Do you think of yourself as a curious person?
Recently I realized there have been times when I thought I was curious, but I wasn’t. The following insights into curiosity have rocked my understanding of this state of being.
Curiosity as a mechanism to control. I would tell myself, I’m really curious about why my client believes X, Y or Z, but I now recognize that I wanted to understand what they believed so that I could steer them in the direction I thought they should go in. I’m not judging my inclination to steer, (not yet) but I’m recognizing that I thought I was being curious but I wasn’t. I was seeking a pathway to control. I’ve done this as a coach, I’ve done this as a leader, I’ve done this with my husband and son. I tell myself I’m curious about what they think or feel, but I’m really trying to understand them so that I can manipulate or control them. And yes, that’s hard to admit. This is not true curiosity.
Curiosity as a pathway to outcomes. This form of what I thought was curiosity was really about accomplishing something or achieving some outcomes. I would tell myself, I’m curious about what might happen if…if I redistribute leadership, or …if I present this PD in this way… But I actually had an end in mind that I wanted to get to. I’m also not judging having a goal or outcome – I am noticing that again, I thought I was being curious, but I wasn’t open going into the inquiry; I was trying to find data that would lead me to the conclusion I’d already come to. This is not true curiosity.
True curiosity: I’m finding that true curiosity is equally terrifying and exhilarating. It requires a willingness to give up everything I’ve ever known or believed. Everything. It’s hard for me to be in that state. It demands tremendous courage. It means I need to accept my fear.
I find that when I’m in a state of true curiosity, I connect more deeply with others. I discover solutions to problems that have long perplexed me. I am more effective as a coach and leader. Being in true curiosity requires me to regularly explore my fear and longings, but so far, it’s been thrilling and rewarding. I’ve been trying out true curiosity with my husband and son, with friends and colleagues, and with clients. It’s hard and not hard.