Adrian Chiles in The Guardian recently made the point that “on all media, mainstream and social…nobody wants to know stuff; they just want to tell you what they already know, or how wrong you are about what you think you know.”
Maybe our education and our professionalism work against us. Generally, we assume we know what we need to know – and we hate to admit we don’t know things in case it makes us look less than perfect. We’re experienced professionals after all.
As Adrian Chiles went on to say: “When is the last time you heard anyone on Question Time or a phone-in ask a genuine question along the lines of: ‘There’s something I don’t quite get; please can you explain …’”.
That’s not good for us as human beings in general, and worse for employees and how they work together. Because of this lack of curiosity, this complacency means we don’t ask questions and aren’t open to learning. More than that, we don’t challenge. Attitudes and ideas start to ossify. That means a lack of innovation on one side, and on the other, the inability to think differently, to appreciate and understand contrary positions – in other words, a recipe for niggling disagreements and conflict in the workplace.
Being curious encourages all kinds of good habits among employees: the ability to see the value of different perspectives, to value diversity, empathy, the will to test their own assumptions, and a thirst for new thinking.
Curiosity can be encouraged as part of giving people the skills they need to have better, more open, trusting and positive conversations – or Conversational Intelligence (CI). CMP is working with organisations to improve CI levels, developing employees in terms of their situational awareness, reflective listening, empathy, self-awareness -in order to be able to use conversations in mature and intelligent ways.
As Adrian Chiles pointed out, small changes in how conversations are used can have a big impact. A consultant at a London hospital used to ask patients at the end of their appointments if they had any questions, just as part of the routine, a token offer. Now the doctor assumes there will be questions and asks them what they actually are, shifting the emphasis: patients feel that curiosity is expected, they get more from the appointment, get more reassurance and health outcomes can be improved.