“You don’t have to know everything in the world. We aren’t supposed to. It makes you boring in mixed company if you can’t be interested and ask questions of other people.” ~ Angela Johnson
I know enough about myself to know that I get really frustrated by people who don’t ask any questions of others. You know the type, right? Those who talk and talk and talk, and who never pause and ask, “So, what about you?” It’s called the art of conversation. It’s called the gift of curiosity. It’s called expressing a genuine interest in someone else.
Three recent scenarios.
My husband and I were out to dinner in NYC with friends of friends who had connected us. They are a high-swagger, business-savvy couple who live on the upper west side. My husband and I asked all sorts of questions to keep the conversation moving. By the end of dinner, we knew all about their business, their kids, their grandkids, and their last 3 vacations. As we left the restaurant and hailed our cab, it occurred to me that they never once asked what had brought us to NYC, what we did for work, or whether we had kids. The entire meal had been a monologue.
I was asked to be part of a 3-day mentor/mentee program (as the mentor!). The purpose of the 3 days was for the mentees to ask questions and learn from the “wise” (older) women with whom they had been paired. At the end of the 3 days, we were encouraged to give feedback and coaching to our mentees. I asked my mentee if she knew what I did for a living? No. Where I had gone to school? No. What I had studied? No. Did she even know that I had two kids, one of whom was the same age as her? No. We proceeded to have a fabulous discussion about the importance of asking questions of others in order to learn. I hope she considered that feedback a gift that she will never forget.
I flew out to Seattle to visit a friend. She has two kids, an adorable boy age 7 and a sweet girl age 9. Within an hour of meeting them, the little girl asked, “What’s your job?” and then her brother asked, “What’s your favorite sport?” It rolled from there as they bombarded me with questions. “Do you have a pet? What kind?” “What is her name?” “Do you like the Atlanta Braves? What kind of car do you drive?” “How old are your kids?” “Are they out of school for summer yet?” “How hot does it get in Atlanta?” It was a phenomenal conversation and I can honestly say out of the conversations I highlighted above, this one was by far the most engaging and fulfilling! These little people haven’t lost the joy of asking questions of others and learning more about them. I, of course, turned the tables, and asked them all sorts of questions about their school, their friends, and their lives. What ensued was a rich dialogue! Many people love to talk about how “curious” they are. It’s kind of a good buzz word we use to describe ourselves these days! We say things like, “I’m a curious person … I love to visit places I’ve never been before … I love to try new restaurants … I’m taking classes in ‘fill in the blank’ (e.g., home brewing, transcendental meditation, scuba diving, wood-fired pizza grilling, …).” We perceive this makes us more interesting … and it usually does (or should!).
AND, I strongly believe that conversational curiosity is an even bigger strength and an even more important word we should strive to achieve as a self-definition.
“The most successful people in life are the ones who ask questions. They’re always learning. They’re always growing. They’re always pushing.” ~ Robert Kiyosaki
Curiosity is a great thing to have. It keeps us moving forward and developing, as opposed to becoming stagnant and stale. I would argue that we should be “curious” about things like new hobbies, new books, new languages, new skills, … AND curious about learning more about new people! What I am talking about is “conversational curiosity.” Asking questions as part of a dialogue. Getting to know more about people. Being genuinely interested in others.
Many, many of the people with whom I speak can regale me with stories from dates they have been on that have become monotonous monologues, as opposed to conversational dialogues. Do you ever feel like this? “I like it when you start the conversation sometimes; it makes me feel like you actually want to talk to me.” What a brilliant concept! Especially for a date!
What do you think? What are your “go-to” conversational curiosity questions?
About the Author:
Author Monique A. Honaman wrote “The High Road Has Less Traffic: honest advice on the path through love and divorce” (2010) in response to a need for a book that provided honest, real, and raw advice about how to survive and thrive through one of life’s toughest journeys, and “The High Road Has Less Traffic … and a better view” (2013) to provide perspectives on love, marriage, divorce and everything in between. The books are available on Amazon.com. Learn more at www.HighRoadLessTraffic.com.