Think back to when you were young and the world was a new and wondrous place.
You could spend hours exploring with your friends. Or perhaps you were a chatterbox, asking a million and one questions, exasperating any adult unfortunate enough to be in your presence?
Were you one of those kids who couldn’t be left alone with an electronic device because you would surely take it apart to see how it worked?
Life was fun back then. There were so many things to do, see, and learn.
If you have memories like this, chances are you were a curious child. You were always getting your hands into something, your mind full of inquiries.
Are you still that way? Or have you grown out of it? Have adult responsibilities and conforming to expectations beaten curiosity out of you?
Having adults roll their eyes or give monosyllabic responses to the many questions posed by children isn’t exactly an invitation to continue down that path. It is no wonder that many people stop being curious as they grow older.
Or perhaps you’ve bucked that trend and been able to keep that sense of wonder alive.
Philosopher and author Alain de Botton said, “Curiosity takes ignorance seriously, and is confident enough to admit when it does not know. It is aware of not knowing, and it sets out to do something about it.”
From this, we can define curiosity as the passionate ability to seek knowledge, the humility to admit ignorance, and the determination to learn.
Doesn’t that sound like something we should all be trying to cultivate?
Albert Einstein even said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” Acknowledged as one of the greatest scientific minds of all time, is it possible that the only difference between him and the rest of us is a heightened sense of curiosity?
Have top performers discovered a secret to success the rest of us aren’t aware of? Is curiosity the solution to the stagnation many of us experience in our relationships, career, or life?
Let’s look at the traits of curious people. Maybe there’s something there that we’re missing.
1. They stay in the moment.
People with a high level of curiosity stay in the moment. They don’t multi-task. You won’t catch them responding to a text, writing an email, watching TV, all the while engaging with or talking to you.
They are focused on you. Their phones are out of sight and out of mind. They are fully engaged and thus able to take in everything that is happening.
Curious people focus on the person they’re connecting with and talk about what concerns or interests them.
2. They connect easily with others.
Because they are invested in the people they’re engaging with or talking to, curious people connect better with others. Have you ever met someone and within five minutes, you feel you’ve known them forever?
Chances are one of you was operating on a high level of curiosity.
Dale Carnegie said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
People are naturally drawn to those who are interested in them. Seems obvious, right? When someone expresses a genuine interest in you, you’ll feel closer to them because they make you feel like you matter, like you are important.
3. They “read” people.
Perhaps because they are engaged in the conversation and are not trying to multi-task, curious people give their full attention and rarely miss a detail or a piece of information. They notice cues that the rest of us overlook, which allows them to “read” people.
Curious people will see the veins popping in your head after a stressful day at work. They notice how your smile doesn’t quite reach your eyes. All the little nuances that you are trying to keep secret, they can read.
They can see through the shield you hide behind.
4. They don’t dwell on rejection.
One study shows that curious people are less affected by social rejection. The connection between the negative effects of rejection and overall life satisfaction was rather weak for curious people when compared to everyone else.
Apparently, “Curious people seek out and learn from conflict and uncertain experiences with an open mind, which in turn promotes better psychological functioning” (Kashdan, 2009; Silvia & Kashdan, 2009).
They don’t take rejection personally. Rather, they choose to learn from the situation, adapt, and grow.
5. They enjoy socializing.
A deep love of and desire to learn pushes curious people to socialize more. They enjoy meeting and learning about people. They love interacting with others, learning about their culture, their experiences, their likes and dislikes.
That’s not something you can do well while sitting in your room, closed off from everyone with only your computer as your source of information.
They have an open and curious mind, which puts people at ease around them and more likely to open up. People enjoy socializing with those of a curious nature.
6. They are less aggressive.
Curious people are less aggressive because of their desire to learn and understand different viewpoints.
Curious people listen without judgment and preconceived ideas about another person’s intentions. As a result, they are better able to navigate conflict situations.
7. They are naturally empathetic.
Because they don’t jump to conclusions and they understand another person’s perspective, curious people are naturally empathetic.
With open-ended questions, curious people try to get to the root cause of the situation. This allows them to understand the other person’s point of view, which leads them toward empathy.
8. They are more positive.
It’s hard to be negative when you’re jumping from one adventure to another, studying and investigating topics that grab your attention, or meeting someone with a unique experience or who is from a different culture.
You can’t help but be positive when you have so many things that capture your interest. There can be no room for negativity when the world is full of wonder.
9. They are never bored and actively seek surprise.
The curious person doesn’t experience boredom. They are constantly looking for new things to capture their attention. In every situation, they always find something interesting to explore.
In their career, curious people pursue different levels of education or certification; constantly reading up on new studies or books and learning new ways of doing things.
They always find something to do that captures their interest and attention. Life becomes more interesting the more curious you are.
10. They don’t let past hurts affect their future.
Curious people are quick to learn from their mistakes or any feedback they receive. Because of their innate desire to improve, they don’t fixate on past hurts or let them affect their future.
They take whatever lesson there is, learn from it, and move on. They are quick to dust themselves off and move on to the next challenge that requires resolving.
To them, there is too much to discover in the world and not enough time to do so. They don’t allow past hurts to slow them down.
11. They are easily motivated.
Because of their love for learning, curious people are naturally motivated. There is always something that piques their interest and they’ve just got to know more about it.
Life is one huge adventure for curious people. There is so much to learn and discover. With that kind of mindset, it’s hard not to be motivated.
A result of their consistent interest in new people and topics is the self-motivation it generates.
12. They love to learn.
Curiosity plays a powerful role in learning and development. It’s the whole reason curious people enjoy learning so much – they have questions they want to know the answers to.
They enjoy learning just for the sake of learning and not to pass a class or get a certification or because they have to.
Curious people are lifelong learners who want to experiment, improve, and optimize.
13. They ask a lot of questions.
One of the more easily recognizable traits of a curious person is their never-ending stream of questions. They are constantly trying to fill their knowledge gap with answers.
In a world where answers are more valued than inquisitive thought, they are not afraid to ask questions to a stranger, request feedback from colleagues, or experiment to find new ways in their bid to change and improve.
14. They find something interesting to explore, no matter the situation.
Whether it’s a new topic that they know nothing about or a new area of a topic they’ve studied many times before, curious people are always finding something new and interesting to explore. They’re always chipping away at mysteries.
Curious people commit to understanding and gaining new knowledge. They use their curiosity to defeat the fear of the unknown.
15. They are confident in their ability to learn.
Curious people are confident in their ability to learn. No topic is too difficult, nothing is too mysterious, no one is too boring that they can’t learn about.
They believe they will be successful in finding the solution to the problem they’re trying to solve.
16. They aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
When faced with a question they don’t have an answer for, curious people won’t try to stumble through, hoping to fool everyone present. They’re not afraid to admit they don’t have all the answers.
Curious leaders are humble enough to admit that there are certain things or areas where they don’t have a solution. This takes away the burden of always having the right answer for every situation.
But make no mistake, they won’t rest on their laurels, content in not knowing. They’ll persist and investigate and drill down until they get to the solution.
17. They are willing to be wrong.
Curious people aren’t afraid to be wrong. They do not fixate on always being right. After all, if they have all the answers, what is there left to learn?
They experiment, looking to find new ways to improve or figure out what went wrong. They realize that in making a mistake, you’re still learning.
It was Thomas Jefferson who said, “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.”
He made a conscious effort to learn from the 10,000 “failures,” which ultimately led him to the solution.
18. They embrace questions and solicit feedback.
Curious people are constantly on a mission to improve. Therefore, they ask questions and solicit feedback. They don’t assume there is nothing to change. In fact, they are certain there is and are constantly looking for a better way.
They are not afraid of looking stupid, so they ask and are open to being asked questions. No one is too insignificant for them to ask a question to or for them to learn from.
19. They are persistent.
Curiosity also makes you much more persistent. You want to get to the bottom of things.
Those who have a high level of curiosity keep working on a problem until they resolve it. They don’t give up; they don’t relent.
When something piques their interest, they stick around until they discover more about the issue or fix it.
Their strong desire to figure out what happened will keep pushing them until they do exactly that.
20. They listen without judgment.
Have you ever presumed to know what someone was going to say before they even said it? Have you ever been wrong about it?
A curious person listens with no judgment or preconceived ideas. They don’t make any assumptions as they listen to what the other person is saying. Rather, they focus on understanding the person and the situation without blaming or shaming the other party.
When you talk to someone who is that open, you notice the lack of judgment immediately. It’s like talking to your best friend (maybe even better, depending on who you surround yourself with). They never assume they know the answer.
21. They ask a lot of open-ended questions.
Not only do curious people ask a lot of questions, they ask a lot of open-ended questions. Questions that start with “how,” “what,” “when,” “where,” and “why” instead of asking questions that can be answered with one word.
This also gives room for lots of follow-up questions.
22. They allow themselves to be curious.
Being curious is their number one hobby, whether or not they’re aware of it. It is a hobby that they make room to cultivate. They make time to learn and explore the areas that interest them.
No matter how complicated or chaotic life gets, curious people are always on a quest to learn more, figure out a better way, or engage with others.
Societal pressure to conform has not destroyed their instinct to explore. They are open to new experiences and embrace the unfamiliar.
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