I'm currently experimenting with something that's helping me get the most out of every conversation I have.
What I'm trying is so simple that it almost sounds silly: I'm trying to approach every new conversation with a child-like curiosity.
Why am I doing this? Because I love to tell people about new things. A lot. To excite them. Like giving a gift of knowledge. But the need to enlighten often ends up poisoning conversations.
I'll give you an example: when speaking with someone who shares a similar agenda, its easy for the conversation to devolve into a pissing contest. You don't need me to point out this isn't productive, but it really isn't productive when this happens. It feels like nobody is really listening.
The problem is that it doesn't work to only be on the offensive in a conversation. Sometimes you have to play defence, sit back, and listen, then change roles when the time is right. Good conversations tend to dance around like this naturally anyway. To hog one side will only suffocate it.
What I'm getting out of this curiosity experiment
I'm making a concerted effort to be more open in general since getting serious about the craft of startup building. I haven't talked much about this yet, but I've been focussed on developing different startups since earlier this year to get good at what it takes to build and run a profitable company.
I lure myself out of my comfort zone into a more open state by asking myself a question like "what can I learn from this person?", or "what can I ask to lead them into comfortable territory?".
The comfortable territory thing seems to work because people generally enjoy talking about what they know, and usually possess a lot of wisdom about it.
Outcome so far
I've only been trying this for about two weeks. I started to notice things pretty much straight away. Here's the most pertinent outcomes so far:
- My agenda in most conversations has gone from a desire to tell people things to a desire to have a conversation that leads somewhere.
- I spend way more energy focussing on what people say, giving it my full attention.
- I learn more stuff. In theory I'm more wise because of this.
- Conversations are more enjoyable.
- Most amazing of all is that when I behave like this, it appears to be reciprocated by who I'm speaking to. When you make an effort to listen carefully to what somebody is trying to communicate, they pay you back with the same behaviour.
I love the asymmetry of this curiosity trick. It's amazing to me that I can change one small thing in my life, like thinking about a question in my head, and it has a significant cascading effect on not only my life, but the people's lives that I come into contact with.
Not bad for an idea that came to me in the shower!