When you think about important things in a relationship, you probably think of trust, good communication, conflict resolution, support, respect etc. But, one thing that’s often overlooked, and should be included in that list is genuine curiosity.
If you’re looking to improve your relationships – be it at work, with friends, or with a partner – staying curious and taking a genuine interest in people is important.
The Lost Art of Curiosity and taking a genuine interest
In terms of improving relationships, there’s one very simple skill, action and behaviour that we often seem to neglect: Curiosity.
Curiosity – taking a genuine interest in people and in the conversations that you're having with them – is crucial to building and improving relationships.
Unfortunately, though, it seems like people are getting less and less curious about others these days, and sadly it is having a detrimental impact on our relationships and our ability to connect with people.
So, how do you stay curious? Here are some ways to be more curious in your relationships:
Ask and engage people through questions. Lately, I’ve noticed this lack of ability in many of us (myself included at times!) to take a genuine interest, or at least showcase a genuine interest, in others by asking them questions and engaging them through questions.
Perhaps we are all overloaded with information and the constant distractions that surround us. Yet being able to engage people is a critical factor in how we build effective, trustworthy and mutually beneficial relationships.
To build genuine trust we must take an interest in other people by asking them questions about their lives and how they are.
Then ultimately, be able to remember the information that they share with us and the space that we hold for them and be able to follow it up at a later stage. This is how we demonstrate that we hear someone and care.
Want a challenge? Here’s one you can start right away.
The next time you’re talking to someone, ask and engage them through questions.
Keep the conversations a two-way street. In addition to the first point, ask yourself: Are your conversations with people a two-way dialogue? Or, are those conversations a lot about that person listening to you talk (or vice versa)?
Remember: At the core of every relationship, real ones anyway, is that they are two-way streets – you’re interested in me, AND I'm interested in you.
Create space for the people you care about. Create space for the people you care about – really take the time to listen to them and what they have to say.
Try to remove assumptions or judgements about what they meant to say, or the situation they are in, and instead ask them.
Then, and most importantly though, wait for their answer. Don’t fill the space for them. Wait and listen.
Questions to Ask Yourself
If you want to improve your relationships, which I'm sure we all do, I invite you to take a step back and be honest with yourself about the relationships that you currently have – whether they’re personal relationships with your friends or your family, or your working relationships with your manager, your team, or your peers. Ask yourself:
When was the last time that I took an interest in that person?
How is that person doing? Do I know?
What do I know about that person vs. what do they know about me?
What’s happening in their world?
Did I spend an entire conversation with that person just talking about myself?
Am I usually in one-way conversations? Or are my conversations mutually beneficial?
What do I know about that person and their view/perspective on things?
The Bottom Line
Real relationships take work. At our core, though, all human beings want to feel heard, seen, noticed and valued.
A critical way that we do that is by engaging genuinely with people. Asking questions. Playing back what we’ve heard. Showing we are engaged through our body language. And, most importantly, being curious. Set yourself the challenge this week - who can you be more curious about?