Resilience Credo – Curiosity

“The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.” Frank Herbert

Have you ever wondered if this is all there is? Is who you are all that you will ever be? Is there hope to overcome your weakness, fear and insecurities – your reactiveness, impatience and defensiveness?

If, like me, you find yourself longing for a deeper sense of self-mastery (truly: peace within), the practice of curiosity may be a key to what you desire.

Principle Practice: Curiosity
“I choose curiosity rather than defensiveness, to keep conflict healthy, ideological and objective, remaining vulnerably open to listen to understand, in the discovery of truth.”

Have you ever been part of a group discussion that ended up in the (temporary or permanent) destruction of relationships? You could see the storm coming as people dug deeper into their trenches, working to ensure that their position was held, with the volume escalating and the phrasing becoming more abrupt and repetitive as defenses were fortified. Maybe you were a helpless bystander and felt ill-equipped to mediate. Alternatively, you may have been one of the escalating voices, and felt your chest pounding along with your fist keeping tempo on the table in front of you. Perhaps you felt badly about how it ended, whether or not you felt that you won or lost. Either way, the question remains: is there ever a true winner in this situation?

When conflict is healthy, is it ideological, objective and constructive. When it is not healthy, it is personal, prejudiced and/or biased and often destructive. Curiosity enables us to move past defensiveness to be open to receive others’ views objectively. We can practice at nurturing our curiosity (a strong desire to learn or know something) through active listening, and through simple responses like, “tell me more”, vulnerably abandoning defenses in an effort to understand more fully.

Getting to the truth can be hampered by our failure to remember that each individual has their own unique ideology. We tend to assume that we all see the world the same way (or that our way is the only way) and become easily frustrated when others “don’t get it”. We then become more defensive, and less open to the arrival of new ideas. We put people in their box, their limitations, and become unwilling to receive their perspectives.

I like the way that defines ideology, as, “The set of beliefs by which a group or society orders reality so as to render it intelligible”. I would suggest that our beliefs arise from our learnings and experiences, and add “individuals” to “group” and “society”, especially given the mass relocations through immigration, and the resulting collision of societal norms.

Curiosity helps us to get past the pre-programmed, limiting responses we have built for situations that arise. Deeper still, it enables us to get past our prejudice toward others.

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed.” Albert Einstein

Of all the mysteries known to mankind, mankind is the greatest mystery. Relationships at work, take work. To “wonder” at the mysterious is to be curious, and to embrace the mysterious as something beautiful stands in stark contrast with personal, prejudiced, biased and destructive conflict.

I wonder…is it our insecurity that keeps us from being more curious? Are we threatened by what we might find – for which we may not have an answer? Could we benefit by becoming more curious in our conversations and meetings, than striving to appear knowledgeable? Could the very existence of curiosity help to reduce conflict-elevating blood pressure?

To explore how curiosity might lead to healthy, constructive, ideological conflict, consider asking simple questions, such as, “Help me understand what you are (seeing, feeling, sensing, concerned about, etc..)” or as simple statement like, “Tell me more.”

Whatever the questions and whatever the result, we are much more likely to generate opportunity for healthy ideological conflict and objectivity through curiosity than defensiveness. Defensiveness constricts the veins of communication faster and more tightly than plaque in our arteries! Curiosity acts like a stint to restore the flow.