Yesterday, I wrote about saying no to a business opportunity that may have been financially lucrative: I analyzed a number of non-financial criteria in order to reach the decision that this wasn’t the right opportunity for me.
Today, I want to write a bit more about one of those criteria: CURIOSITY.
The definition of curiosity is:
an eager desire to know; inquisitiveness
When I brought up my concerns to Marge, I wanted her to respond with curiosity. She didn’t and that is part of why I’m not going to be doing business with her.
Concerns voiced by someone else — especially if that someone else is someone you respect at all — are an opportunity to stand in a different set of shoes and see your business from a new persperctive. This is a priceless opportunity to learn something about your business that you could never learn from the perspective of the owner of the business.
Many business owners are just like Marge and respond to concerns with arrogance, the “you can’t possibly know anything that I don’t already know” mentality.
This is the exact same mentality that led so many people to call Columbus a fool for trying to sail around a world that everyone knew was flat. This attitude is based on an assumption that it is possible to know everything there is to know about ANY subject.
I studied biology in college, and while I haven’t had occassion to use much of what I learned in my professional life, I did learn one very important lesson that has served me well throught my life: the “facts” as you know them may not be facts at all.
What We Think We Know is Based on Our Current Understanding
A lot of what we think we know — even at a scientific level — is based on our current understanding of how the world works. Like those people in Columbus’ time, our understanding is not absolute. There is a lot that we don’t know, that in fact, we can’t know, given our current understanding.
We can only “understand” that which fits into our current level of comprehension. You can’t teach algebra to a first grader who is struggling with addition and subtraction. You also can’t learn a business concept that is more than one or two steps beyond what you already fully understand.
No matter how many years you spent researching your business idea before you launched it, you don’t know everything there is to know on that subject. And in fact, someone who has actually done the business you are launching probably knows about 100x more than you do, simply because there is more value in the experience of a thing than in just learning from a book (if this were not true, everyone would choose the first year med student to do their open heart surgery, rather than the experienced surgeon who has done several hundred successful surgeries).
All of us, no mater what job title or occupation we hold, have a unique set of personal experiences. This history gives us each a unique perspective on life in general, and on business in particular. For this reason, everyone you come in contact with over the course of doing business has something to teach you. Yes, I mean everyone.
Why You Should Respond to Concerns with Curiosity:
1. Curiosity is non-judgmental. When you respond with curiosity, everyone’s perspective has value. There is no need to make anyone wrong — not even yourself!
2. Curiosity opens the door to learning. “Tell me why you feel that way” is a great conversation opener. It allows the other person to share their personal experiences or knowledge with you. You may even discover that they have expert-level knowledge that you were unaware of.
3. Curiosity makes the other person feel heard. People who voice concerns do it not to show you that they are smarter than you, but out of a genuine caring about your business. They have a different perspective on your business than you do — and are often aware of that — and want to have an opportunity to discuss this with you. For the most part, they don’t expect you to change your policy, but only to hear what they have to say.
The next time someone voices a concern to you — maybe about saying yes to partnering with you, or yes to working for you, or even yes to purchasing from you — respond with curiosity. Everyone that you meet has something to teach you: all you have to do is listen.