Conversation bores: Why people switch off when you talk about your incredible experiences

 
Sarah Spickernell
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Recounting an extraordinary experience might make people feel left out (Source: Getty)
If you want people to find you more interesting, don't talk about your most exciting or unusual experiences.
A study has shown that people would rather not hear these stories, no matter how breathtaking, life-changing or mind-blowing they might be.
Dr Gus Cooney from Harvard University looked at people's responses to stories after noticing variation in the way people reacted when he recounted his own experiences.
"We all appreciate experiences that are fine and rare, and when we get what we want, we're always eager to tell our friends,” he said. "This made me wonder if there might be times when extraordinary experiences have more costs than benefits, and whether people know what those times are."
Cooney and his colleagues invited 68 people to come to his lab in groups of four.
In each group, one participant watched a highly-rated "four-star" video of a street magician performing for a crowd, while the other three participants were assigned to watch a lower-rated "two-star" animated video, and they were all aware of each other's video assignments. After watching the videos, the participants sat around a table and had a five-minute unstructured conversation.
The results, published in the journal Psychological Science, show how the participants who watched the more interesting video - the "extraordinary experiencers"- reported feeling worse after the group discussion than those who watched the two-star video, claiming they felt more excluded during the discussion.
"The participants in our study mistakenly thought that having an extraordinary experience would make them the star of the conversation. But they were wrong, because to be extraordinary is to be different than other people, and social interaction is grounded in similarities,” Cooney said.
"Extraordinary experiences are pleasurable in the moment but can leave us socially worse off in the long run.”
The study suggests that rather than rushing to retell any extraordinary experience we've had to the first person who will listen, it would be sensible to take a step back and be more selective about what we share and with whom.
"If an experience turns you into someone who has nothing in common with others, then no matter how good it was, it won't make you happy in the long run,” Cooney added.