I met someone recently who had strong opinions on a few topics. We were part of a group where two folks worked on digital ads and where the other was a start-up founder who had just received some seed funding. It turns out he (and it generally is a he) hated ads and believed there should be no advertising on the planet. He also believed that getting funding early was the wrong thing to do. So, he launched into multiple tirades during the conversation. This also happened to be the first time we were all meeting each other – so, let’s just say it was an interesting conversation.
I have a simple principle when it comes to the strength of opinions – the stronger your opinions, the more it is your responsibility to be curious.
People who combine strong opinions with high levels of curiosity lead with questions and take the time to understand the other person’s point of view. They, then, debate and discuss with the objective of learning something. People who have strong opinions and no curiosity just launch into their point of view. There’s no listening or learning – it is only about “teaching” and moralizing.
It isn’t just that curiosity is the difference between being interesting or annoying when you have strong opinions. It is that, without curiosity, you lose all the learning in the conversation. So, all the attempts to teach and moralize are a waste of energy. Learning only happens everyone around the table are willing to be vulnerable, listen and learn themselves.
And, that can only happen if you lead with curiosity.