How Curiosity Changed My Life
Infatuation with your voice weakens connection, limits influence, and destroys effectiveness.
Brilliant leaders ask forward-facing questions.
Fall in love with the voice of others.
What about blabbermouths?
Don’t use the presence of blabbermouths as an excuse to become one yourself.
Blabbermouths are idiots. I don’t care how smart they are. Confront them. Restrain them. Avoid them. If necessary, remove them.
Fools talk. Wisdom listens.
I confess that I talk for a living. But the only way to say anything worth hearing is asking questions and attending to answers.
Curiosity changed my life.
When I started writing Leadership Freak I stumbled on something that changed my life.
The second most important thing I gain from writing a popular leadership blog is the opportunity to listen to the thoughts of others. The most important thing I gain from Leadership Freak is the discipline to write my own thoughts.
In February of 2010 a publisher sent me a copy of, “The Leadership Code,” I’d been blogging for about two months. It was the first of hundreds of books to come my way.
I wrote and explained that I wouldn’t mention a book if I hadn’t spoken with the author(s). They went for it. Since then, I’ve had scores of conversations. Some changed my life.
5 ways to practice forward-facing curiosity:
- Bring up the uncomfortable obvious. If someone limps, for example, ask about it. Respectful curiosity establishes connection. Try saying, “I notice.” Then be quiet.
- Ask hard questions. Safe questions never produce remarkable results. When something doesn’t feel right, say, “I’m curious about ….”
- Take notes. Let people know their words matter.
- Push past platitudes and safe theories. Dig into practicalities.
- What would you DO about that?
- How would you … ?
- Focus on the present and future, even if you begin in the past.
How might leaders practice the art of forward-facing curiosity?
A few years ago, I interviewed a numbers of senior leaders for a book I was writing. I asked one question: “What is the best leadership advice you ever received?”
The former Executive Vice President & CIO, at The Travelers (who also happens to be my wife, Mary Jean Thornton) said,
“Be curious! Curiosity is a prerequisite to continuous improvement and even excellence. The person who gave me this advice urged me to study people, process, and structures; he inspired me to be intellectually curious. He often reminded me that making progress, in part, was based upon thinking. I applied this notion of intellectual curiosity by thinking about the organization’s future, understanding the present, and knowing and challenging myself to creatively move the people and the organization closer to its vision.”
Thanks for a great story, Paul. I was asked by an HR person from Gallup what I looked for in a leader. After the obvious things like integrity, skill, and initiative, I said curiosity. I think curiosity sets people apart from the pack.
Dan, regarding questions…
I am trying to remember a statistic that was shared with me years ago…this is what I believe was said by the speaker…
“When you are talking and sharing with someone, you are fortunate if they give you approximately 30% of their attention; however, when you ask them a question, you most likely will have 100% of their attention.”
Great reminder on the power of asking questions.
~ Bill Bill Krebs Branch Manager Senior Vice President, Investments Piedmont Wealth Advisors of RJA 804 Green Valley Rd., Suite 100 Greensboro, NC 27408 D – 336.574.8318 T – 855.211.9820 F – 336.574.8024
🔹On mission to help our clients enjoy a remarkable experience in the handling of their financial affairs!
Sounds about right, Bill. I like to say that a statement invites judgement, but a question invites engagement. I bet curiosity serves you well in your industry.
yes Dan – a question shows your value their opinion / experience / knowledge and that you are open to considering different views
I’ve been working on teaching my kids the difference between talking TO someone and talking AT someone.
Blabbermouths talk AT someone, anyone, who will sit still and listen. It could be a wall with a face on it, and they’d yammer on.
Conversationalists talk TO people. They empathize and encourage and ask those digging questions. Conversationalists are interested in the person they’re speaking to.
It’s less about “curiosity” I think and more about “compassion”.
Thanks Tad. Interesting that you bring compassion to this topic. You might add words like respect, humility, and openness as well. Thanks for expanding the topic.
I like your discerning b/t curiousity/compassion … perhaps there is is spectrum (if not of nature, then of human nature) stemming from the personal to collective (I … Other … Us):
Curiousity … passion … compassion … empathy … unity … integrity?
“Fall in love …” Good advice, across any discipline.
“For in truth, great love is borne of great knowledge of the thing being loved.”
Leonardo da Vinci, first master of the (artistic AND scientific) Renaissance and curator of (present and past) experience over (prophetic, future) revelation.
Perhaps practicing curiousity (knowledge for its own sake?) is little different than the art of loving … a way of living. Da Vinci’s observations (and imagination) was centuries ahead science and technology, but his humility – his love of life and nature – was well known:
“Though human ingenuity [his own included] … uses different instruments for the same end, it will never discover an invention more beautiful, easier, or more economical than nature’s, because in her inventions nothing is wanting and nothing is superfluous.”
Or, as Coleridge put it (centuries later, and refering to human device),
“Nothing can permanently please,
which does not contain in itself
the reason it is so
and NOT otherwise.”
Admittedly, Da Vinci rarely finished anything (of present value to his clients), and Coleridge was a hopeless Romantic (nature had a future value as a partner, not a slave), but they both sought an integrity to things (both artifice and cosmic) that could well inform the human condition at present (still not much evolved from the past).
Curiousity is naturally loving, we just need to let it be, and not bend it to our will (or ideology, for that matter). Kids say the darndest things, if you listen closely, and help them grow.
Thanks Rurbane. Props for bringing your perspective. What came to mind as I read your insights was how we are curious about the things we love. When someone loves skying, hunting, or beekeeping, they are passionate to learn more.
So which comes first, love or curiosity? Or as you suggest, they are twins that arrive at nearly the same time.
I’d have to say everything good comes of curiousity first … then fascination… then love when the fascination is requited/ engaged in your curiousity.
I enjoyed this post and your thoughts so much Rurbane- I would disagree though, I believe because love is a choice that love comes first and curiosity is a clear measurement that you, the leader, chose to invest in a person- thereby showing love. It reasons that an investment in a person is out of love, not tied to the romantic kind but a value system that says I choose to steward another persons thoughts and emotions. Thank you for making me think so intentionally this morning!
Point well taken, Deanna … perhaps love and curiousity (deltas gravitate toward one another?) are a chicken and egg dilemma … which came first?
Judging by other comments here, my instinctual bias to curiousity being first in empathetic development is clear … having witnessed intimately the development of my own offspring.
I believe in being curious, as it opens ones mind to limitless possibilities. Like Dan said, asking questions is important, as they shape our lives.
Thanks Gerry. Curiosity and possibility seem to go hand in hand. The greater our curiosity…the greater the possibility. I suppose we must include something about a commitment to actually DO something. 🙂
Dan, please define “blabbermouths”
I know you asked Dan for his definition of blabbermouth — but I’d like to weigh in. To me, a blabbermouth is the person who ‘sucks the air out of the room’. They are not interested in a dialogue or exchange or ideas, but merely want to impart their take on a topic – whether pro or con, or even explaining why they have no opinion on it. (I have actually seen that one!). I’d say the most defining feature of the blabbermouth is that they neither solicit nor receive anything from the audience. They are self-contained.
Mary Ellen I would generally agree, yet I always find myself wondering why a blabbermouth does so. Perhaps it is the curiosity of human nature and drivers of behaviour or, as Rurbane insinuated, the love of team and people. It never ceases to amaze me that when I let go of presumption and instead enquire and explore the reality – often from another perspective – it opens my eyes to another driver of behaviour.
Too often the act of blabbering is really a defensive stance on being insular, fear of not being heard, a conscious act to try and contribute regardless, a desire to be respected, or many other root causes.
I wonder – if we use curiosity to engage a blabbermouth about the topic being discussed – will they remain a blabbermouth or revert to conscious two way interaction with the expected transference of ideas, perspective, insight and ideas.
Of course someone may just shut down and not respond when questioned – which indicates other root causes …. and so on.
Love the discussion.
In re “not being heard,” perhaps that’s why they go on and on…
I find that some people find it difficult and/or painful to articulate their insights (fearful, material, relevant or not) verbally,
much less concisely, precisely and accurately (for them, too direct and devoid of situational awareness) …
and thus overcompensate (usually by being redundant, trying – badly – to get to a point where they can be understood),
as a way to overcome a handicap (usually emotional, and [apparently] unrelated to the matter at hand).
Good listeners (others) can usually discern a thread that can be reworded (concisely, precisely, and accurately) in a manner in which the group can find connection and consensus, upon which they have been heard (now satisfied), and can go back to working on something more productive (for them). In the meanwhile, the rest of us may have learned something of value.
“Blabbermouthing” as such is usually a temporary condition (if not ignored), and relatively easily remediated (if not sent into exile), and
is an idiocy is one that we are all prone to on occasion.