“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein.
Not only is curiosity the catalyst that can lead to new scientific discoveries — for it was Albert Einstein who said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious” — but scientific research indicates that nurturing your curiosity can also make you smarter and open to new experiences.
The 4 Life-Changing Benefits of Curiosity
1. Learning: Research indicates that when your curiosity is ignited, your ability to learn and retain information increases. When you are curious, the limbic reward system of the brain actually illuminates. This is why it is important that teachers spark curiosity in the classroom and use curiosity as a teaching method.
2. Personal Growth: The degree to which you are curious is correlated with your level of openness to personal growth opportunities and your capacity to connect with others.
3. Squashing Stereotypes: Since research indicates that curiosity promotes the cognitive process and leads to a greater capacity for personal development through openness to new experiences, then curiosity must also have the power to squash stereotypes.
4. Politely Pushing-Back: Your boss keeps piling new projects on your plate. You think that most have very little strategic importance and are a waste of your time. The best way to push-back without making your boss angry or defensive is to ask questions from a place of true curiosity. As you ask clarifying questions regarding the intent and expectation of the proposed project, you might just find that your boss comes to her own realization that the project is actually not a top priority or is completely unnecessary. She just may not previously have had the chance to ask herself these questions. Alternatively, by engaging in curiosity with your boss, you come to understand the importance of the project, and now can complete it with less angst.
When you are in the middle of a dispute or negotiation, it is very hard to come to a resolution without engaging in curiosity. If you become defensive and are unwilling to listen to the other person’s point of view, then you are not exercising curiosity and have clogged the cognitive process.
If you can approach a disagreement from a place of true curiosity, defenses are disarmed, and productive conversations become possible.
When you use curiosity to truly seek to understand another person’s beliefs, then you can authentically examine your own assumptions and opinions. If you are genuinely curious, then you are truly listening and can then decide if you will stick to your beliefs or shift your convictions.
Just because you are asking questions, does not mean you are being truly curious. There is a fine line between being curious vs. nosy. Here are 3 curiosity rules to safeguard against being nosy:
1. Do not ask too many questions right away, especially personal questions. For a stranger, new acquaintance or colleague this can come across as intrusive and you may not be able to get the information that you need.
2. If you are asking questions just because you want to know and/or judge, and not out of a true desire to understand the other person and be open to other viewpoints, then don’t ask.
3. If you are asking questions to put someone in their place, compare yourself to another person, and come out feeling better about yourself, then don’t pose the question.
Originally published at www.inc.com on May 18, 2016.