“You have to tell people what you’re interested in.”

“You have to tell people what you’re interested in.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing on the sidelines of Jack’s ballgame, reading a book while the teams warmed up.

One of the dads came over to say hi. He eyed my hardcover.

That’s a pretty big book for a ballgame, he said.

Well, I have to finish it by Friday.

What page are you on?

Twelve.

This book was pushing 500 pages, plus it had those gorgeous deckled edges that make any book look longer than it is. He raised his eyebrows. Is that even possible? 

Yeah, I said, sheepishly.

Book club? he asked.

Nope, I answered. Work.

Love your work or hate it?

Oh, love it, I said. Definitely love it. What about you?

I’m a physician, he said, and then he went on to explain a bit about his field, and how he got into it, and why it wasn’t as satisfying as it used to be.

This is going to sound awkward, he said, but I was just listening to this podcast, and it said that you have to tell people what you’re interested in, because you never know who can help you.

He was clearly nervous. Apparently he wasn’t in the habit of telling people what he was interested in.

But he told he told me about his work: about the business he just started, on the side, because he needed a new challenge.

And as it turned out, I could help him. I know all about that business, and I know people in that business, a business that thrives on contacts (though really, don’t they all?). And importantly (I suspect) I understand that business, and didn’t think he was crazy when he told me what he was interested in.

I’ve been thinking about that conversation a lot since we talked. Because I agree with him: you have to tell people what you’re interested in, because you never know who can help you. It’s obvious to me how many good things have come about—jobs, friendships, opportunities—because someone else knew about that interest, and offered to help.

And yet: I tend to keep my cards close to my chest. It’s an introvert thing; it’s who I am.

Hmm.

Will that conversation turn me into a blabbermouth? Probably not. But it has given me something to think about.

Do you regularly tell people what you’re interested in? I’d especially like to hear about help you’ve given or received along these lines. 

P.S. This whole conversation reminded me so much of this book.

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67 comments

  1. Angela says:

    I think we need to use discernment. I hoard my cards & interests not just because I’m an introvert, but also because I’ve been burned before. When people found out my plans, desires, hopes, or interests, they have put it down or told me I was wasting my life. I’ve even gotten a chance to build something with other people based on a passion of mine, and as I’m trying to build it and after I have professionally put my name out there, the other people pulled the plug without letting me know. Maybe it’s my culture that doesn’t see the value of the path I have moved my life towards, which isn’t full of money or a 9-5 job, but I’ve learned to discern the types of people who loves to feed life into others and those who suck you dry. I have 2 people I can really be open with. I’ll take the flip side and say that you should not tell every person you meet or every person who asks what you’re interested in. Instead, use wisdom and listen to your gut.

  2. Ronnie Jean Langlois says:

    Love this post and the book, yeah I’m reading it right now. Sometimes I feel like a blabber mouth but as long as I’m using it for good I think it’s okay. At least that is my prayer everyday to use my mouth for good. 🙂

  3. Yes, this is so true. I’ve been passionately spreading this message to all my friends and specifically artists. Self promotion is so hard but so necessary for people to notice you. I also believe in people knowing about your passions in general. For me, I was an admin assistant for the longest time but that doesn’t give people a substantial category to place me in for their own interests or mine. So now I tell people that I’m a photographer even though I do many other things to pay the bills. I also have a podcast about the artist journey on iTunes called Social Endeavor. Once you begin sharing with others what it is that you really love, confidence will soon follow too. And from there, who knows what will happen? It’s exciting.

  4. Oh, I love this!

    And I can put it into practice soon as we’re moving out-of-state and I’ll be meeting many new people. It took me a long time to start telling people that I was a blogger/freelance writer. It sounded so…self-important?

    I’m still not completely comfortable saying it, butI’ve been so surprised at people’s positive reactions when I do tell them. Often it sparks an interesting conversation and they seem freer to open up about their lives.

  5. Ciera S says:

    This phrase really hit me. As a recent college graduate, I’m constantly being told to “network” if I want to move forward in life. The connotations of that word are rather off-putting, conjuring images of stuffy business encounters and in-your-face conversations. The idea of casually making your interests known to the people you meet is a much more approachable concept. Thanks for sharing this encounter!

  6. This is a great post. I usually tend to keep my cards close to my chest, too. I’m such an introvert. I will open up if I here magic words of mutual interest. For example, if someone likes the same books series or we share a hobby I will turn into a blabbermouth. I guess I need to feel like it’s safe to come out of my shell.

  7. Deborah says:

    And yet: I tend to keep my cards close to my chest.

    YES!!! How well I relate, Anne. In part, because I often feel like people aren’t that interested and/or I don’t want to bore them or even the flip side when I’ve felt like someone is interrogating me in a negative way and I don’t want to share every detail!! haha! What complex creatures we are.

    And your new site look totally rocks! I love, love it! Simply beautiful! And the gravatar for the ones not personalized = perfection. 🙂

  8. I do tell people what I’m interested in, but that’s because I talk too much. Yesterday I read the acronym “W-A-I-T” “why am I talking?” and I’m trying to ask myself that. However, it has paid off BIG TIME on numerous occasions. If chatty, I’m personable, and have made a wealth of contacts and had some conversations and experiences resulting that I’ll tell my children and their children and their children. It truly pays, if you can be vulnerable. It also pays, however, to shut up sometimes.

  9. Lauren says:

    I did it!!!! I still can’t even believe it. During small talk with a store owner this weekend (just the two of us in the store – as an introvert any more this would have been a NO go ;)) I saw her background was in the area of a small dream of mine that I thought I needed to give up on at this time of life. Well, I just thew out “my idea” and she was just lovely giving me all kinds of information to help continue the brainstorming! Thank you so much for the inspiration and courage to let people know.

  10. Samantha says:

    This is something I have so much trouble with! People ask what I do and I freeze up! But I’m trying to make a living writing and making things, so I guess I really need to get used to talking about the stuff I do, huh?

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