It has been said the ‘curiosity killed the cat.’ So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when participants in recent training programs, while instructed to ask questions in an interactive exercise, stated that they didn’t want to appear intrusive; so they didn’t inquire much beyond cursory inquiries. The exercise didn’t go as planned.
Curiosity is a skill. So why is it so challenging for so many to be interested enough to ask even simple questions?
- I don’t want to appear nosy. Maybe it’s none of my business. I might be rebuffed or labeled as prying.
- I don’t have time. Questions slow things down. I’ve got a lot to do.
- I already know the answer.
Developing a capacity for inquiry is a place to start. Rather than ‘tell and sell’ in situations where there is disagreement or friction, practice pivoting to being curious. Instead of working on your ability to pressure or influence another, be genuinely curious about the issue. Don’t ask questions you usually ask that are closed questions or questions you use to tee up what the best way you can prove YOUR point – ask the about their position: how did you come to this opinion? What else have you considered?
Learn how to test your assumptions. That’s a big part of being curious. Why do I think this? Part of being truly curious is asking with the best of intentions. No one wants to be set up by answering questions only to be led down the path into a ‘gotcha’ trap.
If someone makes a decision that you disagree with, asking then to walk you through the process allows you to learn how they make decision – and that is useful information. If a colleague dresses down a coworker in front of the team, asking them if there are other ways to communicate the message is a way to encourage reflection without sounding like you are reprimanding them (which is what they just did!).
- Curiosity shows others that you are interested in learning. And you may learn somethings that take you in a new and exciting direction.
- Curiosity allows you to stay current and avoid getting stuck in old ways of thinking. That in turn, makes contributing to a wide range of conversations possible.
- Curiosity is a way of challenging yourself. You may learn more about your work ethic, talents, character, areas for development and your potential.
Maybe can become your new favorite word. Be interested. You can create options. That’s what people are looking for!
“My favorite words are possibilities, opportunities and curiosity. I think if you are curious, you create opportunities, and then if you open the doors, you create possibilities.
– Mario Testin