Enough with the Curiosity
When you ask too many questions, people wonder what you’re after.
The need to preserve image makes curiosity uncomfortable.
Sincere curiosity is a gift to all but the insecure, skeptical, or status driven.
Too many questions:
- The insecure feel threatened.
- The skeptical wonder what you’re after.
- The status driven fear looking bad.
Everyone has insecurities, skepticism, and fear of looking bad.
No one aspires to look foolish.
Build trust before too much curiosity:
- Answer insecurity with transparency and affirmation. Share your story early in the conversation. Affirm theirs.
- Answer skepticism by sharing motives and values.
- Answer people’s fear of losing status by:
- Avoiding leading questions.
- Giving affirmation after they give answers.
- Not asking questions that you already know the answer to. (Unless you tell them up front you want their perspective.)
- Giving feedback in between questions. Open up to others more than you expect others to open up to you.
Answer fear with vulnerability. Strength and courage open up.
Others wonder what you’re after. Tell them upfront, before curiosity becomes offensive.
Care and curiosity:
If you don’t care, curiosity is an offense.
Distrustful environments don’t trust curiosity. But, when people believe you have their best interests at heart, curiosity strengthens connection.
- What’s your story?
- What are you proud of?
- What challenges are you facing?
Follow curiosity with affirmation.
Affirm more than analyze. No one enjoys being under a microscope. People close down when they feel judged. Invite them to analyze their own answers.
Curiosity strengthens connection unless it goes too far.
How might leaders use curiosity as a tool to connect?
When does curiosity create barriers?
Go to Facebook to see reader responses to, “Questions that bring out the best in others include __________.”
The ‘voice’ with which one expresses curiosity will also affect how that curiosity is perceived: a positive voice that encourages everyone to think beyond their current paradigms offers encouragement to the openness that an idea may contribute to an innovative approach or solution; a negative voice may signal that the idea has already been harshly judged.
Thanks Gerry. Good call. It’s as important as tone of voice.
A fourth opportunity to build trust as you ask questions: Make sure you’ve done your preparation first!!! I’ll suggest that regularly everyone is much more capable of Considering (http://johncbennettjr.com ) any topic than we might believe is true. By making that effort, we of course will probably ask less but more helpful questions. More importantly, we will have made our case justifying others’ engaging (AND we’ll learn more effectively)!
Think about your past situations: I know that when I have made the effort to ask a justifiable question, I often am able to answer it myself: fewer questions but more helpful ones when I do ask for answers…
Thanks John. You bring up the interesting topic of “dumb” question and/or unnecessary questions. If I may suggest, even when we think we know, it may be useful to ask, “what do you think?”
Having said that, we can often tell how prepared or even intelligent a person is by the questions they ask.
Thought provoking. Thanks.
Timely advice. I’ve got 5 clients preparing to have interview sessions with their direct reports about the results of an employee satisfaction survey. They can put this thinking to good use!
Thanks Boom. I start to feel the importance of genuine interest and openness when I think about the situation you mention. Cheers
I had a colleague that always asked questions. If I had a situation or problem that I needed help with, he would ask questions to find out where I was at, and what I knew, then ask more questions to lead me to possible solutions. It was annoying at first, but by the time he was done, I realized he didn’t really ever offer advice, or council. He just asked questions until I thought it through and came up with the solutions myself. What you said was absolutely true: asking too many questions makes people uncomfortable. But that is where the development is. There is more power is questions, than answers. Thanks.
Thanks Joel, I really enjoyed your take on this topic. Thanks for stopping in.
I agree asking questions can be off putting for some. I have also found if I am open and non-judging, able to sit in ambiguity where I am not attached to the answer, people react positively and I think trust is established which as you mention is so important in this way of communicating. Trust is so fundamental and leads to a message of respect which builds trust etc.
If the topic totally interest you then ask what you truly want to know! If needed offer what you know in a sense of developmental foundation for the topic. Don’t ask questions “just to hear yourself”, ask them because you care!
I’m glad to see this topic. I believe that too many questions also sometimes signals disengagement. It far too easy to pepper a person with questions to appear to be smart, in control, etc. Input without output is not collaboration.
“Answer insecurity with transparency and affirmation. Share your story early in the conversation. Affirm theirs.”
“You want to know if you’re good enough to do this? You *are* doing it. My first boss told me: ‘YOUR work is the only proof *I* need’. He was right, I’m right and you’ll find you’re right too”
Isn’t it amazing how just being transparent and authentic opens up so many avenues? People know fake when they see it. They are ready for the real deal.
I have experienced that my curiosity has created fear big time amongst the management and what clever words you, Dan, had about it! It has never been a culture in my company to question the managements decisions, we started implementing LEAN and I had just started with the company and wanted a lot of questions answered just to understand the culture and where I am standing. But I would say that you need to link the curious questions to a good communication technique otherwise to risk to be misinterpreted.
Dan, I really like this post. I have worked in an environmental where there was low trust and people in positions of power liked to ask a lot of questions, typically in a public setting. They said they were challenging the organization so we could get better. All it really did was breed more mistrust and avoidance tactics.