How curiosity can change your life and your business
by Carolyn Campbell, MA, CPPC

Whether I am exploring the country or wandering through the city, I simply adore ‘walk-abouts’. As I lazily amble through a store, a neighborhood or even a small town, I find that engaging in conversation with strangers provides amazing opportunities to step into someone else’s world, even if just for a moment, and connect in unexpectedly insightful ways.

Recently, on my way home from the bank, I walked by two young men leaning against a storefront. As I passed by with my dog in tow, one of them leaned toward me and said, “You, too—you’re a slave.” I could have kept walking, my head tucked as if I didn’t hear them.

Instead, I stopped and said, “You’re right, sometimes I do feel enslaved by life’s demands.” I asked them about their own lives, and the young men openly shared their passions and their uncertainties. I was amazed by how quickly our conversation dove to the heart of our lives…as strangers, on a street corner. As I headed home, I thought about all the people I know who have felt enslaved by their work or encumbered by pressures that weigh heavily on their spirit. The strangers’ reflections gave me new language for the challenges many people are facing in these difficult economic times. Now, instead of hurrying along, we say ‘hey’ to each other as I pass by their shop.

What I love most about “stranger talking” is that, by its nature, it is not limited by the usual expectations we bring to conversations: fixing a situation, dealing with an irritating boss, or drumming up business. Instead, these encounters offer an opportunity to step beyond polite banter and practice having curious, genuine interactions that connect us in a profoundly honest manner.

How might such encounters impact your own life? Take a moment to consider:

• How do you move through your life? How much interaction do you have with strangers? How do you reach beyond your circle of comfort to create community connections?

• In your partnerships (personal and professional), what might be different if you really got curious with your loved ones—as if their lives were new to you? What baggage might be left behind? What expectations might be discarded? And, more importantly, what gems of discovery await you if you bring genuine curiosity?

• If you engaged potential clients without attachment to an outcome, how would your interactions change? Would you be less timid or intimidated? Would you relax a bit more? Imagine that, instead of ‘selling’, you simply dove into their life and desires. What would you ask them if you didn’t really care about ‘getting the sale’ but rather who they were and what inspired their life?

I find it fascinating that the seemingly random people I meet “stranger talking” are often aligned with my life in curious ways. Perhaps it’s because I talk to people who intrigue me. Perhaps we share common values and interests because we meet in places that inspire us. Whatever it is, I am often stunned by the relationships that develop. You might just be surprised by who awaits you down the next grocery store aisle, at the gas station or on your dog walk.

Carolyn Campbell has more than 30 years’ experience working with non-profit and for-profit businesses. In creative and connecting ways, Carolyn melds her expertise in community outreach, education and business development to help clients expand their reach and increase their impact…using their unique approach to life. Her areas of specialty include leadership, visioning, outreach and community building.