Curiosity matters. It is one of the most critical communication and leadership skills one can have. Why? Because curiosity leads to influence, and influence leads to leadership.
What is curiosity? It is the desire to know. Specifically, it’s the desire to know and understand others by asking questions.
Unfortunately, though, it’s a soft skill that is often overlooked and underestimated.
In our social media driven world, we tend to think of influence as someone who:
- is popular
- has a lot of followers
- has the right title
- knows the right people
- is speaking on stages
- is an expert in their field
And when we think of a leader, the traits that often come to mind include:
Rarely do we see curiosity included when we speak of influencers and leaders. But here’s the truth: We can’t confuse influence with social media followers, and we can’t confuse leadership with a title.
Why does curiosity matter? It matters because if we want to influence the lives of others, we must be curious. If we’re going to lead well, we must be curious. And if we’re going to guide, shape, and impact others, we must learn the art of asking questions to create a connection, build and deepen relationships, and ultimately influence and lead others.
Jesus was curious, and He was a master at asking questions. Jesus asks over 300 questions in the Gospels.
Jesus asked questions to:
- Start Conversations: John 4:7-The woman at the well. “Will you get me a drink?”
- Create Connection: Luke 15:4-The Parable of the Lost Sheep. “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?
- Build and Deepen Relationships: Matthew 14:31-Jesus walks on water. “Why did you doubt?”
- Cause Others to Self-Reflect: Four times in Matthew, Jesus asks, “What do you think…?”
- Draw People In: Mark 10:51–Blind Bartimaeus Receives His Sight, “What do you want me to do for you?”
- Teach: Luke 10:36-The Parable of the Good Samaritan. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
If Jesus asked questions regularly, then what is it that keeps us from asking questions? Is it the fear of:
- not knowing how to keep the conversation going?
- what the other person may think?
- asking a “dumb” question?
- asking the wrong question?
- not knowing what to ask?
- looking unprepared?
- not knowing enough?
- looking stupid?
How do we move from fear to engaging others through questions?
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself
Remember, being curious is about getting to know others. When you take an active interest in someone by asking them questions and hearing their story, you’ve opened the door for more conversations. This isn’t a test; it’s an opportunity to develop a friendship.
Keep it simple
If you don’t know where to begin, here are some questions to get you going:
- What was the last book you read that you really enjoyed?
- What’s the best thing that has happened to you?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- What was the last movie you watched?
- Where would you like to travel to?
- How long have you lived here?
- What made you happy today?
- Where have you traveled to?
- Where did you grow up?
- Do you have any pets?
- How can I help you?
- What do you do?
Remember, when you are first starting out, you don’t have to go super deep. The goal is to begin getting to know someone, to find a common topic of interest that the two of you can connect on. As you get to know them and they get to know you, you can increase the depth of your questions.
Be the first to start the conversation
Far too often, we wait for other people to approach us and talk to us first. Instead, we should be the first to start the conversation. I worry that we miss out on great relationships due to the fear of reaching out first. We fear that we might be “bugging” someone if we reach out and invite them to coffee. We fear that they make take our initial contact the wrong way. And truthfully, we fear rejection; what if they say no? Let me ask you:
- Who has God put on your heart to reach out to?
- What is holding you back from reaching out?
- Who do you want to get to know better?
My students have often asked me, “Dr. Bennett, how do you know so many people?” My response? I reach out to people. I don’t wait for them to reach out to me. Every interaction, every conversation, and every relationship has been worth the “effort” of being the first to reach out and start the conversation.
Curiosity matters. If you want to influence and lead others, and if you’re going to impact culture, then let me encourage you to get curious.