How to Be Better Company

Many people are keen to improve their body, their intellect, or their education, yet few consider working on their personality. Though most will cheerfully admit they need to lose weight or improve their knowledge of politics, no one likes to think of themselves as bad company. Everyone bores and irritates their friends at some point. To ensure this happens less often, try the following:

1) Relax. In the hope of making new friends, or simply holding on to the ones they have, people often try too hard. They laugh too loud at other people’s jokes, show excessive concern at every little mishap, and seem too interested in their neighbor’s vacation. Try and strike a balance. Be open, relaxed, and friendly without trying too hard. Desperation can be just as unpleasant as arrogance.

2) Read good books and good-quality newspapers. Reading will deepen your knowledge, improve your vocabulary, and make you a more interesting person. Spending time with the ignorant and petty-minded is like being trapped in a small, dark room. And read widely. Too many people focus obsessively on their passion. Knowing all about French cinema or British soccer is a bonus when in the company of people who share that interest. But what about those who find these subjects dull?

3) Work on your voice. No matter how interesting and amusing you may be, if you have a dull, dreary, monotonous voice people will find it hard to see beyond this. When alone, try reading poetry out loud, varying the pitch and tone of your voice. Watch videos of the great Royal Shakespeare Company actors, such as Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, and Derek Jacobi, and learn from them.

4) Be cheerful. Most people find life hard: loved ones die, children misbehave, and money is a constant worry. If they are meeting you for a coffee, they do not wish to spend that time hearing you moan. Talk about something you liked or enjoyed instead, or tell them of a kind act you witnessed. People respond better to the affirmative than the negative. Don’t talk about the things you hate, talk about the things you like. Your friends and colleagues are quite aware of all the problems and miseries in life; cancer, aging, recessions, overpopulation, climate change, and nuclear bombs upset and worry them as much as they bother you. They don’t wish to be constantly reminded.

5) Make other people feel good about themselves. Be careful not to try too hard; no one likes a creep. As a general rule, try and make people feel good about themselves. This needn’t mean praising them. Self-esteem rests largely on how people feel they compare to others. It shouldn’t, but it does. When you boast, you threaten the other person’s self-esteem, making them defensive and hostile. Adopt a cheerful, self-mocking tone instead.

There is no secret to being better company. No one is universally loved or admired; even the popular are disliked by someone. Personalities clash and sometimes the chemistry is all wrong. But follow the above tips and you may be surprised at the difference.

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