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What Embracing Curiosity Taught Me About Successful Communication

Angela Erwin shares how she leverages her natural curiosity to empower others to succeed. 


Angela Erwin



Even as an adult, I’m told I have the curiosity of a child. Those who know me know to prepare for the barrage of questions I’ll ask after they speak, and those who don’t know me figure it out pretty quickly. 

Early in my career, this trait made me known as someone who pays attention to detail and produces quality products. My colleagues knew they could count on me to develop a solid piece of software, but I wanted to do more than that. 

I wanted to help those around me succeed as well.

This natural curiosity became my path to doing so, as it taught me some important lessons about successful communication. 


Here's what I learned when I leaned into curiosity.

  • There is more than one way to communicate about an issue. It is more important that both parties understand each other than it is for you to stay in your communication comfort zone.

When I first dove into the world of regulatory compliance, I asked hundreds of questions. I drew pictures, read documents, and sat in face-to-face meetings crossing out and highlighting specific words in regulations. Fortunately, I had a patient manager who was willing to explain things in many different ways. This allowed me to truly understand the regulation in question so that I could effectively communicate the nuances to our technical teams. This helped them to succeed and ultimately enabled the success of our customers. 


  • People tend to leave a lot unsaid. Take the time to observe non-verbal cues and ask questions.

Once, a colleague of mine in a leadership position was struggling to communicate with our team. We thought we were doing what was asked of us, but were repeatedly told otherwise, without clarity on the correct actions to take. 

This disconnection was discouraging for everyone. 

For weeks, I went back to my colleague to ask how we could improve. It took this repeated questioning, digging deeper each time towards the core issue, to finally make the communication connection and allow the team, and, by extension, that colleague, to succeed. 


  • Successful communication is not just about relaying information. You’ll know you’ve communicated successfully when the other person can execute on what you discussed. 

An intern I was training approached me with a question. I quickly explained, and after he assured me he understood, we both went back to work. 

The next day, he asked the same question. This time I explained the process, asked him more questions to make sure he understood, and then sent him on his way. By the third day he asked, my colleagues were frustrated for me and didn’t understand why I kept taking the time to answer him.

I was not discouraged. I sent him back to his desk for a pencil and paper, explained the process, made sure he wrote it down, asked him questions to ensure he understood, and sent him back on his way. This process may seem arduous, but asking all those questions and adjusting my training methods was successful. The next day, he completed the task without assistance and didn’t ask again.


These experiences have shown me that my curiosity is more than a quirky feature that makes me reliable at work. It’s at the core of my ability to solve problems, adapt, and help others reach their potential through better communication. 


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