Great communicators are curious always. They are curious about how others think and feel, about what they perceive and believe, about the communication patterns they subconsciously prefer and, ultimately, about how they can best be influenced.
Two of the ways great communicators express their curiosity are:
1. By giving attention
2. By questioning.
You have probably heard someone say that they “Paid attention” to someone or something. You might even have asked someone to “Pay attention”.
Why not regard attention as a gift?
Give it freely and in huge doses.
And be skilled in the giving.
Powerful communicators give skilled attention to people and situations in order to understand more about them. This understanding, coupled with the skills and mental flexibility required to adapt your communication style, creates elegant communication.
At work, managers tend to work with people they’ve known for some time and in situations they are accustomed to. Such familiarity can lead to assumptions that dull their attention and, by extension, limit their insights and understanding.
Assumptions that act as communication blinkers include:
1) ‘I know exactly how this person will react.’
2) ‘I’ve been in this situation many times before, so I know the best
3) ‘This is the sort of problem I’m not good at managing.’
Assumptions limit curiosity. We don’t give the people or situation a huge dose of attention because we are sure we know all the facts and possibilities. We stop questioning for the same reason.
In assumption 1) the speaker claims to be a mind reader and fortune teller. Perhaps they should be on the stage?
In assumption 2) the speaker has stopped looking for improvements because they believe they’ve found the perfect solution. They have also made the mistake of assuming that today’s events are exactly the same as something that happened in the past. Consequently they’ve stopped giving attention to detail. I was once asked to help a manager who used to say, ‘It’s OK everyone! I’ve been through this situation a hundred times before. I can manage it in my sleep. No problems.’ And his team did; they came to know lots of problems.
In assumption 3) the speaker reveals a negative belief they hold about their ability to learn and grow. Beliefs are not facts, are they?
Managers need to learn from other people’s experience as well as their own. They need to create a virtuous circle of being endlessly curious about the present, reviewing the lessons they’ve learned once it becomes the past, and developing their communication skills for the future to ensure that it becomes a worthwhile present.
And who doesn’t like a lovely present?
Next time I’ll talk about curiosity and questions.
Keep Closing the Gap.