Communicate with curiosity

People you work or interact with might differ from you in age, ethnicity, ideology, or a number of other ways. In conversations with individuals you perceive to be different from you, strive to come from a place of curiosity.

Being curious means entering conversations and relationships assuming only that you have something to learn. What’s more, people who are curious are more likely to feel better about themselves and their lives. They experience more positive emotions such as joy and surprise.

Ask yourself: Am I willing to learn about the lives of people who are different from me? Can I ask more questions? How might I benefit from learning more? Do I communicate with a willingness to learn?

Being curious requires being a good listener, which means being aware of the assumptions you bring to conversations. When you hear or read something someone said, it arrives after being screened through your own personal filter. You might draw what appear to be “logical” inferences, but these might not be accurate at all.

Before you act on your assumptions, ask open-ended, curiosity-driven questions such as:

  • What was that like?
  • How did that feel?
  • What did you think when that happened?
  • How did you end up making that decision?
  • Tell me more.

Healthy communication means listening, accepting, respecting, and negotiating differences. Note your body language, too. If your arms are crossed, muscles tense, and your face in a grimace, you’re not conveying curiosity. Approaching conversations with anger or blame or intent to criticize, threaten, or punish leads to communication breakdowns and strained relationships.

The U.S. Armed Forces celebrates diversity and encourages inclusion. When you communicate with others—whether the conversation is in person, on the phone, or over social media—be driven by curiosity. Being curious can benefit you and your improve relationships with others. In the end, you might find out you’re more alike than you are different.

References

Brown, C. D. (2008). Continuum of healthy communication. International Journal of Reality Therapy, 28(1), 30–33.

Macaskill, A., & Denovan, A. (2014). Assessing psychological health: the contribution of psychological strengths. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 42(3), 320–337. doi:10.1080/03069885.2014.898739

McEvoy, P., Baker, D., Plant, R., Hylton, K., & Mansell, W. (2013). Empathic curiosity: Resolving goal conflicts that generate emotional distress. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 20(3), 273–278. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2850.2012.01926.x