Curiosity is recognized as an integral part of selling, negotiating and leading.

However, some fear curiosity is an innate quality that cannot be trained. Similar to things like confidence, drive, or intelligence, we either have it or we don’t. 

Throughout my career training and coaching sales professionals I’ve come to the opposite conclusion: curiosity can be trained, improved, increased and maximized. I believe this to be true not only for high-stakes business conversations, but also our everyday lives.

Here are the 3 proven and powerful ways:

Deliberate Practice 

James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”, describes deliberate practice as “a special type of practice that is purposeful and systematic”. 

In regards to curiosity, the best I’ve seen for harnessing the benefits of deliberate practice comes from the book “Never Be Closing” by Tim Hurson and Tim Dunne. 

Shared by the authors as the “Know/Wonder” technique, its beauty lies in its effectiveness and its simplicity. 

Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Draw a vertical line down the middle of a notebook page. 
  1. At top of the left-hand column write the word “KNOW”. On top of the right-hand column write the word “WONDER”. 
  1. In the “KNOW” column, list all of the things you currently know about a person or topic. (Don’t overthink. Nothing is too small or basic.)
  1. In the “WONDER” column, list everything you still wonder in the form of questions, preferably open-ended. 

Here’s an example from selling fitness memberships back in 2014 (thank you Evernote):


Name is Anne.

Recently moved to the area.

Thinks her father is a member.

Referred by a member named Erica.


What is she currently doing for fitness?

Father aside, why does she think we’re the right fit?

What kind of classes would she take?

What are her fitness goals for 2015?

What does her father do?

Where does she work?


Practicing this exercise has numerous benefits. First, it provides the focused structure needed to achieve real improvement. Second, the preparation gives us a tremendous sense of confidence come time for the actual conversation. (Less awkward moments thinking what to ask next!) Third, when asking our wonder-column questions with genuine interest the interaction becomes intoxicating. Even a few can lead to stronger rapport, easier closing, and continued inspiration for curiosity-driven conversations.

Meditation & Mindfulness 

The world of business has begun to embrace the diverse and positive benefits of daily mindfulness practice. The many include stress reduction, better mood, stronger focus, better listening, and having more presence in the moment. 

While each of these benefits are valuable on their own, experts suggest they also foster the ideal conditions for increasing our curiosity.

For example, when less stressed we’re in a better mood to embrace our sense of exploration. When more focused we perceive notable bits of information upon which to follow-up on. When truly listening we gather more information, as well as hear important nuances in delivery that point to deeper meaning.

So how best to start a daily meditation practice?

There are numerous apps on the market, including leaders Calm and Headspace. My favorite however has recently has become a free app from Australia called “Smiling Mind”.

In it, they offer multiple beginner-friendly meditations specifically dedicated to fostering more E.I., personal development, and curiosity. A few I use frequently and save on my app include:

“Curiosity and Beginner’s Mind”

“Growth Mindset”

“Mindful Listening: Mindsurfing”


Each of the meditations above are short, clocking in under 8 minutes in length. This means we need only 10 minutes to find space (preferably outdoors), meditate, and collect ourselves before entering our digitally-draining days more aware, grounded, and curious. 

Reading Philosophy

Another powerful activity to increase our cognitive performance is daily reading. 

While we can benefit from just about any type of reading, the study of philosophy is especially effective for enhancing our curiosity. 

Why so?

At its most basic philosophy is the search for truth: We wonder and we question. We push ourselves to think deeper and harder. We strive to take a much closer look and live an “examined life”, as Socrates famously described. All of this requires curiosity.

The study of philosophy has also influenced today’s business landscape, perhaps more than we imagine.

According to, some of our top leaders in business and technology studied philosophy in college. Here are just a few:

  • Wall St. investor Carl Icahn
  • LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman
  • Flickr and Slack co-founder Daniel Steward Butterfield 

Though not a philosophy major myself it is near and dear to my heart. Prior to starting in sales I was completing my undergrad in history. During this time, I became fascinated by philosophy and spent hours scouring libraries and bookstores for works by philosophers like Epictetus, Frederick Nietzche, Montesquieu, and Willam James.

James’s essays in particular, including, “A Certain Blindness in Human Beings”, helped shape my approach when selling, negotiating, and leading ever since. Here’s one insightful passage:

Each is bound to feel intensely the importance of his own duties and the significance of the situations that call these forth. 

But this feeling is in each of us a vital secret, for sympathy with which we look vainly to others. The others are too absorbed in their own vital secrets to take an interest in ours. 

Hence the stupidity and injustice of our opinions, so far as they deal with the significance of alien lives. 

What James teaches here is we are naturally self-absorbed, often to the point of severe bias. Because of this, it’s necessary to lean into curiosity and empathy when engaging with others. This especially important when looking to understand someone else’s purpose, intentions, or values.

Nearly a decade later these are lessons I’ve never forgotten. Few have served me better while fostering relationships with prospects, customers, and colleagues.


Experience and research has led me to believe we need to be taking the training of curiosity much more seriously. 

Encouragingly, a few world-class companies are doing just this. Merck Group, an 18 billion-dollar science and technology giant based in Germany, has made curiosity training a serious initiative. More than just lip-service, it is backed with substantial resources and executive support.The company even released a “State of Curiosity” report in 2016, 2018, and 2020 outlining the results and impact on thousands of their employees. 

As impressive and encouraging as Merck’s example is, we need not rely on multi-billion-level programs to train our curiosity. Instead or in tandem, we can start by embracing curiosity as a lifestyle. Next, know all we need is a piece of paper, a book, or an app to train this valuable super-power. Finally, devote time per day for deliberate practice, meditation, or inspiring reading to spark breakthroughs in this elusive yet trainable skill.

For those of us looking to sell, negotiate, or lead more effectively, this is the way.


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