UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Institute is a must-stop resource for anybody interested in pioneering relationship or happiness research. Their website is meaty with fascinating articles on everything from attachment theory to an exploration into the power of awe, and I find I regularly save their enewsletters to pore over later. Sign up!
Case in point: this blog post got going 15 minutes late because I kept clicking on one brain-melting piece after another.
One Greater Good Institute nugget that’s been percolating in my inbox is the idea the curiosity enhances relationships. The research is stunning: curious people are more likeable, they handle rejection better and they enjoy socializing more. Those are all vital skills to sparking relationships that thrive (and more).
In the PR, communications and marketing realm–where I’ve spent the last 13 years of my career–curiosity about the world and innovative companies makes all the difference. Curiosity sparks more questions and more background reading, a critical “getting smart” process that wins the trust of clients, media and customers.
The same clearly holds true for relationships. Asking questions about our partner shows we care. As researcher Todd Kashdan of George Mason University put it, “Being interested is more important in cultivating a relationship and maintaining a relationship than being interesting; that’s what gets the dialogue going. It’s the secret juice of relationships.”
Curiosity can also quickly unearth what our partner likes and doesn’t, what makes them tick, the experiences that make them euphoric, the best approaches to quell relationship skirmishes. It’s all the terrific, applicable, results-driven specificity that makes the User Manual so dang helpful. It’s a lot more effective than the old way: piecing together a fraction of these valuable details over decades of half-intentional trial and error.
Fundamentally, curiosity demonstrates that we care. And that’s also the beauty of the User Manual. Even if the specific instructions to help your partner thrive don’t always work, taking the time and applying the elbow grease to get curious about your partner’s needs and craft a User Manual demonstrates that you care enough to do the work–and go outside your comfort zone–to keep your relationship soaring.
At bottom, is there really anything better than knowing somebody cares about our life, even the dumb little parts like what we had for breakfast or where we got those shoes? To know that we matter to someone else, that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life, is enormously rewarding. I’d argue that’s the point of all this!
Not naturally curious? Fortunately, it’s easy to rev that up–just ask questions. In particular, my job coach Jason Treu once gave me excellent advice to kick off conversations by asking people what they’re passionate about these days. It sounded a little corny, but I’ve found that it’s actually quite unique–and can tap previously unseen veins of energy and ideas. Try it with your partner and let me know how it goes.