting, be interested.”

  • Beth Nicoletto

    TED COINÉ I LOVE THIS TIMES A MILLION!! Move to California and be my real Uncle!

  • Sahu Amen Hotep

    I look at everything as positive and realize that if a situation isn’t positive it hasn’t finished manifesting yet

    • As my wife, business partners… even my little girls remind me all the time, all I AM is my inner child! I love this one :)

  • Here’s another: Connect people. Take what you’ve learned about people by volunteering and making friends with weirdos, and connect them to each other. Facilitating connections between fascinating people can only add value.

    Thanks for mentioning Heifer International.

  • Here’s another: Connect people. Take what you’ve learned about people by volunteering and making friends with weirdos, and connect them to each other. Facilitating connections between fascinating people can only add value.

    Thanks for mentioning Heifer International.

  • Dan

    Do things you are passionate about. Don’t do something simply to look good on a resume, make a lot of money, or because you think other people care about it.

  • Karen

    Great ideas … Thank’s
    I have one, “Be spontaneous” that usually means you’re connected with your inner child

  • PrairiePearl

    I find a fascinating person to be one who listens, asks intelligent questions and exudes a contagious curiosity about people, ideas and life.

  • Elaine Jarzynka

    “Share”your confidence, experience, knowledge and passion with others empowering and enabling them to shine brightly. By educating others, we all shine!!

  • Ted, I regognize working with veterans, their families recently returning home or currently deployed, that the urgency to EMPOWER THROUGH EDUCATION, CONFINDENCE BUILDING is ever present now more than ever. Thank you for your encouragement!

  • Hello Ted-I live outside the box and encourage others to do the same! I
    love to attend events of the 20’s and 30’s. In fact I see the day you
    posted this it was my birthday. I went to Apollo Club Harlem where I
    felt like I was back in the hey days the Cotton Club. I love to attend
    cultural events too. One can learn so much from people of cultures other
    than their own. Twitter is absolutely a great resource as well for
    learning more that is interesting. It’s like being amongst a great
    circle of associates, learning to be better and share ideas as well.
    -Love your engaging style of writing. Good post!

  • Intellectual curiosity is the foremost characteristic in someone who I find fascinating in a good way (Think Richard Feynman). The opposite is equally true, absence of intellectual curiosity I find fascinating in a bad way. Fascinating post Ted

  • Helen M Coe

    Love your light-hearted way of writing! The one thing I found that catches people off guard and makes ME feel good is giving a stranger a genuine compliment. Their eyes light up and then so does my heart. By the way, my husband and I recently moved from Naples to Anchorage, Alaska. We’re missing those gorgeous Naple beaches!

  • Kirleo

    Hi Ted
    I would never describe myself as fascinating but surprisingly other people do. I haven’t had a tough background, I had a wonderful childhood and have been self employed since 18 yrs of age with no rags to riches story.
    At age 45 a life changing event rocked my world and changed things forever when my son developed an addiction to cocaine. The horror that goes with that on every level needs no introduction including the impact upon family and the wider community
    Long since behind us now he is my success story. People ask me ( especially those families impacted by drugs) how did you do it? and my genuine response is ” I am his mother” amazingly that response surprises so many people who want to know ” but what about a cut off point there must have been a cut off point for you”? There wasn’t I just dug deeper every day. What surprises me more is that the question is ever asked of me in the first place?
    The whole episode changed me forever as a person, my expectations in life and reasons to be grateful no longer resemble what they did before and that’s a good thing.
    Needless to say, Richard Carlsons “don’t sweat the small stuff” has long since been my mantra
    I believe and agree experience is indeed the best teacher and can be interpreted and implemented in many ways particularly in business and in terms of “social media” the human element is absolutely the real currency.
    When I meet knew people in my business especially during a consultation I’m often asked what my “back story” is or if I have a “back story” and when I ask them what makes you think I have story? the most common response or a version of their response it ” I don’t know but I could listen to you all day long “

  • Write a book. Even if you don’t finish it or it doesn’t get published, it will force you to think deeply and look at the world in a new way.

  • Got another one you don’t have on the list: Travel Internationally! (Live internationally for bonus points). I love speaking with people that walk around carrying little pieces of other cultures. Thanks for the interesting tips.

    I just turned 30 and am in the process of reinventing myself! Blogging, networking, and actively working to become the person I want to be at 40, 50 and beyond. I wasn’t built to sit behind a desk for 10 hours a day, and I am working to assure that this is not my future. Thanks for the add and thought provoking information Ted!!

  • @extremehandless

    Great tips Ted! “Not afraid to fail” is my tip. My ventures keep getting bigger & failures are more controlled. Courage, research, hope & a leap of faith has enabled me to uncover the natural method to abolish low back pain. Nothing to buy, eat, drink or swallow! I avoided 2 disc surgery/fusion & live 100% pain pill free. The battle VS low back pain has been Won! To win the War against spine ignorance is improbable.
    It is not impossible to abolish low back pain, debilitation, anger, depression for +1Bil people. To shift MAD to GLAD consciousness towards more love, peace & progress in the World.

  • @cathy1847

    Hi Ted! Funny, I feel good reading your list, as I have done or do the things you describe, gone from a corporate career to owning a restaurant, I volunteer, read voraciously, I have some pretty crazy friends, love travel, food, wine and life. I also think challenge is important, and getting over fears. I took my skydiving and deep sea diving licenses in the same year. The sky diving was to raise funds for kids’ camps, and the deep sea diving was for me. Loved both. Oh, and have fun, lots of it.

  • Tim Kuppler

    Ted – here’s a few ideas for your follow-up post:
    – Think BIG – do something that hasn’t been done before. I love the “start something” concepts and content from Seth Godin.
    – Forget persistence and think Tenacity – fascinating people find a way (some way, any way) to make things happen
    – Positive – are fascinating people every negative people?? No way. They lift people up, contribute, support,….
    – Make an IMPACT – we all desire to make an impact. Fascinating people are fascinating because of the impact they make on others, the world, etc.

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