You know that feeling when you are talking to somebody who seems genuinely interested in you and what you have to say?
Think about the last time you had an experience like this.
It generally feels pretty good when others feel curious about us. It can be a real luxury to have space to explore our thoughts, feelings, and ideas without feeling judged or needing to defend ourselves.
How often do you think you give people the feeling that you are curious about their thoughts, feelings, and ideas? Do you ever notice, if they talk about things you don’t understand or express beliefs that are different from your own, that you start to analyze or judge them? Maybe you start to come up with your own arguments about the flaws in their logic, or thinking about how much you disagree with them…
Being curious about how others see the world without becoming defensive about our own views is no easy task.
As e. e. cummings says, curiosity comes when we believe in ourselves. When we are comfortable with our own boundaries and don’t feel threatened by the differing views of others, we can spend our energy learning more about them without wasting it on defending ourselves or our views.
Certainly there is a time for debating and discussing differing viewpoints. But if we move right to judging or defending our own perspectives, not only are we likely to trigger defensiveness in others, but we might also miss the opportunity to understand why they think the way they do and what is important about it to them.
While easier said than done, genuine curiosity often paves the way to fruitful debate or discussion.
Experiment: Observe yourself over the next few days. Don’t try to change anything; just notice how often you feel curious about others’ perspectives, and how often you find yourself judging what they are saying or wanting to defend your own perspective.
Notice what you do differently in each situation. Notice how you react when other’s approach you with curiosity vs. judgement
Questions and requests that can promote curiosity:
- What is most important to you about __________?
- I’m interested to hear more about_____________
- What led you to see things this way?
- Hmmm that’s really different from how I see_________. I’d love to hear more about how you see _______.
Remember that asking questions and being curious about somebody’s perspective does not have to mean you agree with them!