Want Better Relationships? Get Curious

Not too long ago I was standing with a friend who recently separated from his wife. As he was telling me about his current struggles my body started to get tense and unsolicited advice followed. I noticed something didn’t feel right in the interaction, but I felt stuck between not saying anything and giving advice. At one point he responded, “You know, it would just have been better if you were a little more curious about my experience instead of giving me advice.” In that moment, a light bulb went off in my mind and I found the third way.  Now I try to bring curiosity more often to our relationship and it has been enormously helpful.

Adopting the intention and attitude of curiosity is a cornerstone of mindfulness practice and is also a wonderful thing to bring to our relationships.

As human beings we all want to feel understood and cared about, this is what gives us a sense of acceptance that we belong. Curiosity enables this because it says, “I’m interested in you, I’m paying attention, I care about you.” This often allows people’s guards to come down creating opportunity for connection.

If we practiced curiosity we’d be less likely to fall into the mind trap of Mindreading. This is when we just assume what another person is thinking. When the boss walks by without smiling we know it’s because we did something wrong, or she was stressed, or she must have information about company layoffs. Or when we get home and someone in our family is irritable, we know it’s because they had a bad day, are mad at us, or are depressed. We all know what assuming gets us.

So today, practice being a bit more curious in your relationships. Intentionally check your automatic judgments at the door and dig a little deeper. Instead of jumping to conclusions you might ask “What do you mean by that,” or “How was that for you,” or “I’m not sure I understand, could you say more?”

We can all try and be a bit more curious with our husbands, wives, children, partners, colleagues, employees, bosses or whoever.

Try it out, you may just like it.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

Reposted from Elisha Goldstein’s Mindfulness Blog on Psychcentral.com

3 Responses to “Want Better Relationships? Get Curious”

  1. Jessica Bennett says:

    I am a naturally curious person and ask questions often. I also know I don’t like being misunderstood, so I like to give others the courtesy and ask questions to make sure I’m not misunderstanding them. Unfortunately, the man I live with hates being asked questions. I try to figure out why (yes, that’s asking more questions, but I feel communication is important and it’s worth him getting upset once if I can figure out how to communicate better in the future). And what I’ve come to understand is, sometimes he doesn’t like questions because he feels criticized by them (even though I’ve told him several times I’m just curious and like to learn a lot and it’s never my intention to criticize), sometimes it’s because he doesn’t want to be bothered by having a conversation and just wants to be left alone, sometimes he doesn’t have an answer and rather than just say that he doesn’t have an answer he instead gets upset and yells at me for asking, and sometimes when I ask for clarification he doesn’t understand why I didn’t understand something the first time and doesn’t want to have to explain it anymore than he already has. So remember, not everyone likes people being curious about what they have to say. I still haven’t figured out how to communicate properly and yet make sure he’s not upset by my actions.

  2. Wendy Satterlund says:

    This point is consistent with the principles of Non Violent Communication, also called compassionate communication. Check it out: http://www.cnvc.org

  3. kuriel says:

    Thanks. I found this via google searching, and it was just what I needed to read today. The type of non-curious reactions you speak of are the very reason I become more and more terrified to try and open up to people. And then I get treated like I’m insane if I try and point out how covertly violent the non-listening, unsolicited-advice-giving behavior is.