The Art of Being Curious

In conversations, it’s very (very!) easy to always be like “ah, ok, nice, mmh, cool, sounds interesting.” You sort of hear what someone is saying, but you are not really listening. Some parts of what is said stick with you, other parts don’t. Occasionally you might hear a keyword that makes you listen more attentively, but overall, you are more worried about appearing interested than actually being interested. 

Does that describe a familiar situation to you? Maybe to some extent? Well, reality is that I caught myself in situations like that. I also caught others in such situations. 

Over time, I put a lot of thought into what it takes to have real good conversations. Conversations in which one really learns something – independent of how significant or insignificant the other person is or seems to be. What I realized is that in order to go significantly deeper with your conversations than just the typical surface level, it’s all about being genuinely curious about this gorgeous person across from you. What do I mean by “being genuinely curious”...

Being curious is all about peeling back the layers. It’s about not taking the person’s first – and often most rehearsed  –  answer as the only one. It’s about digging deeper. It’s about probing their inner thoughts gently so that they are able to think more clearly and make sense of situations in ways they never did before. Being curious also means surfacing their decision-making process that is often hidden in the dark.

If someone answers "I'm doing all well," ask what's going well these days! If someone says "I had a great weekend," ask what they enjoyed the most! If someone responds "Oh, that sounds amazing," dare to ask what they like about it. 

A quick-recipe on how to dig deeper and "exercise" curiosity is to generally ask about the three areas that touch on what makes us who we are: our emotions (how did it make you feel?), memories ("what is your sweetest memory of ...?") and motivations ("what made you do this?"). Asking questions that touch on these areas allow you to touch on the layers that are much deeper under the surface which only 95%+ of conversations generally scratch on. 

Turns out, being curious is the key recipe to avoiding the ultimate death scenario of a conversation: running out of topics. There is no running out of topics if one really starts to care about someone’s stories and actually moves from being interesting to being interested. I used to be afraid of running out of topics, but now I just tell myself to be hardcore-curious about the other person. And it works.