I just listened to the episode of Guy Kawasaki’s “Remarkable People” podcast with Robert Waldinger. Over the course of the conversation, they talk about what it takes to be happy.
Curiosity opens communication
Toward the end, they discuss how to communicate with people you disagree with. And then how to communicate with family members you disagree with or are irritated by.
The key? Curiosity.
I couldn’t have been happier! We teach this in our Exactly What To Say™ for Leaders trainings. Curiosity, sincere curiosity, helps you keep more of an open mind. Even if only slightly open. The person you’re talking to responds because curiosity doesn’t come with an agenda. The only agenda is learning about the other.
One simple swap they suggest trying is, instead of an accusatory “Why do you believe that?” try a more curious “What led you to see things that way?”
This opens up the way for discussion. You get to keep your own beliefs and moral code, but you start hearing why the other person thinks like they do. And you might even be able to get to a deeper fear or aspiration beneath that belief.
Curiosity when the other doesn’t communicate back
Another interesting tip they shared didn’t involve words at all. Just imagine you’re in a family situation and your dad or uncle starts droning on and on about the same thing he’s espoused for most of your life. Easy to consider shutting down. Especially if you don’t agree with him.
But now try using curiosity. They suggest you look to see what is different in this telling than in previous ones. There could be multiple differences: word choice, tonal emphasis, physical setting, the events that led to this monologue, the responses of those around him. (This is why I am glad I learned coaching by phone decades before Zoom calls. One of the most important coaching skills is to deeply listen to a client, including things like ebbs and flows of energy.)
This curiosity will at least help you not get as angry. But you just may find you discover a way to forward the relationship.
Curiosity builds empathy
Curiosity can give you the space to build empathy. And that space could help you in just about all of the leadership conversations you have on a daily basis. Even with the most irritating people.