Every day I listen to the same radio host on my drive home. Somehow she magically unfolds the most hilarious city-wide conversations from the most mundane conversation starters. I often find myself laughing out loud, alone in my car.
I think the key to her hosting skills is curiosity. She has no ownership over the direction the conversation will take - she just listens and asks questions, sometimes to probe and sometimes to clarify. Assumptions and judgement seem to be momentarily suspended.
In the past, I had never understood what would compel someone to call into a radio station. These days I wonder if the anonymity of calling in to the radio appeals to people because there are no first impressions to cloud the room. Storytelling is a vulnerable act. On the radio, the interaction is quick and affirming. The risk of rejection is minimal, and there is no saying how the audience is responding.
Sometimes I wish that there was more of that radio-like storytelling in ordinary life. I can only imagine the stories I am missing out on. Whenever I turn the radio off, I start to wonder about the callers. Who are they? What judgements and assumptions would I have made if I had saw them?
The benefit of being curious about people is that it leaves behind lovely warm feeling. Every day when I turn my radio on, it feels oddly homey and comforting to me. Being curious makes the world a little safer and a little softer for us all.