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Carolyn Hax: The path to being a more exciting person


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

It was recently mentioned to me that I’m kind of dull to be around and just dull in general. I knew I wasn’t an exciting person, but I didn’t realize I was so boring.

Now, the more I reflect on it, I can see that they’re right. I don’t have an interesting job, any interesting hobbies or anything really provocative or humorous to say to anyone. Now it makes sense why my friends rarely call me or call back. Apparently I’m so easy to forget. So, where do I go from here?

I’m a dull person

You don’t say whether “dull” is your interpretation or a direct quote (wow), but if it’s the latter, your problem might just be a friend with a mean streak.

If “dull” is your spin on things, then have a look at your job, hobbies and reading habits, and see where you can liven things up — to please yourself, not others. For what it’s worth, dullness is purely subjective, so there’s just no broad application to be made of one person’s harsh opinion of you.

Re: Dull person:

Thanks for pointing out that this is a subjective assessment, Carolyn. Ya gotta just be yourself. Some people sparkle, and some of us are, well, matte finish. But I bet the letter-writer can think back and realize occasions when s/he has sparkled in the company of a particular person or in a particular situation. It just may be that s/he doesn’t flash that kind of excitement or wit in as many situations or with as many as some other people seem to do. So what?

Even we dullards sometimes sparkle

Good suggestion. If the letter-writer is depressed, though, then conjuring those memories will be difficult, if not impossible, thanks to the gray cloud. In that case, it would help to remember particularly rewarding friends and friendships; those stand out more clearly than occasions and are good reminders that there are people who share our interests and find us interesting.

For “Dull person”:

You may want to read Atlantic’s old-but-still-popular March 2003 article about introverts.


It could be an aha moment, and if not, it’s still useful and funny, thanks.

Re: Dull person:

I have a friend who I know others in our group find dull. Many of them tend to be very outgoing and our “dull” friend is shy, doesn’t tell a good joke and doesn’t always laugh out loud like the rest of us when someone else shares a funny story. But I treasure her friendship because she’s a great listener, very intelligent and insightful and incredibly thoughtful. Not everyone is the life of the party, but I believe we all have our own gifts. Don’t waste any energy trying to become exciting enough to suit your current friends. Find friends who treasure you for who you are.

Anonymous 2

And, situations where you are at your best. It really is okay to decline some invitations that take you out of your element, and in their stead to invite people to enjoy your strengths.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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