Remember when your kids were little and they asked a zillion questions? What? Why? How? When? It’s amazing how direct and focused (and persistent) children can be when they’re learning about their environment. Their curiosity is insatiable, and this is a good thing! In fact, I think children have a lot to teach us when we’re building business relationships and learning about our business environments. We need to be more curious—ask more questions—be more persistent. We tend to be more introspective as adults… in some ways it serves us, but in others, it holds us back.
Here are three ways to use child-like curiosity in developing relationships:
Ask lots of questions:
We often assume we know enough to jump into conversations when we should have spent more time asking questions and listening to the answers. Ask people how they’re doing and don’t think about what you’re going to say next—really listen to what they say! When you’re connecting with someone online for the first time, dig into their profile and write down some questions that will give you a deeper insight. When you’re at a networking event, pretend you’re a newspaper reporter looking for a story and ask who, what, where, when and how questions (again, don’t think about your own story—your goal is to find out other people’s stories). The more you know, the more helpful you can be.
Be open to new experiences: Watch kids at play and you’ll notice that when they get together in a group, they’re ready for anything. Don’t get stuck in a rut or let your comfort zone hold you back from experiencing new things—be willing to jump in and do something you’ve never done before. The most limiting sentence ever uttered is “But I’ve always done it this way.” Try a new technology—experiment with different foods—learn a new language. Make it a point to try something new once a month, and broaden your horizons. Being willing to try new things makes you more interesting as a person, and helps you be more flexible in relationships.
Allow yourself to dream: We’re always encouraging our children to let their imaginations run wild—yet as adults we stifle that impulse and limit ourselves to the here and now. Dreaming (and/or imagining) is an important function of the human brain. It opens us up to new possibilities, helps us solve problems, and is a way to recharge or reset our systems. Remember those instances as a child when you co-imagined things with a group of friends? It gave you energy, freed your spirit, and spawned creativity. Plus, it helped solidify the connection you had to each other. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that?
These are just a few ways to employ child-like curiosity that will help you make more connections with people, create a better experience for all, open yourself up to possibilities, and deepen your relationships.
Need a reminder to employ them? Keep a package of crayons in your desk drawer—you never know what magic they’ll inspire.