If you are a curious cat, ask questions.
As evolved as you might be, no one could possibly know everything, and if you’re like me, you have a lust for understanding, knowledge and seeing things from alternate perspectives. There are some things that are not offered as college classes, and the only way you could possibly have access to this information is to research it on your own and to query others who may have some knowledge or information about any particular topic.
Don’t be afraid. If you’re curious, ask questions. This is a powerful approach to higher learning.
If you’re of the persuasion to be more curious than your peers, the way you go about asking questions can make a difference. Here are some things to keep in mind that will support your curiosity, without being offensive to those who may have the answer to your questions.
Think about how you like to be approached by someone asking questions. Who gets access to the best information? If you’re like me, it’s the people who have a connection with and care about me.
You don’t want to seem like you’re an underground reporter for the National Enquirer. People who have access to information or experiences that few of the rest of us have access to are used to being queried about the surface questions, dirty secrets or tabloid-worthy aspects of their particular area of expertise.
Since they are used to having people inquire about their area of expertise, they are normally somewhat on guard and have standard surface replies or sound bites that satisfy the people who ask them questions about what they do, where they’ve been, or what they know. If you want to get to the deeper knowledge or meaning, you need to connect with them and gain their trust.
What Are You Looking For?
Have an idea about what you’d like to know. If you have time, prepare by getting some basic information on their area of expertise beforehand. The Internet can be a powerful tool in preparing you with the basics, as well as possibly indicating questions that others may have about the topic.
If most of your opportunities are spontaneous, you can use this opportunity to honestly state upfront that you are a novice in their area a expertise, and first desire to know some basics.
Try to ask questions that come up along the way, while remembering to find was to relate their area of expertise to their personal life, without getting too personal. Once they have briefed you on the basics, you can dig deeper because you are respecting their position as the master, and you as the learner. They are more likely to divulge more than surface information to someone who sees them as more of a mentor. So, honor them with this respect.
Never exert your expertise or knowledge indicating that you are to be considered a comrade on an equal level. There’s no more certain way to get them to not let you in too deep. Don’t challenge them or appear to be adversarial, rather take on the perspective of a respectful student and you will learn more by being humble.
Give and Receive
Certainly, when you are the inquisitor, you are receptive to any information you might be able to gain access to, but seek to give even more. While you may not be an expert in their arena of knowledge, caring about them as a person, and also showing an interest in him or her as a person can help them engage more freely and openly.
One thing I do when I am in a powerful opportunity to exchange information is to add value to them by being open to the idea that the person I’m talking to, the keeper of the information, can learn something from me, or see something from a different perspective, from engaging in a conversation with me.
Even though I might know very little about their area of expertise, quite often, their own knowledge can somewhat expand, and they might even be inspired to dig deeper or start asking new questions as a light goes on inside their head or heart.
Listen and Connect
If you’re blessed enough to be experiencing an exchange of information with this person, then by all means be very attentive and listen to what they have to say. Feed their own words back to them and try to put your own understanding into it to gain a better understanding of what they are saying. This also communicates to them that you are interested in what they have to say.
Active listening creates a connection between people. This connection will indicate you are not just out to obtain data, or are merely passing the time away. Connected people communicate on a higher level.
Is There Anything You Can Do?
As you are exchanging information with this person, be thinking about ways you can support them, their effort (even if it’s just emotional support and empathy), or know someone who might be able to help their cause. You want to be supportive. Your support is not just limited to you, your skills, abilities, or personal resources; it also includes your network of family, friends and other connections. You might be able to refer them to an article or book you have read recently.
The more supportive you are to them, the more likely they will be to continue the conversation. By being interested in, and offering assistance to them and their cause, the more likely they will be to offer to help you out, quid pro quo.
Keep the Door Open
Once you have made a connection with someone, keep the door open. In this day and age everyone is busy, if this person reaches out to you, do not ignore them. Don’t let them monopolize your attention, but keep in contact, briefly (use your resources, such as email, text or brief phone calls). By keeping the door open and maintaining connection, this may come in handy and put you in an advantageous position to be invited to participate in something, or be referred to someone, you might not have otherwise had access to.
If you put them off or ignore them, your connection is lost.
Keep asking questions. Keep learning from others when you have the opportunity.