My family and I just got back from an amazing vacation in Eastern Europe. While we were there, we stayed with a Hungarian family, the family of an exchange student we hosted last summer. Our time with them was incredible, and in hindsight I’ve been struck by a wonderfully powerful — and wonderfully simple — leadership lesson.

On the trip, we were immersed in their world. We had a fantastic time exploring old castles, tasting local delicacies, and even discussing a wide variety of topics, from politics and religion, to careers, culture, traditions, and more. And yet, even though there were times when we had differing opinions and perspectives, we got along famously! How’s that for a unique experience these days — diversity of opinion resulting only in friendship and respect? 

One of our biggest challenges as leaders can be balancing diversity with respect in order to create a positive outcome. As I reflected on our time together, I realized there was a key aspect that made all our differences in Hungary negligible:

      Open, compassionate curiosity.

In our hearts, all of us deeply respect one another; we wanted to discover and understand each other, and consequently approached our relationship from a place of curiosity. I don’t think we did this consciously, but in hindsight that’s a key takeaway. Stephen Covey put it this way: Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Put another way, questions are far more inviting than statements.Questions can show us how we are similar; statements tend to point out our differences.

This is all about a willingness to learn, to dialogue, and to realize that acceptance is not agreement — that you can accept a person and their inherent value without needing to agree with all their views. Of course, our new friends made that all very easy, and through this time we developed a true and meaningful connection.

Connection is derived from insatiable curiosity; a sincere desire to understand one another, stemming from an inherent acceptance of that person’s unique value.

Where do you need to be more curious today?