I’ve always been deeply curious about other people for as long as I can remember. My curiosity sometimes meant quietly observing my environment and the people around me and other times it had me asking a lot of questions (in my head and out loud to others.) My in-depth questions have led to some incredibly meaningful conversations and have been the foundation of many of my closest relationships. On the other end of the spectrum, when my curiosity wasn’t met with such warmth, I felt nosy & frankly a bit odd for being so interested in people I just met. To some, my level of interest may have felt like an interrogation, sigh.
But I couldn’t help it; surface conversations just weren’t my thing (if you’re an introvert, you can totally relate!) Caring and taking an interest has always come natural to me, in all aspects of my regular interactions. If I was at a friend’s house after school, I would happily drum up a conversation with her mom in the kitchen and at work, I would excitedly greet my colleagues on Monday morning, eager to ask about their weekends.
I loved to ask questions and learn more about people’s lives but I started to feel like not everyone was as interested in me, as I was in them. I would notice after my colleagues would share about their weekends, the conversation topic would either shift or we’d get back to work and rarely did they ask me about my weekend…
As more and more scenarios like this came up, I started to feel insecure about my interest in other people and my perceived lack of interest they had in me. This made me feel insignificant & invisible at times; perhaps I was lacking a level of intrigue or didn’t have that likability factor others had. Maybe I talked too much or asked too many questions? Did others find this annoying, was I doing something wrong?
It took years of inner work to realize – yes, I was different, but that wasn’t a negative thing. The lack of interest I felt from others was not intentional or malicious; their inclination to ask questions wasn’t like mine. And the reality was, many people I would converse with did take an interest in me, but I was too busy focusing all my attention on who wasn’t to even notice. This new level of awareness felt like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I started to feel good about my curious nature again. I also began to think that maybe my interest in others and my ability to ask deeper questions was an essential part of who I was; perhaps it was a gift. Just as people are fascinated by certain subjects in school, enthusiastic about their hobbies, or obsessed with their favourite sports teams – I had consciously decided human psychology was MY thing, my passion.
If you’re also an INFJ in MBTI, this may sound very familiar…
Trying different personality tests was such a thrill for me; the self help section was my go-to at the library and learning more about others lit me up in a way that was difficult to articulate. When my interest in someone was warmly received, I would often hear things like “no one’s ever asked me that before” or “thanks for taking such an interest in my XYZ.” Most significantly, I would often hear how “seen” others felt from our interaction, which I loved above all else.
The more and more I understood myself and this incredible strength, the more I could accept that my deep interest in others was a gift and it wasn’t contingent on them taking the exact same interest in me. The more I could lean in and lead with my curiosity, the more meaningful my life became and the more connected I felt in my career and relationships. I started a podcast and began interviewing people who loved being asked questions; I started coaching women who desired to learn more about themselves and were seeking a deeper sense of fulfillment. I also started meeting more and more people who were just as curious as me and it felt amazing to be on the receiving end of the questions – I felt more seen than ever before.
If you’re also a curious soul with a complex mind, just know that your questions are needed in this world. Your inquiries are an integral part of living a more meaningful life & the impact they have on others is more significant than you’ll ever know.
As my favourite Dale Carnegie quote goes:
“If you want to be interesting, be interested.”