How Curiosity Helps Us Connect

by Christa Hines on September 6, 2016

I bet you have stories to tell.

Happy stories, sad stories, triumphant stories and tragic stories.

But did you know that none of it matters? At least not in the moment when you’re trying to get to know another person.

Let’s say you’re headed to a get-together where you won’t know a lot of people. As much as you may dislike it, you understand that a little bit of small talk gives you a chance to find common ground with someone else at the gathering.

But once your past initial introductions, there’s sometimes that awkward moment of silence… and a decision looms. Do I excuse myself to refill my drink? Do I tell that story about what happened on the way to work today or the funny thing my toddler said? Should I check my phone?

Try deepening the conversation by tapping your curiosity. What could you learn from this person?

When we’re curious, we’re most open to listening and learning. And, you’ll not only get to know people better, you’ll also come across as more likable.

An important part of asking questions is to actually be interested in the answers rather than trying to think about what you’re going to say next. This is hard for a lot of us because we may feel a little nervous entering a conversation with someone we don’t know. But allow yourself to be present in the moment and to just carefully follow their story. People typically love to talk about their kids, their pets, their passions and their hobbies.

Here are a few questions to try:

  • What are you most excited about right now?
  • What are you reading right now?
  • If you learn that they have children, ask what their children are like. What activities do they like to do? (Sometimes this is a clue about what the person you’re talking to is interested in as well. In fact, this could be your next question–“Oh, did you like playing tennis as a kid too?”)
  • How are you enjoying this age (in reference to what it’s like to parent a toddler/school-age child/middle schooler, etc.)? What do you think are the biggest challenges?
  • Where do you and your family like to vacation? What is it that you like about that part of the country?
  • What do you like to do for fun in your spare time?
  • What would you have done with your life if you hadn’t gone into sales (or whatever it is they do for a living) or was that always your passion?
  • If they have an especially interesting career, ask how they made it happen. What was their big break?

Watch what happens in the conversation. Not only will you remember fascinating details about the person you just met, they’ll remember you too. Even if they don’t learn a lot about you, they’ll like you because you took time to listen. And very few people do that anymore.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sue September 7, 2016 at 12:20 am

Great advice as it makes it easier for both people- and the person who you are asking questions of feels valued and interesting. My sister-in-law is very good at this and I try to channel her skills when I am in similar situations.

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