Easy As ABC

by Steve Boespflug


Always Be Curious.  Everyone knows curiosity does more than just kill felines, but I don’t think everyone realizes the true value of being curious all the time, and what that really does for us.   When I reflect on the past, sometimes I notice simple things that have a big influence on character, personality, safety or success.  Simple things like…curiosity.  Having a curious mind helps us be more enjoyable to friends and family and co-workers, and enables us to enjoy them more.  It helps us be better parents.  It helps us build knowledge and makes our lives more interesting and enjoyable.

Of course, being a researcher my entire career, I’m expected to be curious.  Asking the right questions of the right people in the right way is what I’m paid to do.  (Is it weird that I love my job? I’m just curious.)  But the value of being curious goes beyond the job.

Being curious makes you more enjoyable and helps you enjoy others.  Do you ever notice your spirits being lifted when an old friend asks you a few thoughtful questions?  I don’t mean the basics like “How’ve you been?” or “How is the family?”  That’s nice, sure, but the reply expected is “Pretty good” or “Great” or the extra positive “Couldn’t be better.”  It makes a big difference when you dig a little deeper.  You might ask about that project or goal they’ve been working on or say with enthusiasm “Give me the highlights of that trip you and your family went on!” Pushing beyond “How are ya?” demonstrates genuine curiosity, shows you’re a caring friend and leaves you both with a positive experience you’ll look forward to again.

Being curious builds a broad range of knowledge.  We all read books, magazines, online publications and articles (and blogs like this one).  Most of us enjoy learning but we naturally can’t bother to process everything and we don’t have the time to Google everything.  Ask five people if they know why zebras have stripes and I bet only one (at the most) will know the correct answer.  We filter or avoid learning new things we don’t think will ever benefit us.  But if we have a curious intellect, we build knowledge about a variety of things every day, all day long.  That adds up. Just yesterday I received an email with the word “verbose” in the message.  Out of curiosity I looked up examples of other uses of the word.  In the process I learned the word “loquacious.”  Now I can confidently say “Some people become loquacious when they have a few beers.” (Look it up if you’re curious.) Is knowing this word going to significantly improve my life?  No, but with an unwavering curiosity I’ll eventually pick up more valuable nuggets of wisdom I might otherwise miss.

Being curious makes you be a better parent.  Parents need to be consistently and vigilantly curious.  I have two teenage boys and my professional ask-an-open-ended-question strategy doesn’t always work.  I ask “What did you do at your friend’s house last night?”  And I get “Not much” or “The usual” or “We just hung out.”  I used to hear that every time.  But I’m always genuinely curious and at the same time mindful that a perceived interrogation can have negative implications in the long run.  Eventually my kids started giving me longer replies to my first, second, and third questions and now I don’t need to ask ten or fifteen.  They are far from being loquacious, mind you, but at least I’m hearing more details than before.  And more importantly, they know Dad cares and will always be interested in what they’re doing.

Curiosity.  It takes more time but it’s easy, and it’s important.  I believe we should Always Be Curious. Don’t you?

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