Etiquette-ful curiosity is a good quality to possess. When you appear interested in others, you become more interesting as well. It is a trait that automatically invites reciprocity when used appropriately.
However, as the saying goes, "curiosity killed the cat." Learning to distinguish that fine line that separates being interested and inquisitive with being nosey and meddlesome is an important and ever-developing etiquette skill set.
You have probably heard someone say, “Out of curiosity….” and then pose a question. Have you noticed this is often prefaced with a statement such as, “I probably shouldn’t ask, but…?”
Simply by posing your question this way, you’ve entered the domain of gossip, snooping, and wanting to know “just because.” But let's be completely honest, it’s because we want first-hand information we can then share with someone else. Come on . . . we’ve all done it.
When you do cross the boundary into gossip territory, you may attempt to use humor to cover the faux pas. Rather than do this, or even if you already have, just apologize.
A change of subject following your apology can help put your conversation back on track.
What does etiquette-ful curiosity look like?
People know when your interest in them is authentic. If attention is given, your body language, eye contact, and the questions you ask, will tell a conversation partner how important the interaction is to you.
You can help ensure your authenticity when you practice gracious social curiosity.
As etiquette helps us live our lives more simply, pleasantly and elegantly, we receive more benefit by mindfully observing and practicing social behaviors that mark us as interested, interesting, and kind. Make time for curiosity. Be intentionally curious about others to find out something new, without judgment, and your effort will be reciprocated.