Introverts can be voraciously curious. Many of us are scientists, writers and in other professions where curiosity is a prerequisite. When my friend Sara recommended that I read A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life, I was intrigued. One major premise of this book is that curiosity is both heretical and disruptive, so by engaging in the brave act of expressing curiosity, the reader automatically becomes a rebel and force to be reckoned with. I found this to be oddly appealing, since I didn’t really have to do anything life-threatening to gain this status. The book is co-authored by Brian Grazer, a famous Hollywood producer of numerous successful films including Apollo 13, Splash, 8 Mile and A Beautiful Mind. The other co-author is Charles Fishman, three-time winner of UCLA’s Gerald Loeb Award, the most prestigious prize in business journalism. Between these two minds, the book content ended up falling somewhere between a business book and a self-help book.
Brian Grazer attributes his success in Hollywood to his habit of conducting “Curiosity Conversations” with luminaries in such diverse fields as science, art, and business. He specifically targeted the CEOs, Nobel laureates and others who had risen to the pinnacle of their fields in order to feed his own creativity by assimilating perspectives that were completely alien to his own. As opposed to an interrogation, the quality of these conversations was openhearted and open-minded exploration, where a question was asked and the answer was given undivided attention. The curiosity conversations are touted as a way to disrupt your point of view in order “to become better leaders, better creators, better managers and better romantic partners.”
I whole-heartedly agree that curiosity will lead a person to a more fulfilling life. Curiosity enriches the life you have by constantly adding to the experience. However, at first blush, Brian Grazer’s approach to promoting and satisfying curiosity is geared to the extroverts in society. To encourage the rest of us, he tries to highlight the less extroverted qualities of his personality in a sort of “see, you can do this too.” Mr. Grazer makes the point that he has a fear of public speaking, does not love big social settings where he might not have a good time, might end up trapped or might not be as entertaining as someone thinks he ought to be. These phobias are all consistent with some versions of introversion, but I wouldn’t issue an Introvert Card to Mr. Grazer just yet. His chosen work life is firmly rooted in the realm of extroverts, where in a typical business day, he conducts about fifty conversations. For introverts, this way lies madness. We’d be worn down to a nub by all this talking. Most of us prefer the company of our non-verbal pets (the topic of a future post) to the endless blather that results from business conversations. Small talk in social settings is equally excruciating.
The facet of Curiosity Conversations that has the greatest appeal to introverts is the potential to eliminate small talk. If small talk or business blather could be converted to an actual, meaningful discussion, introverts might not be predisposed to scan the room for the nearest exits. (N.B. I have seen introverts perform this scan on planes when trapped next to a raging extrovert. How to apply this knowledge in mid-flight, I leave to the Introvert Jedi Masters.) It’s so easy to disengage from conversations when the information content is limited. By declaring a Curiosity Conversation and steering the content to something more information-rich, I hypothesize that an introvert might be less likely to bolt.
I tested this hypothesis in a very small pilot study. To give you some background, I am dipping a toe in the waters of social media and attempting to garner Twitter followers. I never tweet anything particularly erudite or amusing (mostly just announcing updates to this blog or my author website), yet to date, 53 people have decided to follow me for unknown reasons. I returned the favor to one person who was nice enough to follow me and followed him back. He responded with a direct message thanking me for following him and updated me on his new book, which was a compilation of sexual fantasies volunteered by some average New Yorkers. I have in the past eaten stranger things than this for breakfast, so I was not easily put off and decided to engage in a Twitter version of a Curiosity Conversation. I wrote a short message in response and congratulated him on his choice of genre. If I know nothing else about how marketing works in the publishing world, I know that sex sells. (Perhaps you are now reading this blog with slightly more interest than a few moments ago?) I informed him that we were very far apart in what we write. My book, Soul Search, has a subplot that traps the protagonist in a situation of unrequited love. I expressed that I was amused by the differences in our choices and left the ball in his court. Disappointingly, I received no further messages. Perhaps if he had responded with an entertaining riposte, I would be inserting a hyperlink on his behalf right here to help him hype his book. Lost opportunity, dude.
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