“Be curious. It shakes the world.”
What does curiosity mean & why is it so important?
We think of curiosity as exploration: being inquisitive, seeking to learn and understand.
Curiosity in its truest, purest form holds no judgment. If there is judgment then we are being nosey, not curious and there is a huge difference between the two. When we are curious and ask questions our only intention is to better understand. Whether it is another person, an idea, a place, an origin, or anything that creates an interest in further exploration. The focus is not on us and our needs, the focus is on learning and understanding. We have learned in our work that almost everyone believes they are curious – we all read books, have passions and look things up online.
However, where most people are NOT curious is in conversations.
When we are not curious in conversations we judge, blame, tell, shame and get stuck in an “I am right/ you are wrong” headspace. All without even realizing it and all of it leads to conflict. When we are curious in a conversation we are present to actively listen and absorb what the speaker is saying.
We are choosing to keep the focus on the speaker and listen without judgment, and we ask curious open questions to learn and understand. This is important because it is how we build relationships, how we innovate and collaborate. It is how opportunities and possibilities that are otherwise not present suddenly become available to us. Curiosity is our most powerful tool and it is something we are all born with, hardwired for and yet rarely practice in conversations.
How our communication paradigm can help you resolve a conflict with someone today.
One of the coolest discoveries in our work is how curiosity can support you in, and help you resolve and reduce, conflict. This means having those tough, awkward, or even sweat inducing conversations with calmness, ease, and clarity. Even the neuroscience supports it.
When we feel ourselves getting emotional or our emotional buttons start getting pushed, a chemical cocktail runs through our veins and it takes us to a place where we feel our physical safety is at risk. Even if that is not actually the case – it is how we feel. In these heated moments, it can be hard to distinguish the difference between a threat to our physical safety and a threat to our ego and identity. We get angry, defensive, blame, judge, name call, focus on winning or being right, all to make us feel better. In the heat of the moment our brains shut down, we stop listening, often say things we wish we hadn’t, fracture relationships and feel lousy.
It is all consuming, stressful and downright icky. Sound familiar?
The good news is, it no longer has to be this way. In those heated moments or moments that feel like they are going to become heated, rather than react, focus on the speaker and ask an open curious question – a question that begins with who, what, where, when an how. This will help you to gain understanding. This will also help keep your brain open so you can actively listen to what the speaker is saying. As you stay present and actively listen to what the speaker is saying, choose to remain open and suspend all judgment so you can learn what is going on for them.
This doesn’t mean you have to agree with what the other person is saying, just be open to it.
This means you are focused on the speaker and open to understanding what is going on for them. As you ask open curious questions to learn, a different chemical cocktail will be released – oxytocin and dopamine – the feel-good chemicals. Not only do these neurotransmitters make us feel good, they also create a connection between the heart and the brain that leads to a greater sense of openness.
So with every open question asked, we experience a greater sense of connection with another.
This supports the creation of a new, shared reality based on understanding. In short, staying curious when we are emotional: being present to actively listen, choosing to listen without judgment, and asking open curious questions to learn and understand, helps you stay calm and cool in heated moments so that you can gain understanding, keep relationships intact leading to win-win outcomes.
Let’s put this into action for you today. Here are 3 Tips To Resolve Conflict Through Curious Communication. Try it Today!
Tip #1 – Approach the conversation wanting to understand the other person perspective rather than being challenged or threatened.
We all have our own unique perspective on everything and no two perspectives are ever exactly the same. To think our perspective is the only perspective is incredibly limiting. It shuts relationships down and creates conflict. When emotions run high, rather than focusing on being right, shift your focus to understanding the other person’s perspective.
This doesn’t mean you have to agree with what the other person said. Instead accept it as their perspective, their point of view. Keeping the focus on the speaker, actively listening and asking open questions will allow you to learn and understand. It will also help you stay calm and able to resolve the conflict rather than just react. This is how we build relationships, solve problems, collaborate, innovate and thrive.
Tip #2 – Shift from Telling to Asking
When we feel our backs up against the wall, our automatic reaction is to tell others what to do. This just leads to more conflict. We have yet to meet a person who likes being told anything, especially in conflict. When we tell we stop listening to others, imply that we know best, we know how to solve a problem better than anyone else. Without ever gathering information, knowledge, or understanding of others to make a fully informed decision. Shifting from telling to asking open questions allows you to learn. Telling is a focus on self, asking is a focus on other.
Asking open curious questions creates opportunities and possibilities, telling shuts them down. Asking open questions also helps you stay calm so you can respond with intention rather than react and tell. *It is important to note that there are times when telling is needed, like times of emergency. This is not what we are referring to.
Tip # 3 – From judgment to acceptance
It is important to note, there are times when we need to assess data and make a decision that calls upon us to make a judgment. Professionals are expected to do this frequently throughout the day when they explore the data presented and call upon their professional knowledge to connect the data and make a judgment as to how best to proceed. Even in such situations, there is typically a place for curiosity to ensure all possible data has been explored before moving to make a decision and provide advice. This is not what we are referring to in this context.
For most people, judging is a coping mechanism used to ensure they see themselves as better than (or less than) others. We all have that gremlin voice inside our head and it often leads to conflict, with self and other. When we judge others, we become closed to understanding them – it is extremely limiting – fuelling the flames of conflict. When we are curious and choose to understand the other person. Understand their perspectives, we can find common ground upon which we can build agreement and accept that there is not just one way to do anything.
Releasing judgment can be really challenging for people to do, especially when they feel challenged or threatened. In those heated moments, try to silence your gremlin voice so rather than judging you can remain open and curious to learn.
I’m curious to hear your feedback – leave me a comment on how this can help you.
Co-Founder of The Institute of Curiosity, Co-Author of The Power of Curiosity, Communication Ambassador for Wealthy Woman Warrior™
We specialize in high-quality conversations that build high-quality relationships. That means we help people STOP reacting (to people, emotions, events) and learn to start RESPONDING to engage and inspire others, especially in emotional or high stakes situations.