Curiosity is the opposite of fear. You hear that Love is the opposite – well ok, but in actual experience, love is too big a stretch. All kinds of people can claim they “love” the disabled or Muslims or old hippies, but in that context, the L word is almost meaningless. Genuine curiosity on the other hand, feels much more like love’s qualities in action. Curiosity starts from a place of mutual regard – this person’s ideas, values, responses, are worth eliciting. And it begins with trust – this person will not harm me simply for asking about their experience.
Googling something, someone, is not the same as actually looking them in the eye and asking “How are you – really?” “How do you experience ______”? “How do you feel about_____”? And truly listening for the answer.
Our resistance to doing this because it takes too much time away from what we have labelled our priorities – is, I’m thinking, one of the obstacles to talking through differences or simply encountering each other in a mutually respectful way. Enough of this resistance compounding into a culture and we end up with family fracture, silo’d workplaces, and the election season circus that we are experiencing right now…. so many of us shocked and awed at all the rage. That degree of anger and blame can only happen when we lose the ability as a country to be curious about the “Other”, whatever that term may mean for us.
Think about the last time someone showed genuine curiosity about you or something you were involved in. How did it make you feel to have someone truly slow down enough to ask you a question that demanded more than just a glib, shot-off-the-bow answer? For me, it happened the other day when meeting a new colleague. She asked me how I knew I was in a work situation that “fit” me. I had to slow down and visualize the components of that workplace before answering, and my response surprised us both: congruent body language and facial messaging and…. genuine curiosity in grappling with the dynamics of diversity and change. Suddenly, we understood each other more deeply.
Curiosity is defined as: 1. “the desire to learn or know more about something or someone”, or 2. “something that is interesting because it is unusual.” The Curiosity Quotient is a term coined by Thomas Friedman and broken down into the Curiosity Values. You can hunt and peck around, as I did, for an actual “Curiosity Quiz”…. I took it and it’s kind of interesting (curious?) to see how many of our daily habits and rituals are determined by how much curiosity we possess.
The benefits of curiosity in our working world appear to be many. In fact, active curiosity may go a distance to balance out a lack of content expertise in hiring practice. Working relationships obviously improve with genuine expressions of curiosity and could also prove to be a strong factor in quickly developing trust – even between coworkers at a great physical distance. Curiosity would appear to be key as well in bridging the gaps in understanding and expertise in a multigenerational workplace. In fact, If we don’t intentionally create opportunities to connect with and experience the reality of those we consider “others”… the true benefits of diversity will never happen. I think this starts with curiosity.
But how can I encourage more of my own genuine curiosity? I suspect I need to reduce two of my habitual responses to change;
1: Fear…of loss, of age, of going broke, of screwing up – that results in….
2: My pace – the hamster wheel of frenetic activity that pretty much takes over my days.
How to do that? I need to increase my ability to breathe, slow down, pay attention. I need to practice it daily. This is sounding familiar. Mindfulness. All the questions I ask about my own experience these days keep leading back to mindfulness. Hardly curious. Mostly predictable. Sigh.
I mean, Ohm…..
Give your team an experience that will help inspire interpersonal curiosity and more productive communications… see more here.