The Boomerang Effect: Be Interested Before Interesting

Developing Your “CORE”

At GiANT, we develop our tools from a combination of research and our own first hand experience in failure. We’re committed enough to finding better ways of doing things that we’ll gladly highlight our failures in an effort to help others avoid them and at least make different mistakes than we have made. Some of those shortcomings resulted in what we call the “CORE” framework.

As with any athlete, your core (abs) plays a remarkably central role to one’s level of performance in any sport. People are no different when it comes to everyday life and leadership. We all have CORE capacities that must be mastered in order to perform at our peak ability and health. When we invest in these competencies, we become happier, healthier, and gain greater positive influence with those around us.

Our personal and leadership CORE includes our Intelligence Quotient (IQ), Emotional Quotient (EQ), and our Personality Quotient (PQ). Most people have heard of IQ. Many people, though fewer than the first, have heard of EQ. As for PQ, we came up that one on our own! Essentially, each component boils down to a vital area of personal growth, whether in our technical competence and skills (IQ), our awareness of and connectivity with other people (EQ), or the self-awareness we develop around our own tendencies (PQ).

Want to listen to more about this subject? Check out our recent podcast episode: https://giantworldwide.com/liberator-002-the-power-of-self-awareness/

The Boomerang Effect

One all-too-common tendency we often bump into in the PQ space (with a little overlap in EQ) involves what we call “The Boomerang Effect.” The Boomerang Effect is a conversational tendency in which we listen to what other people are saying and, rather than being interested in their story or perspective, we are more focused on being interesting and finding a way to bring the conversation back around to ourselves.

Instead of showing interest by asking thoughtful questions and getting them to unpack more of what they’ve said, we go with the classic boomerang phrase, “Yeah, that reminds me of when I….” or “That reminds me of this circumstance…” It’s the classic “one-up” move where we subconsciously (or consciously) use the excuse of engagement as a means to brag on or talk about our own interests and accomplishments.

The Problem: Desperate to be Interesting

Unfortunately, when the inevitable conclusion of a conversation is to always end up back with you, people start to pick up on the fact that whatever the other person says will be used as a stimulus to talk about yourself. The most frustrating part is that we typically think we’re practicing active listening, but instead of garnering respect and influence from true engagement and attentiveness, we’re actually eroding our influence by signalling a lack of respect for the people with whom we are talking.

Ironically, our desire to be interesting and to prove ourselves usually causes others to lose interest. To be clear, everyone is susceptible to The Boomerang Effect. And to some degree, we’ve all fallen into the trap at times. But we’ve also found that certain personality types tend to struggle with the habit more than others. ENTP’s and ENFP’s, for example, find themselves Boomeranging often until the issue surfaces and they finally confront the tendency. That’s because ENTP’s like to prove their competence while ENFP’s are natural storytellers who love to talk about their experiences. Both attempts at being interesting lend themselves towards frequent boomerang conversations.

As for how to address this tendency, we cover some practical strategies for maintaining situational awareness and connectivity with others in our book called “The 5 Gears.” The whole purpose of the book is to help people build influence with those in their life while connecting better and on a deeper level. Many of the strategies found there can effectively help you counter the boomerang temptation. But to provide you with some immediate examples and insight…

The Solution: Be Interested Before Interesting

The key is to be interested before trying to be interesting. And the foundation of being interested comes from tapping into either a natural or a cultivated sense of curiosity. Our founders, Steve Cockram and Jeremie Kubicek, even engaged in a sample roleplay exercise on their Liberator Podcast (Episode #2) in which Jeremie used his natural curiosity to maintain focus on being interested before interesting. Here’s an excerpt of how the role playing worked out:

Jeremie Kubicek: So Steve, where are you from? Where’s your hometown?

Steve Cockram: Live just outside London.

Jeremie Kubicek:  So is that where you were born?

Steve Cockram:  Nope, I was born in a little place called Exeter in the SW of England.

Jeremie Kubicek:  Exeter. You know I’ve heard of Exeter. Exeter city?

Steve Cockram:  Yeah.

Jeremie Kubicek:  It has soccer, a football club right?

Steve Cockram:  The Grecians. Yep. My team.

Jeremie Kubicek:  Is that your main team?

Steve Cockram:  Well, when I grew up in Exeter, to play in the playground you either supported Manchester United or Liverpool. In the 70’s, Liverpool was winning so I supported them and it’s been pretty depressing ever since. So I claim Liverpool and Exeter, one by birth and one by a league so I can watch something on television.

Processing the Example

So, in the exercise, Jeremie used his curiosity and naturally flowing questions to find out more about important personal information while also establishing a connection to something Steve is passionate about. From there, they can continue the conversation in a number of ways and build rapport, all without Jeremie bringing in a story of his own or bragging about an accomplishment to one-up Steve.

For example, if Jeremie was really good at soccer growing up, he might have taken the excuse of engaging with an interest of Steve’s to boomerang back to bragging about a State Championship he won or school record he set back in high school. That would have been prioritizing being interesting before interested. But Jeremie resisted the temptation to make it about himself, and showed Steve that he was “for him” rather than himself.

But it’s not all extraverts who struggle with this issue. Some of you may be very shy and struggle to interact in that kind og social environment, which can lead to boomeranging back to what you know (yourself), or otherwise cause you to pull away and remain unable to truly engage and connect with others. That’s where learning how to ask good questions can become a powerful tool to improve your connectivity and self-awareness. Some questions to keep in your back pocket might be “What do you like to do for fun?” or “If you had a million dollars, what would you want to do with it?”

The Takeaway

All that being said, we could talk about IQ, EQ, PQ, and The Boomerang Effect all day, which we will certainly explore in greater depth with future posts, but for now there’s a few important points to take away from all this:

Rather than trying to tell others about your own interests, take the time to really hear what makes other people come alive. The key to mining out such life-giving elements comes down to respect and intent. As leaders and individuals, we have to go into conversations with a commitment to being “for others” rather than “for ourselves.”

This is important not only for meaningful connection and building influence, but also for your reputation. So, in summary, cultivate respect, commit to positive intent, and embrace the depth relationships that will surely follow!