In an earlier post, I mention one of my mentors, Barry Rhein, and one of the things I've learned from him. Another concept he espouses that I've taken to heart is about "being genuinely curious" in your interactions with others. This has opened up doors in how I communicate with others - customers, co-workers, my wife, my kids, you name it.
The concept is this: when you're talking to people about stuff, rather than trying to connect the dots in your own mind (i.e. jump to conclusions or make assumptions), hold back a bit on that tendency and ask another open ended question. Simple, but it'll make a difference in what you learn, how open people are to you, and how much you connect with them.
For example, one of the things I practice is seeing how long I can talk with someone while only asking open-ended questions. Not in a juvenile "made you look" kind of way - just to see how much I can find out.
Some of the most useful questions I've learned for this are things like:
"Why'd you do that?"
"What was that like?"
"Why do you think they did that?"
"What's up with that?"
"So, what are you going to do?"
Give it a try. Ask them in an "I really want to know more" kind of way. If it feels awkward, keep trying. Personally, I find it easier in a work context, but I think it's more valuable in a personal context.
What I've found is that it starts as a novelty, but you'll end up actually becoming more curious and more interested in what people are all about. And that's not a bad thing.
What do you think about that?