As a coach, I’m naturally curious. About people, their feelings, and why they react the way they do in certain situations. But I’m also curious about curiosity itself, having read a number of articles about how it can contribute towards personal and professional development.
Early definitions cite curiosity as a motivated desire for information. It’s a quality related to inquisitive thinking, exploration, investigation and learning and as such, it’s heavily associated with all aspects of human development
In his article ‘The Power of Curiosity’, Todd Kashdan says, “One of the most reliable and overlooked keys to happiness is cultivating and exercising our innate sense of curiosity,” because it “creates an openness to unfamiliar experiences, laying the groundwork for greater opportunities to experience discovery, joy and delight.”
Curiosity contributes to continued learning and personal growth
It makes sense that if you’re inquisitive, you show a genuine interest in learning and discovering, and you open yourself up to new people and new experiences, you’ll discover more opportunities and pathways.
People who are curious ask more questions, they’re often more energetic and talkative, passionate about topics that interest them. They’re interested in other people and this helps them form and develop relationships more easily. According to Kashdan, people who are curious in life report more satisfying relationships and marriage – as individuals, we’re generally happier if our partner is “interested and responsive”.
So maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that curiosity as a behaviour and emotion, which in turn leads to continued learning and personal growth, has been attributed as the driving force behind not only human development, but developments in science, language and industry.
How can we use this to our competitive advantage?
Evan Hackel says that curiosity is the ‘greatest leadership trait’. He believes that it’s out of curiosity that true leaders tirelessly pursue new and better things when others may find a solution, then stop looking for new ideas.
In fact, good leaders are open to new ideas and always looking for a better solution to an old problem. They surround themselves with ‘ideas people’, listen to others and accept their own limitations. This may sound counter-intuitive but it means that there are no limits on their ability to grow and develop – they put their egos to one side and have the curiosity to ask the right people the right questions.
They’re not scared to ask for help, and instead of shutting people out, they invite them in. They look around them, they want to find out more, they’re keen to try something different.
How can we cultivate curiosity?
The good news is that we can ‘get curious’. It’s a mindset that creates an openness to unfamiliar experiences – and like any other skill, the more you use it, the more natural it becomes.
It starts with wanting to know a little more each day. Make a point of asking the right people the right questions and really listen to what they have to say. Become more playful and learn to thrive on uncertainty. Recognise new experiences and find something new in familiar ones because anything can be challenged – it’s the way you look at something that makes it interesting.
The more energy you put into being curious, the more it will become a part of you. You’ll develop an energy that you can apply to the most everyday task or topic. By nurturing your curious side, you can find out what really interests you and come to a better understanding of who you are.
Coaching can be part of the process of getting curious
Coaching isn’t training and it’s not counselling, but it does challenge you to explore the decisions you’ve made and the way you react to situations. It’s a programme of listening and questioning and it can help you develop skills that will drive you forward both personally and professionally.
As a coach, I get curious all the time. In fact, I’m learning to get more curious because I recognise the value that it brings. In my corporate life, particularly in more senior roles, I had a tendency not to ask questions. I thought I was expected to know the answer so through a fear of looking stupid, I would keep schtum.
I now realise that as well as helping me, asking questions helps others. People feel valued and enriched when we’re interested in what they have to say, when we tap into their knowledge and potential.
Questioning and listening also helps us become more self-aware and with that comes an ability to understand our unhelpful patterns of behaviour and develop strategies to overcome them.
Why Curiosity is the Greatest Leadership Trait of All – Evan Hackel, May 2018
The Power of Curiosity – Todd Kashdan, May 2010
What can Curiosity Do For You? International Teaching Seminars, July 2019