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Want to Sound More Interesting? Add More Contrasts

Do you notice anything special about the following comments?

How do you find time to bake all those cookies?

I’m happy with steak and potatoes.

Of course not. But if we just add a contrast to each comment, they become more dynamic and interesting. Check it out:

How do you have time to bake all those cookies? I barely find time to get home and make a TV Dinner!

I’m happy with steak and potatoes. Keep that foie gras and sushi crap away from me!

Contrasts are inherently engaging. Visual contrasts. Literary contrasts. Any kind of contrast. Humans are genetically programmed to notice anything conflicting or opposing. Contrasting statements inherently create interesting angles and hook people in. They are fantastic devices for enhancing and coloring your observations. Leverage this psychological principle to your advantage when talking. Point out contrasts in your surroundings or construct your own verbal juxtapositions.

Nearly anything can be contrasted against anything else. Current behavior against past behavior. Current worries against future worries. Your actions vs. someone else’s actions. Big dog vs. little dog. Good food vs. bad food. There are unlimited possibilities. Here’s an example of contrasting the reality vs. expectation:

Reality: You went easy on me in there.

Expectation: I thought you were going to crucify me about being late!

Your statement may start with an innocent observation, “I like this place,” but transform into something much more interesting and playful when you add some contrast and expand on it: “…unlike Geoff’s Coffee shop. Have you been to that place? It’s a zoo in there! I couldn’t even hear myself think.”

Maureen is worried about her dog staying at a boarding facility, “I’m worried about my dog staying there for three nights. What if he’s miserable?” She then adds a contrast, which creates an entirely new and interesting dynamic, “But maybe I’m just being paranoid, he’ll probably love it! He probably won’t want to come back! Maybe he’ll forget all about me.”

In the following example, Michelle asks Joyce what it’s like being a new mother. Notice how each new contrast is formed by contrasting against the comment before it.

Joyce (no contrast): It’s been great…

Joyce’s (1st contrast): …but it’s exhausting. I feel like a zombie most days.

Joyce’s (2nd contrast): …but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In a weird way, it’s enjoyable to be woken up by this little creature all night.

Joyce’s (3rd contrast): …but if it was anyone else, I’d strangle them!

If you consider what is normal, then you can look for what isn’t normal and simply point out the contrast. Contrast your actions / feelings / experiences against other extremes. For example, if discussing the topic of wine, you could disclose the following statement, “I love white wine.” But that’s not very dynamic on its own. You could clarify the type of wine drinker you are by bumping your statement against something more extreme, like, “…and I’m not one of those people who has to drink $70 bottles either—I’ll drink anything under ten bucks!”

Here’s another contrast example: Rick was describing a food truck encounter, “I had some great tacos from a food truck down the street.” When he adds contrast, his observation becomes much more interesting: “…and it wasn’t even a fancy one, it was one of those ‘I’ve been here for 20 years and I’ve got weeds growing in my engine’ food trucks.”

Stay social, my friends.