A new form of interpersonal curiosity–easy to recognize, harder to practice.
I taught a group yesterday, in English but made up 100% of non-native English speakers. Some were really easy to understand. Others were harder. As I asked myself “What shall I write about today?” it occurred to me that I had actively and in the face of some difficulty practiced a good deal of interpersonal curiosity. I consistently tried to get beyond the accent and, in some cases, broken grammar in an effort to understand what the person meant.
This is not to be underestimated, I think, as a form of interpersonal curiosity.
I don’t really have anything to report today. I wasn’t incurious today but I also wasn’t especially curious. More tomorrow.
I may have underestimated the opportunities to practice curiosity at the wine-tasting last night. Of course, one can–and should–practice mindful curiosity in the tasting process, but I also had the opportunity to practice desire-to-learn curiosity very actively.
I and two colleagues were at a table for four and were joined by a someone we didn’t know. She turned out to be fascinating–a graphic designer who tries to work according to the 26 principles of biomimicry, in which people designing solutions turn to nature to be inspired. (She gave me an amazing example of a German company that has created glass that birds do not fly into and therefore do not break their necks on. It emulates spider webs which, it turns out, have an ultraviolet color that humans cannot see but birds can. After all, birds don’t fly through spider webs.) From there we got into a discussion of how cultural groups relate to nature (by dominating, living in harmony, or giving in to) and learned a lot from each other.
The wine was good, too. 😉
I’ve done a lot of professional listening today. I think that has to count as enough curiosity practice for the day. First of all, I had a coaching session, where curiosity is practically a requirement. (For one thing, curiosity helps the coach wait to hear what the client has to say rather than jump in with advice.) Then I had a meeting with business partners. I did more talking there but also wanted to hear their suggestions for how to work together in the future so also did a fair amount of curious listening. And then I supported a colleague in making sense of some survey data, but since it is her project I tried to listen more than I spoke and worked to see things from her point of view.
My reward? A wine-tasting with other colleagues. I’ll probably do some curious listening there, too, but it won’t be professional listening and I won’t be writing about. 😉
… I must excuse myself. Ten o’clock at night and I have just finished work.
Just a quick report: I did practice interest today, which I consider a first cousin of curiosity. I met a colleague I hadn’t spoken to in several years and we had a great catch up over coffee. Something at least.
It has been quite a day, full of work and professional demands. Please excuse the lack of any insight or wisdom 😉 into the topic of curiosity today. I am at a loss.
I did learn something, even if I don’t feel I improved my live Inquiry skills.
Most importantly: Although focusing more specifically on Inquiry did not help me use the formal structure in conversations, it did help me recognize sooner when I was judging someone and shutting down, which enabled me to open up again to practice at least the mindset of Inquiry and curiosity. That is a better outcome, I think, than if I had perfected the structure of formal Inquiry but left out the mindset!
As almost an aside: I’ve started to think that although I love the Ladder of Inference it may not be the best teaching tool for the kinds of questions I’d like my students to ask when they disagree with others. On Day 231 I upended the structure and put the Data Selection step at the top. Seen as a Ladder that is perhaps not the image Chris Argyris, author of the model, wanted to convey. However, I might find it easier to work with and to teach the concepts if I represented it as an onion, where the speaker’s conclusion is the heart of the onion and the questions are designed to help us get through the layers to the core of someone’s worldview.
I need to think about this a bit.