Being interesting is a pretty typical social goal to have, but have you tried being interested?
As a big talker, I often try to think about ways to contribute to conversations that will make me seem funny, entertaining, or smart, but after doing a little research on the positive effects of curiosity on all kinds of aspects in your life, it seems like being interested, or curious, will help you go further in making and maintaining bonds and feeling happy, confident, and fulfilled than being considered interesting.
According to several studies, being curious is a good indicator that you will be able to engage and build relationships with strangers more easily than people who are not as curious. Because curiosity is about wanting to learn and experience new things, it makes sense that genuine curiosity would facilitate conversations among strangers.
When strangers are put in a room and asked to speak with one another, those who are curious don’t merely drive the conversation by asking endless questions, they tend to know what kinds of questions to ask to get to an interesting conversation, one that leads the other person to talk about something they’re passionate or knowledgeable about.
As a result, both the curious person and the stranger with whom they engage tend to feel more connected to one another than pairs of strangers in which neither person was deemed curious who spent the same amount of time together.
But curiosity can also help in relationships with people you already know, even those you know well and have known for a long time. Some studies suggest that a leading cause for divorce is boredom. While I’m sure the hugely consequential decision to end a marriage is more nuanced than feeling bored with your partner, it is compelling to note that people in self-described happy marriages often describe their partners as being interested and responsive.
When viewed in this light, it is easy to see how being in a relationship with someone who is disinterested or unresponsive would be difficult and could lead to several other problems.
Curiosity has also been linked to greater levels of happiness, higher IQ, better analytic and problem-solving skills, and feeling a greater sense of meaning in life. I know, it practically sounds like magic. But it does make sense when you think about what being curious means.
The more curious you are, the more you will want to learn and the better you’ll be at creating and sustaining relationships, both of which can contribute to feeling more fulfilled. But what if you don’t feel like a particularly curious person? Have no fear! You can hone curiosity.
You can actively train yourself to be more curious by
- challenging yourself to find new things in familiar contexts
- incorporating play into your daily life
- learning a new language, hobby, sport, skill, etc.
- meeting new people
- asking more questions
- avoiding making assumptions
- trying new activities, even and perhaps especially those that you’ve discounted because you thought you wouldn’t like them
Essentially, if you can experience the world with a child-like sense of wonder and treat every situation you find yourself in as an opportunity to learn as much as you possibly can, you’ll certainly end up learning something and you may even come away with better relationships and feeling more content in your day to day life.