How to Lead with Curiosity

let's do better, together

Everyone is tired.

Tired of the pandemic, tired of life not being the way they expected it to be, just plain tired of trying to cope with the new way when the old way was so damned comfortable (regardless of how unsustainable it was). 

And we all know, whether we've admitted it to ourselves or not, that we will be living with, if not this virus, the next zoonotic virus if we don't change how we relate to the natural world, what we eat, etc.

Sadly, humans are averse to change and I don't see any major shifts happening soon. Without significant change, we'll continue to be upended by these grand catastrophes that shake us from our sleepwalk through life. 

Tired = Cranky

Let's agree that we're tired, and being tired makes us cranky. It's no wonder that it's hard to have much patience, presence, or curiosity about the whys of our family and friends—especially when they present what to us seem like absurd ideas or harebrained dreams and schemes. 

But what if we took a deep breath, paused for three seconds before we replied, and not just listened to but heard what our people are saying when they speak to us? What if we leaned back a bit, instead of pressing forward with opinions and answers?

I'm here to advocate for the listen truly listen then lead with curiosity method. 

Idea Factory

Are you one of those people who's always hatching some new plan or idea, which tends to unsettle those who are more resistant to change? I am. Over the years I've heard comments and reasons as to why I shouldn't pursue certain dreams, and yes, of course I have received support, but it's usually after explaining my position to make a solid case for my idea.

Not that others need to approve or like your ideas, or encourage your dreams, but it’s nice when you have a team, even just a team of one, cheering you on.  

Have you not felt heard or trusted to make good decisions (about your own damn life)—or like you can’t try on new ideas by sharing them with others without holes being poked through the flimsy material of your fledgling dreams?

I bet it’s happened to most of us. And when it does, do you find you are reluctant to share anything new with those you want to confide in, but feel like you can’t?

Novel ideas, when shared, are rarely new on the spot. At least in my case, I’ve usually thought about them for a while, putting them through the pros and cons, and all manner of filters, before I decide to share, and I bet this is true for you, too.

So how can we be better dream receivers? What can we do to encourage creative ideation and dreaming in our friends and family through curiosity as listeners?

A Few Simple Steps

Often when we respond to other people’s dreams and ideas, especially if the ideas challenge our world view, we do so out of fear and our own preferences. This is normal, so it takes a bit of energy to retrain ourselves to do better in this area—energy that we've agreed is not in abundance at the moment. 

So how do we hear what people we care about are saying without our own beliefs and past experiences coloring our responses?

Here are a few simple things to try—it's all an experiment, this life stuff, and learning to communicate better and more compassionately with those we care about is a worthwhile practice. 

  1. Allow the speaker to finish their thought(s), regardless of how painful it might be for you. Pause, wait to speak, let them get it all out. Then wait a few seconds longer (there's likely more in there). This waiting will feel like an eternity, and your mind will be going bonkers shouting things at you—all the things it thinks you should say, but resist! 

  2. When your friend finishes sharing, after the long, painful silence, ask if there's anything else they'd like to say about the subject. 

  3. At the point the speaker concedes that they do indeed have nothing left to say, then it's your turn to talk (finally, right?). Here's where you get to be curious. 

Why do they want to move to Namibia? How do they think their life would be enriched by this move? What are they worried about—anything? What excites them about this idea?

Any questions you ask that are open-ended and don't elicit YES or NO answers will help you to better understand your brother/sister/mother/best friend/sweetheart—and that's the point—to create a deeper connection and really get to know them—who they are and who they are becoming. 

Things to Consider

Remember that your first response to out-of-left-field thinking usually comes from fear with a big heap of ego on top. The speaker isn’t suggesting you pursue their dream with them, but our mind puts us in the place of the friend who wants to move to Namibia and our brain ignites as we think:

I can't do that—that's ridiculous. Who does that kind of thing? And what about ME? What will happen to ME? 

If we stay still long enough and don't let our words spill out, the fire of fear will die down, and then we can, if not embrace, at least appreciate the unique ideas of those who matter to us.

Naturally, not all our dreams or the dreams of others will make sense or will ever see the light of day, but with whom else, if not the people we care about who care about us, can we practice the art of curiosity? And isn't it more fulfilling to be one who supports others rather than one who regularly skewers other people's dreams? 

Not a Drop Left

If you don't have a drop of energy left to lead with curiosity when communicating with others, that's okay, you probably need more rest. Or maybe you don't want to be curious—but if that's the case, I'd at least get curious about why that is :)

I’ve added photos to my Porto snapshot gallery, take a look. I’m still in Porto and will add the the gallery over the next week or two.

Thank you Dave & Trina, Ken, Sandy, Lisa, Mark, Roxanne, Sar, Val, and others who have recently supported me through Buy Me a Coffee—and you can do the same, too!

I appreciate your readership, your comments, and your generosity!