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Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat!

Curiosity

The “curiosity” idea for this blog stemmed from a client interaction a couple months ago. During our leadership development session with her team, our client reflected on her interactions with others and the fact that she is always curious about why people think, feel, and act the way they do. And I thought, what a great way to listen better, create connection, and try to understand others – by simply being curious.

Curiosity can be defined as a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, but I think many of us view this definition in relation to science, space exploration, school, etc. What if we studied relationships, people, interactions and conversations from a place of curiosity? How much more could we achieve as leaders?

Many coaching discussions with clients over the years have focused on developing as a leader in the areas of empathy and the ability to understanding and validate others’ concerns. This can be especially challenging in situations when we don’t agree with the perspective or views being shared by the other person. The client I mentioned above – whose curiosity leads her to ask people why they think, feel and act the way they do – showed me how being curious could help all of us understand each other better. But first we need to be conscious of where our thoughts often instinctively lead us – to places of judgment and ego. To places that are the opposite of curiosity.

The benefits of asking those questions – the benefits of being curious – include stronger relationships, higher achievement whether in work or academics, and increased empathy and compassion … all strengths of a leader.

Three tools to develop curiosity are:

  1. Adopt a “Judgment Free Zone” – Be aware of how many times a day and how many interactions with others that we are judging rather than exploring. How much more understanding could be achieved with open-minded curiosity rather than closed-minded judgment?
  2. Ask open-ended questions for clarity and to help understand the person you are interacting with. For example, “Tell me about the actions you took before this event,” or “How did you decide what to do after that event?”
  3. Notice what you are learning about the person in your interactions. And yes, even in long-term relationships at home and at work, you can still learn something new about their background, interests, goals, etc. We will never know everything about anyone, but if we’re curious enough, we will know more. 

Curiosity, like empathy and adaptability, can be learned. Practice curiosity this week and reflect on what you learn. I would love to hear from you on new things that you learned by being curious; email me at cathy@getemergent.com.

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