Ask twice: How sincerity and curiosity helped me grow my career

  • Posted on May 26, 2022
  • Estimated reading time 2 minutes

When asked what one of my strengths is, I say, "I don't know why, but people trust me quickly." It wasn't something I noticed early in my career until my boss gave me that compliment. We were on a business trip and seemingly, without nudging, someone in the elevator said something deeply personal to me. Then later at dinner (again, it seemed to come out of the blue), the server told me about something happening in their life that they hadn't told their family yet. My boss was amazed that strangers seemed drawn to me, and he asked if it was exhausting. It's not; because I have always been genuinely curious about people. Looking back, I probably complimented the person in the elevator and I'm sure I asked the server about their day. I think I just engage with people in a way that surprises them and comforts them.

As I grew in my career, I took the confidence of this compliment and invested in it. I moved my career from training into business analysis. I was good at asking people questions and without fail, people responded to me candidly and in confidence. Armed with information from the business, the next phase of my career was organizational change management. And from there, I became a solutions architect.

Soft skills count. No matter what technology I'm in or what role I play, one thing that sets me apart is that people trust me quickly. And it's not a mystery to me anymore. The reason people confide in me is because I ask them to. I ask questions because I am truly curious about people and their pain points and their paths to success, so I ask them very personal questions very quickly. And it's very rare that people don't respond candidly and in confidence.

I recently attended a training on suicide prevention (yep, Avanade sponsors training events on tough topics like cancer and suicide prevention), and one of my takeaways from that session was, "Ask twice." If you ask someone how they are doing and you sense that their response is not completely true, then ask them again. In doing so, you immediately create a safe space for them and the trainers made it clear that this tactic is just as effective from strangers as it is coming from a close friend, family member, or co-worker.

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