What happens when you don’t give a hoot? When you don’t care about the subject?
You know what you need from the interview, but it’s hard to spark interest.
The conversation feels lumpy. You don’t nail the core message and ideas.
Instead you think:
Man, this is dull. Why would anyone want to know this stuff?
The best conversations are fuelled by a desire to find out more. They feel like a mission of discovery. No surprises there.
So what if you could turn stop-start conversations into energised exchanges – for even the most-deathly subjects? So killer insights happen naturally, the interview flows and you’re not clock watching.
Let’s explore how to make the magic happen.
Turn stagnant disinterest into fizzing curiosity
When a subject is dull you feel outside of the conversation. You’re asking questions but not quite present. You go through the motions.
That’s because you already have the answers – you’ve decided it’s boring.
By telling yourself ‘this is dull’, ‘I really don’t care about this,’ you lock yourself out of the conversation. Your mind is made up and shut for business. You’re stuck in the lower, automatic brain – the unthinking brain – which reacts to information instinctively.
But for sparkling conversations, you need to work from the prefrontal cortex – the thinking brain – where we actively reflect on information.
So how do you shift to your thinking brain?
Get curious: curiosity lets you in, certainty locks you out.
Switch on your curiosity and watch the sparks fly.
Now you can override your reactive brain and its negative emotions – your certainty that ‘this is dull’. Because it’s hard to be truly curious and bored/demotivated at the same time.
Even better, you’re more likely to get to the core message/ideas because:
When your stress levels are down and your interest is high the most valuable information tends to pass into your thinking brain.
Judy Willis MD, Neurologist turned teacher, now Neuro-education Consultant.
Curiosity is the rocket fuel that powers conversations and helps you uncover the hidden gems. Even for subjects that make you lose the will to live.
2 ways to ignite your curiosity
Curiosity spark #1 – Conquer prejudices and assumptions
Here’s how to make the most of your biases.
Step 1 – Give dissenting voices air time before the meeting.
List what you already know about the subject. However little or high level.
Now write down how you feel about the subject. These are for-your-eyes-only uncensored statements that sum up your prejudices and assumptions. Let rip.
Getting them out creates space in your mind. So they’re less likely to hijack your conversation. It’s a bit like giving a disruptive child the attention they demand. They feel heard. So it keeps them quiet – for a while.
That’s a good start. But, these negative instinctive thoughts are kept alive in the reactive brain. So you need to take action to override them.
Step 2 – Flip your misgivings into questions
Open up the possibility you might be wrong. Be willing to be disproved. So turn your negative statements into questions.
- Use qualifiers.
So ‘Road signs are uninspiring’ becomes ‘Are all road signs uninspiring?’
- Fire up your imagination
‘What would happen if road signs didn’t exist?’
- Go beyond the obvious
‘What’s surprising about road signs?’
Again, don’t censure yourself. Just write them down.
Explore what might be interesting about road signs. Have some fun.
You may or may not find out the answers to your questions during the interview. That’s not their purpose.
They are a tool to override your lower, automatic brain reactions. To shift your mind set from certainty – ‘Road signs, yawnsville’ – to curiosity before the interview.
Now you’re primed for discovery. Because dopamine, the feel-good chemical, is released in the brain when we anticipate the reward, not when we are rewarded.
So it doesn’t matter that your questions may not directly relate to the interview. What matters is that you stimulate interest.
Because you need interest – however small – for learning to happen.
Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.
Curiosity spark #2 – Be thought provoking
Let’s be frank.
Some subjects won’t float your boat. But wallowing in your reactive brain stops you getting to grips with the topic.
Hands up if you’ve ever nodded off in a lecture or presentation. Shame on you. Because for the authors of ‘The 5 Elements of Thinking’ responsibility for interest is down to the listener.
Listening is not enough. If you are constantly engaged in asking yourself questions about what you are hearing, you will find that even boring lectures become a bit more interesting, because much of the interest will be coming from what you are generating rather that what the lecturer is offering.
When someone else speaks, you need to be thought provoking.
Edward B Burger and Michael Starbird, ‘The 5 Elements of Thinking.’
So to stay in your thinking brain ask yourself questions while you listen. Use what, why, when, who and how to kick start your thoughts.
- Why does this matter?
- When does that most matter?
- What does this help people do?
- What difference does this make to people’s lives/jobs?
- What happens if it goes wrong?
- Who is most impacted by that?
- What’s the cost of getting it wrong?
- Why do people resist these changes?
Ask yourself questions like these to challenge your assumptions.
- Is that always the case?
- Are there any exceptions?
- Are there any unintended consequences?
- Are there any unexpected benefits?
It takes effort. But the quality of your thinking and questions make all the difference.
The right questions clarify your understanding and focus your attention on features that matter.
Edward B Burger and Michael Starbird, ‘The 5 Elements of Thinking.’
The good news is we’re all experienced at thinking of and asking questions.
Channel the ‘why’, ‘what’ phase of childhood
We once asked so many ‘why?’ ‘what?’ questions we drove our parents up the wall.
For John Dewey, the influential philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer this childhood phase is the foundation of our critical thinking.
We’re hard wired for curiosity. It comes naturally to us. It drives our development from birth and throughout childhood.
So tap into the wonder of your inner 5-year-old and fuel your mission of discovery.
Unearth buried treasure from your interview
Perhaps you think that some subjects are deathly. End of.
Here’s the thing. Cracking interviews extract information that is:
- Compelling – the big picture, the ‘why’ that motivates and excites people
- Accurate – the details needed for credibility
It takes an enquiring, open mind to formulate winning questions.
Most of us lose our curiosity:
…in a few people, intellectual curiosity is so insatiable that nothing will discourage it, but in most its edge is easily dulled and blunted.
The challenge is to rediscover some of the open-minded, flexible wonder of childhood.
So you enjoy sparkling conversations with experts and discover their hidden gems.