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Listen with Curiosity

Since going through my mediation training in 2018, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the hidden benefits of curiosity. When we are genuinely curious about other people, we can communicate more gently through any brewing conflicts or disagreements.

Work cultures where curiosity reigns tend to be places where conflict rarely feels like conflict. Disagreements happen, and they are seen as steps in a process - just a part of working together to create or improve upon a product, process, or service.

From my perspective, it’s easiest to be curious about others when we have some empathy for them, or a desire to understand them. Empathy is the social glue that holds any group of people together - we care about each other and share a desire to learn about each other.

When disagreements do happen, they may or may not become full-blown conflicts (even in the happiest of workplaces). One key to keeping disagreements from becoming conflicts is to listen with curiosity - to listen to each other with a true desire to understand, and then to take time to respond.

This is different from reacting to each other. Reactions are quick, in-the-moment evaluations. Reactions often happen without truly understanding what’s going on, from the other person’s perspective.

When you respond instead of reacting, you’re first taking time to make sure you understand what’s happening - you display curiosity by:

  • Asking open-ended questions.

  • Using a gentle tone of voice.

  • Reframing strong words to find the underlying concern.

If you approach every disagreement with a curious mindset, you will find that people want to answer your questions. We’re all human - most of us all love talking about ourselves, if we feel that someone is genuinely interested. Adopting a curious mindset means you really want to know what’s going on for someone else! You want to find out about them. You are curious about the people around you and how they’re feeling.

The next time a disagreement happens with people you work with, try adopting a curious mindset - let go of any assumptions or evaluations you may have, and get curious about why they might be doing or thinking or saying whatever it is they’re doing, thinking, or saying - ask questions!

If you’re having trouble with this, let me know - I can help.


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