How strongly do you think that your being curious affects the manner in which you connect with them when you are talking to or influencing other people? Doesn’t your being interested in them make you more interesting to them?
If I were to ask you “how curious a person you are”, what might you say to me? And if I asked others would they see you the same way? You know, do you often wonder about “how things are” or “why they are” or why a person has reacted the way that they did? Or are you so concerned with yourself that you don’t make or leave time for being interested in what’s occurring around you or noticing what others might be noticing or thinking?
Curiosity is such a powerful learning attitude, isn’t it? In fact I consider it a pre-requisite to learning; like having an open mind that is able and willing to see other possibilities sometimes way outside of our own paradigms. To me curiosity is one of the “richest and most rewarding attitudes” we can have as an always learning human being or human doing.
I liked some of the definitions I found on curiosity: “the quality related to inquisitive thinking; a thirst for knowledge; a desire to know about people or things and that can also be used to denote the behaviour itself being caused by the emotion of curiosity”.
Is being curious better than being inquisitive?
I think there is a fine line between these two words and behaviours related to curious and inquisitive. To me inquisitive is more nosey or prying or investigating, even examining and certainly often construed to be interfering, which is not what I’m talking about today.
With curiosity, like with a smile, we can achieve so much in our friendly, supportive and harmonious interaction with those around us; having a thoughtful approach to wondering how the other person might “wired” or wanting to approach something the way they are or why they might be responding the way that they are. I have found that it is hard to feel confronted when approached with curiosity.
How good are your “soft skills”?
In my soft skills grooming, curiosity forms the second key step in my advanced communications and influencing skills, after defining what our purpose is or what outcome it is that we wish to achieve. I have learned that we can’t really build rapport with somebody unless we are interested in them, who they are, what they stand for and what they are looking for.
To me one aspect of influence through superior communication works on the principle of taking our eyes off ourselves and putting our eyes on the other person, thereby focusing on their WIIFM (What’s in it for me?>), so that by understanding where they are coming from and what it is that they want, we will be better placed to be able to help them achieve getting what they want.
Of course this is based on Zig Ziglar’s cliché I’m known to use a lot: “if I can help you get what you want, I’m probably going to end up getting what I want” or similarly: “what goes around, comes around”. It is a fundamental that I use and teach in terms of influencing or winning others over to our agenda or desired outcome.
So with my eyes firmly fixed on the other person and “listening with all my senses” to what they are saying, what they aren’t saying and how they are saying it, as I wrote in Are you listening?, I am able to observe how they are speaking or reacting, notice any idiosyncrasies and preferences in their communication in order for me to match and mirror or emulate them, so that their unconscious mind picks up: “hey, this guy is speaking my language – I feel like I’m warming to him”. That is the subconscious language of rapport speaking – which is the presence of trust and responsiveness, in which “anything can happen”, and usually does.
Can you see how being curious forms a foundation to this approach?
It’s an attitude, isn’t it?
I believe that being curious is an attitude we can all bring to our daily lives through our Awareness of how we go about our interaction with that and those around us.
I have found that in the business world we are (almost) always trying to exercise some form of influence in order to “win the other person or organization over” to our agenda or product or service or thinking, aren’t we? We also all know that most of us are usually and naturally concerned most with ourselves and with our own agenda, right?
In our pressured world of relentless deadlines and schedules and “deliverables”, many of us are stressed and get caught up in that pressure, particularly if it manifests over a prolonged period. Sometimes we find ourselves in or approaching overwhelm and many of us don’t deal with that very well, right?
In that scenario, it is quite natural then that we can easily get stuck in our focus only on our own agenda and quite easily forget to acknowledge the other person(s) and what their agenda might be. This is where I often refer my clients to the metaphor I wrote about in Using “the Gap” to reframe yourself where I ask you to touch your nose with the palm of your hand and try and see your fingers. You can’t, can you? However if you stretch your hand away from your face the length of your arm, they become clearly visible, don’t they?
It is in the few seconds of the gap this little gesture takes (physically or playing it out in your mind) that you can remind yourself what your objective is and recalibrate your focus on what really matters (not what your ego is suggesting) and what is more likely to help you achieve the outcome you want. And I have found that often that means focusing off yourself and onto the other person.
How does one do that best? Being curious. About the other.
I have learned that this emotion or decision to focus on the other person with curiosity is what makes the difference. Why? Because you can’t be thinking of your own confidence or overwhelm or other such emotions when you are curiously thinking of the other person and what they may be looking for. Try it and you’ll see what I mean.
Is yours a learning organization?
In today’s multi-generational and multi-cultural business world, there is often only a fine line differentiating competitive advantage, and in many cases one company outperforming another does so by virtue of not only the competence, but by the attitude of its staff; attitudes towards excellence, towards pride, towards having fun and being part of a winning team, but certainly for the younger generation, towards having the ability to try and to learn new things.
A learning organization will encourage “having a go”, knowing that mistakes will occur, but that these are necessary for the organization and its people to learn and to grow. Punishing mistakes will kill most initiative taking and nobody learns, because fear prevails. That way nobody wins either.
My experience has been that in the “fertile ground” such learning organizations create, two things often occur:
· People feel empowered to be curious about how things work and how people work and by wondering about this and that, will generally invest more in Finding the Edge which results in more competitive outcomes. Why? Because that’s how they learn and that’s how they grow. And that’s how the company grows.
Customers, clients, stakeholders and business partners are often more likely to be infected by the more enthusiastic attitude harboured by people that are curious. Curiosity engenders interest in them, the customers and what it is that they need or want, which the company that is being curious can then fulfill, to everyone’s delight. Doesn’t everyone experience more agility and thought mobility in this scenario?
Everybody wins. Just think back to when you have experienced such attitudes or approaches when you have been a customer.
Conversely, can you think back to some examples of where you definitely felt let down or disappointed as a customer. Could it be that part of this emotion was because either your needs or wants were completely ignored, or the vendor was narrowly focused on only their agenda or outcome? And would it be true in such examples that they wouldn’t have had much of a curious or interested attitude? Nobody wins then, do they?
So having read this far, what are you thinking you might do differently in your work or your business tomorrow, as a result of having considered your use of and approach towards curiosity?
Do you think your greater Awareness will allow you to better notice open and closed minds around you? So that you might wonder how things might have panned out differently, had the situation been accompanied by some genuine curiosity or wonder?
How might you engage with others differently now in the use of curiosity to influence your interaction and communication outcomes? How might that help you Managing Agenda’s and allow your own success and that of those around you in your company or your business to thrive and to prosper?
What if you could?