Curiosity, Creativity, and a Meaningful Christmas
How to have better conversations during the holidays.
Posted Dec 09, 2019
Do you ever find yourself traveling during the holidays?
Braving the crowds to take planes, trains, and cars around the world or to another part of the country to be with family and loved ones?
One year our family spent weeks traveling to visit with several different groups of people. We went to many gatherings and dinner parties. I asked a lot of questions and noticed that I was learning quite a bit about people I knew well and others I had just met.
But I also noticed that I was doing all of the question asking. I had spent time with 18 different people. Out of 18, only three people asked me a meaningful question and only two of them stayed to listen to my reply. Boy was I grateful for those two!
Overall, the trip lacked meaningful connection, and the experience got me thinking.
So many gatherings these days look like this:
We spend precious time and money to travel, plus precious time and money to buy gifts. But what if the best gift we can give is to ask more meaningful questions? The science of creativity can help us do this (of course!).
To set yourself up to ask good questions, first get into a curiosity mindset. Think about what ideas, patterns, or topics spark your curiosity and try to connect these to the people you are going to see.
Maybe you’re not interested in Aunt Mabel’s crocheting club but you are curious about how people take on new hobbies. You can ask a basic question like, “What inspired you to get into crocheting in the first place?” Focusing on that moment of inspiration sets up the conversation to go beyond just the facts as Aunt Mabel searches for that meaningful intangible.
As you maintain your curiosity mindset, follow-up questions will naturally arise.
Then, to take it to the next level, ask a question that causes Aunt Mabel to dream a bit. What might be all the hobbies you would have tried if you’d done it differently? What might be all the hobbies you want to try in the future? What might be all the hobbies you would recommend to your grandchildren?
Only you know which question is most appropriate to ask Aunt Mabel, but the key to asking them is obvious. They all begin with the same five words: What might be all the . . .
We learn in the field of applied creativity that the way a question is asked drives the quality of the response. There are several question starters but the one above, invented by my colleagues Roger Firestein, Blair Miller, and Jonathan Vehar, is my favorite for casual conversations.
Once you get the words down they just roll off your tongue.
A curiosity mindset and five little words are all you need this Christmas to make your family members feel as happy and understood as this guy.
Hopefully, they will take your cue and return the favor. Asking someone a meaningful question creates a deep personal connection and makes them feel valued and understood.
This may, in fact, be the best gift you can give.