Real conversation provides a platform for understanding of others and/or issues. Real conversation allows learning to take place, and real conversation promotes the nurturing and deepening of relationships. Perhaps most of all, real conversation can feed our souls in ways few other things can.
So getting better at creating, maintaining and growing real conversations is a skill worthy of consideration and practice – whether we are thinking as a parent, colleague, child, spouse or friend. And while all of these may outshine the value as a leader, you cannot deny the value of these benefits for us in our leadership role too.
I want to talk about one quality, one habit if you will, that can create and nurture real conversations in any of those areas of your life: curiosity.
We often associate curiosity with children or the highly creative among adults; yet curiosity is a fundamental quality required to be a lifelong learner. I could write about the learning aspects to curiosity at length, but that isn’t the goal here (though that idea will come up again before you are through reading). Specifically, I see four ways curiosity can create real conversation. Here they are:
When we are curious, we ask questions.
Who are the most curious people on the planet?
And what do they do (constantly)?
What keeps interactions from others from developing into conversation?
The absence of questions.
Think about it – when we talk and they talk and there are no questions, we have an exchange perhaps, but it isn’t a deeper conversation, is it? If you want to stimulate a real conversation, don’t just come with opinions or points to make, but a set of questions – things you want to know. And anytime you want to move closer to conversation or you sense yourself talking too much, shift and ask a question.
When we are curious, we listen for answers.
Asking is important, but a barrage of questions feels like a sort of inquisition. What moves us from inquisition (especially as a boss, supervisor, or parent) to conversation is when we ask, then shut up and listen. If we are curious about the question we asked (and not just asking as a tactic), we will listen to the response, because we want to know the answer! The biggest reason that real conversation can deepen relationships is that real conversation requires active listening – and active listening tells the other person that we care about their message and them.
When we are curious, we are more interested.
Curiosity drives interest. I can remember more than one college class that I succeeded in largely because I realized I had to find the source of interest. Once I generated some curiosity for the subject, I was more interested. And once I was interested, good things (i.e. my grades) happened.
The same dynamic will happen in your conversations when you are genuinely interested. And by the way, when you are genuinely interested, asking questions and listening both get easier.
When we are curious, we are ready to learn.
In fact, I would argue that without curiosity, we won’t ever learn much. But when we are ready to learn, we are in a position to engage in a conversation for the additional purpose of learning, not just the purpose of getting through it (and on to the next task).
As you can see, when those four things exist: asking questions, listening, heightened interest and the desire to learn, we will create conversation and gain all the other benefits that come with that.
If you want more and more valuable conversations, be more curious. (Tweet That)