We show our curiosity in questions we ask. Open-ended questions are particularly powerful – they tend to expand and give people freedom to decide what to share and what not to share—like “Tell me about some of your favourite places”. In annual reviews, for example, it’s tempting to say, “Did you have a good year?” But what if we flip the conversation and instead ask, “What can we do to help you reach your potential? What can we do this year to help you grow?”
Curiosity is also about acknowledging the other’s sense of self. What we say, what we do, affects people. It affects who they are, in the moment, and it affects who they become. I don’t think we consider this enough in engaging with those around us. For example, complimenting someone illustrates our capacity to impact on people in a positive way. Research suggests that we underestimate how good compliments make people feel. Communicating positively is about being intentional. We can all choose to use our words to do a little good.
Being curious also means we have to be open – revealing how we think, how we feel, and who we are in an authentic way that resonates and shows our common humanity. Research shows, for example, that in a crisis when leaders communicate with open and honest disclosure, they’re able to respond much more effectively.
Listening demonstrates curiosity in action. We can learn to listen more deeply by maintaining a high degree of openness to other people’s perspectives and viewpoints. Really listening also requires us to withhold any judgment of people and their actions. In order to listen deeply, you have to cultivate curiosity and also empathy, the ability to look at other people’s perspectives not to see whether they’re right or wrong, but to understand their vantage point. When you put curiosity at the heart of your engagement you have to give your full attention.
I really believe that if we all practiced curiosity in how we engage our communication will have positive outcomes that help us grow, create meaningful and lead more effectively. It’s an intention and a mindset, but one we can all cultivate to make a positive difference.