Any new habit requires repeated practice and thinking patterns are habitual processes. Using a concept like curiosity is helpful in focusing your practice. Habitually directing your thoughts and efforts through learning healthier outcomes will become second nature.
The intention to be curious creates the space to actively listen to other people. You cannot be in two places at the same time when you know better your concentration is one when you will impart your knowledge, whereas when you are curious you look to understand the knowledge of others. Curiosity reduces conflict from misunderstandings, assumptions, and vagueness. It’s a state that requires the learner mind states to be engaged by providing the context by which they can be actioned.
These five steps will help you practice applied curiosity, a guide for what to do instead of your usual negative patterns.
- Emotion and assumption are not factual
Your emotion is not factual evidence of someone else’s intention or purpose. While you may find them uncomfortable, your emotions are personal to you and only you and are based on your life experiences. Someone else’s actions or a situational event which triggers discomfort in you gives you information about you. The story you apply about anyone or anything based on these feelings are stories created out of assumptions and are only valid in your world and no-one else’s. The acknowledgment of this is critical to how curious you can be.
- Listen first to everyone involved then comment on what you hear
Putting your full attention on what you hear and understand what is said means you can comment less and improve the value and quality of what you say. Listen first and keep an open and curious mind to what is being said. Allow the other(s) to finish explaining in order to fully get all the information. This might mean you feel you are holding your tongue, but that will diminish over time as you become more engaged and engaging.
- Check your assumptions against their reasoning
This requires a certain amount of emotional maturity and transparency. Owning your opinion is vital and explaining the reason for that opinion means you can check your assumptions against someone who make have more information. One example is my assumption that certain types of negative patterns are rifer in companies that require it based on their position in the market. For example, defensiveness will be typical in companies who are defending a declining market. When meeting a peer who works for a leading soft drinks brand, he confirmed that indeed, at that time, defensiveness was an issue in the internal culture of the company.
- Speculate on the best meaning, not the worst
Consider if that other party were to mean well, what would it be? Contrary to what you would automatically think, other people are not out to trick you, exploit you, or get you. Avoid your defensive reactions that are based on believing there’s always a hidden agenda and cast your mind to the opposite direction. You will never have all the facts, so when you accept that the other party means well, you can ask questions to discover where the misunderstanding has occurred and from there focus on solving specific solutions for a win-win.
- Use an experimentation approach to create a new solution
Rather than judge a situation where your opinion is the only one. Start forming questions that begin with ‘What if..?’ or ‘How would it be if X was to combine with Y?’ Not only will you relate with others in ways that are both mentally stimulating and exciting, you will learn more than you could possibly predict. You will initiate high-value conversations and gain from those deep insights that could not come out of any other dynamic.