Hello everyone and welcome to today’s episode, where as always, I’m here to help you find more joy in your relationships, because that’s what you were made for.
In episode 62 last week, “Vaccine Now Available for this Relational Virus,” We talked about CD-20, the curiosity deficiency virus that keeps us from deeper relationship with people. I mentioned there’s a vaccine now available – developed by the CDC, Curiosity Deficiency Council in Bismarck, ND. It’s a simple vaccine. Here it is: Ask People Questions.
Today’s episode examines 6 reasons we are not more curious about others, why we don’t take the vaccine that cures our curiosity deficiency, and the benefits we experience when we do ask people questions. Especially people close to us.
Here’s reason number one we’re not more curious enough about people to ask questions of them:
1. We may not ask questions because we’re overloaded, with limited capacity for the work relationships require. We may limit our inquires because we need to limit the number of close relationships in our life, especially now in the spring of 2020 when we’re working from home and home schooling the kids, An article in the April 24, 2020 Wall Street Journal talks about “Zoom Fatigue.” It’s about how people are overloaded with relationships gone online.
But even before the coronavirus hit, a lot of us had been swamped with the busyness of life. Much of which is self-induced. So this overload is one reason we’re not as curious about people. Because our curiosity could potentially
create more work for us, depending where our curiosity leads us.
2. We sometimes don’t ask questions of others because we’re afraid of what we might find out. We’re afraid more may be required of me, especially more of my time, if I knew what was truly going on with the people in my life.
3. A third reason we may not be curious about the lives of others in our circle of relationships is because we rely on our assumptions about them instead. We relate based on our per-conceived notions about people. We think if we know their Enneagram number, their Myers-Briggs score, or their Strength Finders skill, we pretty much know all we need to know about another person. I’ve seen too many times where people are put in boxes or categories from the latest personality test, which short-circuits the effort required to understand others. We are all far more complex than what a personality test tells us. These assumptions distance us from each other.
4. We’re reluctant to ask questions, for fear of being perceived as “nosy.” I find this reason for our lack of curiosity to be most interesting to me. It comes up often in workshops I give on listening and asking questions. Invariably someone will ask something along the lines of: “But if I ask questions of people close to me, won’t they think I’m just being nosy? I was always taught ‘If someone wants you to know something about them, they will tell you.’”
This is one of those “exception” questions that often come up in workshops. It’s usually from someone in the crowd who disagrees with what the presenter is saying, or who wants to hijack the direction the speaker is taking with his own agenda. Or who just loves to hear himself talk. They want the workshop leader to focus on the exception, not the norm.
The “I have always believed if people wanted you to know they’d tell you” comment reveals a person who most likely comes from a background or culture of secrets. They hold things close to the vest. Their theme song is we need to be private, and we mustn’t invade the privacy of others. You often find this dynamic in people who grew up in families where there was addiction, sexual abuse, or other dysfunctions.
All of this raises the question of what’s the difference between being nosy and being genuinely curious about others? I posted this question on Facebook recently, and here are three really good answers I received:
Rita. “Curious people genuine empathize with others and what they learn about them. They delight in, rejoice over, wonder further, grieve with…in order to grow deeper in relationship. Nosiness satisfies a fleshly yearning to know more, not to know better.”
Joan. “I think nosy people ask questions about situations or things that have happened, like in the neighborhood or even in family situations that they need to know so they can then pass it on and gossip. I think a genuine curious person wants to know about you, your feelings and situations that are true to the core of your being. They want to make sure you are ok and demonstrate care and concern out of love. A curious person will share of themselves and maybe share a situation that they themselves have experienced. Curious is more heart centered, nosy is more informational.”
Rob. “I cannot add much to the above. I always referred to myself as being nosy when I asked people questions. Recently I was corrected by someone who told me I was curious and should use that word. I think that is true because I do not just want information but want to know something about that person. People are interesting and we do like to talk about ourselves. At least I do!”
There is an element of culture and personality to this issue, too. Some cultures around the world are very private, and there are others where personal privacy is non-existent. Personality is part of it too. I’ve found that the more extraverted among us don’t even think about what questions to ask others. While the introverted, think of questions, but are too shy to ask them.
Here are a few more of my thoughts on the differences between nosy and curious:
- Nosy doesn’t enrich your life. Curiosity does.
- Nosy is the cousin of gossip. They are close relatives.
- Nosy people ask so they can evaluate others and compare. Curious people ask to understand.
- Curiosity requires something of us. Nosiness doesn’t.
- Being nosy separates us. Curiosity brings us together.
- Nosy people assume there is a deeper relationship than actually exists.
- Nosy people use information they gain from you against you. Curious people use information they get from you for you.
Finally, I’ve come to the conclusion that our fear of being nosy in our relationships is usually just a cop-out. Just an excuse to get us off the hook from failing to honor people by wanting to understand what life is like for them.
5. A fifth reason we are not more curious about people is that we’re content to live with shallow relationships. We only ask questions to get caught up on the news in each other’s lives, rather than on what’s happening in our heart, soul, and mind. A lot of people are poor listeners because they want to be. It takes work to be a better listener, and for them, the work involved is not worth the effort.
6. A final reason we’re not curious enough to ask questions of the people in our lives is that we don’t know what to ask! Our curiosity muscles have atrophied. And for some people like this, it’s not their fault. They may not have any role models who have shown them what it’s like to be be genuinely curious about others.
The good news is that I can work with people like this. We all can. When we get better at exercising our curiosity muscles, it shows others how they too can have deeper relationships when we understand more about each other.
In next week’s episode I’ll share a very simple, but powerful question we can ask if we’re curious enough about other people to want to know and understand them. And it’s nowhere close to being nosy or invading anyone’s privacy.
Here are 6 benefits of being curious enough to ask people questions about themselves:
1. It gets us out of our self-focused life to see the wonder of what God has created in the life of another. It draws us closer to God as we better understand our brothers and sisters created in his image. For when we see how much God loves someone else, warts and all, it makes us appreciate God all the more.
2. Asking questions of others opens doors for deeper connection with them.
3. It’s a great remedy for depression and loneliness.
4. When we understand people better because of how they answer our questions, it causes us to be grateful for what we have, that others do not.
5. Being curious enough to ask people questions draws out the experience and wisdom from the quiet introverts among us.
We can learn for other people’s mistakes when we understand them better.
If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode. Our show in a sentence
When we’re curious enough to ask questions of others, it opens up the potential for deeper relationships with people that go beyond news and the shallow things of life.
Here’s what you can do in response to today’s show
Do some self-reflecting and ask yourself, Am I really concerned about being nosy, or is that a cop out for my laziness with regard to the work relationships require?
Who is someone in my life that strike me as a person I would more like to be? Who could I initiate with, by asking thoughtful questions.
As always, I’d like to hear you thoughts about this topic. You can share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes. Or you can send them to me in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Now for Our Relationship Quote of the Week
Sometimes the questions we ask are more important than the answers we think we know.
~ Ruth Haley Barton
That’s all for today. See you next week. Goodbye for now.
This is certainly culturally-conditioned in Japan, where privacy is so closely guarded. Sometimes Its wearying to always have to do the asking because the other person doesn’t get to the point of volunteering anything on their own. It’s so hard to develop a reciprocal relationship. The role of a pastor/leader requires that you do so anyway, but it means true friendship is hard to find.
Yeah, Duane. I can imagine how the asking questions issue is especially difficult in a culture like Japan’s. Your comments give me a greater appreciation for you, and others like you, who make the sacrifice of giving more than you’re getting.
POWERFUL! Thank you for this insightful, thought-provoking episode! I have “read” a number of your posts. this one makes me “curious” to get to know “you” better! To God be all glory! ~~~NEAL
Thanks for your encouraging comments, Neal!
I found this page because I was trying to do some research into what is “wrong with me.” I grew up in a very strict and often abusive household, where it was constantly drilled into my head that if people wanted you to know things, they would tell you. And I was made to feel stupid for asking anything that should be “obvious.” We were basically shamed out of our curiosity as kids and taught to accept everything at face value without asking any questions. Now almost 40 years old, I’m so frustrated by the fact that I don’t have any real, close friendships. I don’t know how to be curious about people, and even when I want to be… I have no idea what to ask. I feel like I don’t even know how personal relationships work. I don’t know how often you’re supposed to reach out to people, exactly what parts of their lives you should be involved in, or how often to reach out… it sounds so silly but it’s my reality! I don’t know how to make and keep friends. I’m sure I come off as selfish and self-centered… But really I just don’t know how all this works and I get overwhelmed by it.
Thank you for your response to this episode, Valerie. I can feel the pain and frustration in what you call “my reality.” I get it, and my heart goes out to you. If I can add to your research, my perspective on what is “wrong with me” has nothing to do with you and everything to do with how you were raised. It’s not your fault.
You weren’t taught basic relationship skills, but you can learn them. It’s not as hard as you think. In one of the episodes I talk about 4 levels of relationship skills. You’re already at level 2, “consciously unskilled.” Getting to level 3, “consciously skilled” will take some time and effort, but you can do it. It’s not nearly as hard as you might think. Like any skill, it just takes practice. There are a lot of things you can learn from other episodes in this podcast that will help you develop friendships. I’ll contact you offline about this to help you get started.
I wonder what our other listeners would have to say to you about this.