Don’t be afraid of being curious
It works to help you establish connections and distinguish yourself from others
As a former journalist, I am used to asking people questions. Some may say I’m being nosy, but honestly I am just naturally curious and constantly intrigued by people. I want to know what makes whomever I am dealing with “tick.” Knowing them better can also help me be a better friend, colleague or partner and basically do a better job.
Recently, I was at the doctor’s office. My son was having some stomach issues, and in order to get him in immediately, we had to see another doctor who was not our normal practitioner. This young woman greeted us first thing that morning with a brightly colored dandelion-yellow shirt, dotted with giant blue flowers and a wide smile that matched her vibrant attire.
To set the stage, I was stressed about my son being there, the uncertainty of what was happening to him. I also needed to be at an important meeting and really couldn’t afford to be late. Time was tight, stress was mounting, my inner monologue was raging. When — let’s call her Gloria — breezed into the room and pulled out her stethoscope, I noticed that her fingers were taped together on both hands. As she conducted her exam it was clear that she was injured, so I asked her what happened. Her answer fascinated me.
Gloria loved rock climbing and practiced at a gym in Concord so that she could be prepared to enter the “live arena” in Plymouth. As she described it, she literally scales up steep vertical surfaces, clutching the cold hard rock with her fingers and pulls up the weight of her frame, (which is how she had broken the digits on both hands). She was so energetic and enthusiastic about the process that immediately after asking her a couple of questions, she became a compelling person to me. I think we became more meaningful to her as well.
It was as if, because of curiosity, we had broken some sort of impersonal “seal” that allowed for a greater personal connection and deeper vested interest. From my view, once we connected as humans, she made an extra effort to see that we were well attended to. I’m not saying that she wouldn’t have delivered quality care if we hadn’t engaged in conversation, but by asking her to share, I think it energized our time together and maybe motivated her to try that much harder.
I recently had the opportunity to be part of a wonderful program that has me thinking more about curiosity. I had the honor of serving as moderator at NH Business Review’s recent Powered by Women breakfast. The panelists all centered their remarks on one key value. Topics included strength, trust, education, resiliency and curiosity.
While they were all great topics, curiosity really resonated with me.
The panelist discussing curiosity shared her view on how critical it can be to one’s entire life. She talked about the importance of being curious about the journey and not to be singularly laser-focused on outcomes and destinations because it can limit potentially great results.
It made sense. Letting go of where you want to be and maybe exploring different ways to get there is healthy and can sometimes take you to better places than you originally imagined.
Forbes magazine recently published a piece that job candidates who are curious are more likely to “find better processes and identify new opportunities for growth that may not have been taken advantage of otherwise.”
Don’t be afraid to give into your curiosity. It offers the possibility of opening new opportunities full of great promise and beauty. Remember, as poet Robert Frost, a New Hampshirite, once wrote: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Our personal and professional lives are so intertwined. We get defined personally by our professional success or professionally because we are connected personally. So, whether it’s a co-worker or a new client, make sure to ask questions. Be curious. And make sure they know they can ask you questions too.
Being able to establish a connection opens the possibility for you to distinguish yourself from the others. It’s a skill that can be critical to your success, lead to better outcomes and, of course, can make all the difference.
Tiffany Eddy, a former broadcast journalist, owns Tiffany Eddy & Associates, a communications firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.