I’ve made mention before that as a child I always had something to say. I loved asking questions and constantly remained curious about what was happening around me. Often times about things that were none of my business or outside of my comprehension levels, yet I still had this burning desire to know and learn about it. We’ve all heard the saying “curiosity killed the cat”. Well I was often times the cat. Somewhere, somehow along the way we’ve increasingly allowed the idea that being inquisitive might get you into trouble creep into our conscious mindset and prohibit us from exploring all that exists. But just how true is this theory? And what is the cost of opportunity of not inserting curiosity into our lives and way of being? Certainly it might be true when it comes to others personal affairs, but outside of that there are so many ideas and paths worth exploring that we would be doing ourselves and our communities a huge disservice by disengaging.
It’s no secret that I love to talk but even more so, I find great joy in listening to others. Quite an interesting parallel as Harvard Business Review just released an article highlighting the element that Good Listeners Ask Good Questions. So just what is the correlation to asking questions and listening? And how does this understanding move one in a way to become their best self?
Well according to the HBR article What Good Listeners Actually Do by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman their research indicated good listening exhibits the following 4 qualities.
Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks.
Good listening included interactions that build a person’s self-esteem.
Good listening was seen as a cooperative conversation.
Good listeners tend to make suggestions.
What do all four of these qualities have in common? Engagement and staying curious.
When we get or stay curious about things we create the opportunity to challenge ourselves and those around us. Not excepting the norm or status quo just because that’s the way it’s always been. Perhaps we may find that the norm is the way but what if we find out that the norm isn’t the ONLY way? Life provides us an abundance of opportunities to get out into the world and do the things that we want, learn the way we want and be who we want. When we are curious with ourselves and each other we push ourselves to see the best that is out there.
Prior to working as an agent one of my first jobs was the director of an after-school program for a few years. While I encouraged high levels of curiosity with the students, at the same time I promoted high levels of independent thinking and learning. I had a standard rule that if anyone was going to ask me a question they had to come with at least one answer to that very question whether it was later deemed right or wrong. The point here was to expand the levels of questioning from the student and encourage them to actively listen and pay attention to their surroundings. By not allowing them to simply come and say “I don’t understand” or “what does this mean”, I was challenging them to think on a different level, try new things, explore beyond the norm and go in ways that were different. Over time I found myself answering rudimentary questions less and less and watched as interactions blossomed into more meaningful, impactful conversations and ways of being.
One may wonder what this has to do with the idea of staying curious as an adult. Well that’s the thing. Just because we are adults doesn’t mean that our learning has or should stop or that the levels of questioning should diminish. There is an opportunity to learn in nearly everything we do and one of the best ways to do so is by simply remaining curious.
Asking questions isn’t about being nosey, intrusive or thinking we know better but rather the key to unlocking the joys of the unknown. If we live a life where we stick with only what we now know we would never get anywhere and well, we wouldn’t really be living would we.
This week, I challenge each of you to try this simple fundamental experiment that I tried with my students and adapt it into your own life. Dig deep beyond surface level talk and engage in active listening to help foster curious and healthy conversation. Challenge your colleagues, friends and family, even strangers by encouraging them to explore their own thoughts no matter how steadfast they may seem by asking meaningful and exciting questions over the course of your interactions. Ask questions, try new things, and explore your boundaries. Shake up your life and watch how the substance of your conversations begins to take shape and note if the change is good or bad. What are you learning and what impact is being created? How are you moving forward? How do your relationships change? How does your environment change?
Create your own beat to life through the exploration of its many gifts and get to living out loud.
“The future belongs to the curious. The ones who are not afraid to try it, explore it, poke at it, question it, and turn it inside out.” – Anonymous