How To Deal With Boring Conversations


I grabbed the stranger by her shoulders and she stopped talking, mid-sentence – shocked. 

“Dude,” I lowered my voice, and looked straight in her eyes. “What. Makes you think. That I care this much about you? You called this meeting. I have a lot to do today. I don’t even want to be here. STOP. TALKING. ONLY. ABOUT. YOURSELF. It is SO. BORING.”

Ok, so that didn’t really happen. Or rather, it did – but only in my mind.

Back in reality, she continued extrapolating in great detail about her life and interests, while I did that thing of making my face look as if I was really interested in what she had to say – while my mind imagined the scenario where I stopped her short.

Hilary had emailed me a couple of months before. She’d heard about True Stories Told Live, the storytelling show I started and still run in Toronto, and was interested in doing something similar in her town.

Given the advance warning – and my want for storytelling shows to cover my adopted country and everywhere else – I agreed to meet her for coffee.

As the date crept near, I realised it was going to be a busy week. But it’s always a busy week, and the fact that she’d offered to travel a couple of hours to meet made me feel as if I couldn’t cancel. Maybe it would be interesting. Maybe it would be fun to give advice – it’s always nice to feel like you’ve been of service, like you’ve left the world better off than you found it. And it’s pleasurable to answer questions about what you do, when you love what you do!

Except I wasn’t answering any questions.

I was asking a few, then sitting and listening as she talkedtarantula baby and talked and talked about places, people and things I had zero interest in. And I smiled and nodded and raised my eyebrows, while fantasising about telling her how I really felt and growing more and more resentful. I decided I’d suffer ten more minutes – then say I had to go.

Suddenly – I had an epiphany:

Earlier in the week, I’d been watching an interview with a lady – and total badass – called Olivia Fox Cabane. She coaches people (us; CEOs of Fortune 500 companies; sheiks) on how to be more charismatic. Having been terribly shy as a kid, she learned through studying Neurology and Psychology that:


Charisma = Power + Presence + Warmth


That each of these can be learned and tweaked.

That when you increase one of them, it’ll positively affect the person you’re talking to on a subconscious level.

And that – most importantly – every time you’re in a conversation that feels difficult or boring, you should see it as a chance to test out a method of increasing one of those three factors.


Given how detailed my “PLEASE STOP RIGHT NOW JUST STOP” visions were, I figured I needed to increase my presence. Olivia Fox Cabane says that, when you’re not present – even if you think you’re making your face behave as if you are, the other person picks up on your micro-expressions and s-l-i-g-h-t-l-y slower response times – and feels crummy.

She suggests three ways to increase your presence:


The first, is to feel your toes. Just feel them.

I tried it. It stopped my fantasising, but I was still bored of Hilary.

The next is to study the other person’s irises. Iris

The light was reflecting off Hilary’s glasses, making it quite hard to see hers. Huh.

I dug around my memory for number three. Oh – YES!

OFC’s third suggestion:

Pretend the person you’re talking to is the hero of an indie movie you’re watching. The lead character. The one you really, really care about.

I looked at her. The highlights in her hair, slightly growing out. Her voice – now I was noticing it, I realised it was actually quite musical. There was a real warmth in her smile.

I was fascinated. I was gripped.

Almost immediately, Hilary smiled, shook her head and said,
“Hang on – I came here to ask you questions, and I’ve been doing all the talking! Tell me about you – why did you decide to start True Stories Told Live in the first place? Had you ever been to a storytelling show before?”

I ended up staying for two hours.

Having a boring conversation? Pretend the person you’re talking to is the hero of an indie movie you’re watching.


In retrospect, I think it was nerves that had driven her to ramble about herself. The rest of the conversation was delightful – she asked me about my show, I gave her a bunch of advice that she found really useful, so I got to feel helpful.

Once our chat was balanced, I was interested in asking her more about herself – it turned out she’s run a ton of events in the past and had some really useful advice for me.

Clearly my focus on her had shifted not just my own enjoyment of the meeting but, as a result, hers too.

So, next time you find yourself in a conversation you’re bored to tears by: before you start laying all the blame on the other person, see if you can shift something in yourself.
Try one of those tips: feel your toes; study their irises; pretend they’re the hero of an indie movie.

If you want to find out more about Olivia Fox CabaneCabane_Headshot500 (which is a really fun name to say out loud – try it!) and her book “The Charisma Myth”, you can find her at The interview I watched was part of Ramit Sethi’s (wonderful) Brain Trust (which I’m a paid member of), but you can see a great talk she did at Google, HERE.

Over To You

What was the last hellish conversation you were in? And how did you deal? I’d love to hear your suggestions – or just any thoughts about this – in the comments below.

If you have a friend who gets easily bored with people – or is just quite shy and wants to be a little more charming – please share this post with them using one of the little round buttons under the blog.


You rule,

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha



PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:


Photo credits: Tambako the Jaguar, Axel Bührmann and Shootingsnow, all via Compfight cc; Jessica Brandi Lifland/Polaris, via


  • Ana Micka

    Reply Reply January 28, 2015

    Marsha, this is a really great post! GREAT advice!

  • Craig

    Reply Reply January 28, 2015

    Olivia Fox Cabane’s book is great, the info she provides is super insightful and practical to actually implement if you are on a quest to be more charismatic (and considering the types of people that pay her to teach them to be more charismatic, pretty darn charismatic people, we probably all could afford to be on that quest). But, she didn’t discuss using them to suffer through a boring conversation, or better yet, turn one into an interesting one. So, very nice application of her techniques, Thanks! I’ll be giving this a go the next time that boring guy down the hall pops into my office.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply January 28, 2015

      Thanks so much, Craig! I’m so happy to be augmenting her wisdom.

      Good luck with the guy at the office – maybe you’ll discover he’s not so boring after all!

  • Kellie Sharpe

    Reply Reply January 28, 2015

    Marsha, love the post and enjoyed reading it as an email. Thank you. I also grabbed Olivia Fox Cabane’s book, which looks fascinating and well worth the read.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply January 28, 2015

      Brilliant – hope you find it helpful! I’m about to start reading it too, so we can compare notes :)

      Thanks, Kelly!

  • Rebecca

    Reply Reply January 28, 2015

    Love this and as I’m a skimmer more than a clicker, it was easy to ready the whole way through via email although I did come here to the blog to say how much I loved this post. And you Marsha are the funniest, most natural and engaging person I’ve seen out there in the online world of very schmick lady entrepreneurs. I’m sharing every bit of your wisdom with the members at my coworking studio. If you ever make it to Australia your first stop has to be Melbourne!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply January 29, 2015

      Rebecca, thanks so much for:
      – letting me know about the blog vs email
      – taking the time to come and comment
      – sharing bits with your co-working studio buddies
      – all those LOVELY things you said! You just made my day :)

      (ps I am DREAMING of coming to Aus, really hope I can make it happen soon! Grew up on Neighbours, so it feels like a life-long calling)

  • Gillian

    Reply Reply January 28, 2015

    Really great Post Marsha. Thank you for such useful info! Will most likely buy this Book.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply January 28, 2015

      Thanks so much, Gillian! I’m just digging in, so do let me know what you think if you do!

  • Cody

    Reply Reply January 28, 2015

    Marsha! Isn’t Olivia amazing!! I found her through AoC as well, I’m in the midst of her book and know most of her material just from watching several interviews with her. I think it is amazing how you were able to use the situation to your advantage in spite of the stranger blathering on. Also when do you hold these live events? I live in Toronto and that sounds like a great experience. I would love to attend!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply January 28, 2015

      Thanks, Cody! She truly is awesome.

      And thanks for asking about True Stories Told Live! The next shows are Tuesdays Feb 24th and March 24th, at The Garrison. I have a very infrequent mailing list up at if you’d like to get notice of future shows! If you come to one, do come up and say hello.

  • Alan Draper

    Reply Reply January 29, 2015

    This is great info. I struggle staying present in conversations but I’m working on it. Studying the other persons irises can be a bit tricky. If someone is focusing on my irises, they are usually close to my personal space boundary which either makes me step back or accept them into my confidence. So, maybe the technique has double benefit.

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply January 29, 2015

      Ha, that’s so true! And if YOU are the one that needs to use it, try the movie star one instead. Thanks, Alan!

  • Jessie

    Reply Reply January 30, 2015

    This is great. I am actually looking forward to my next boring conversation!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply January 30, 2015

      Ha ha, Jessie, that’s awesome! Do let me know how it goes :)

  • Lynn Cook

    Reply Reply February 4, 2015

    Hey Marsha – I read this last week and as I don’t have a lot of conversations with anyone, let alone boring conversations, I used the “favourite character in an indie movie” trick to imagine what boring looking people walking down the street were up to. My walk to the station was instantly more entertaining! Thank you!

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply February 4, 2015

      Lynn! This makes me SO HAPPY! I’m so glad you found a useful use for it. Thanks so much for letting me know!

  • kakaluck

    Reply Reply March 20, 2015

    @Marsha Shandur. I agree with you. But that problem really is challenge is me and other. I personal think if we don’t passion about something we are talking about or we don’t really take care to person we are talking with then hard to make good conversation. Even out there have many tactics help that but one best thing we can do that is really take care and passion discover more thing we face. You made good remind about interesting topic, most problem with people but they don’t really talk about it. Thank you!
    ~ Chu Nam

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha Shandur

      Reply Reply March 21, 2015

      Thanks, Chu! Yes, I do agree that finding things we’re passionate about definitely makes for better conversations!

  • Laura S.

    Reply Reply September 26, 2018


    I do believe you have saved my sanity for when I get sucked into the black hole of less than stimulating conversation! Thank you so much!

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