As we approach the wire I am, to my surprise, still discovering new aspects of practicing curiosity. Today it was the realization that social norms can act as a powerful hindrance. I was walking past a house this afternoon and could hear the family talking and laughing in the garden behind the trees that protected their privacy. It sounded lively and like a great deal of fun. I would have loved to observe for a bit–my natural curiosity was piqued–but I realized that would make me something of a Peeping Tom and moved on with a bit of regret.
I’m having the chance to practice a lot of conversational curiosity at the moment. We’re staying with a friend, who is also a school friend of my mother’s (to get the generations clear). Years ago I gave up on hearing new stories. Each visit involved the same stories, some of which I didn’t enjoy all that much the first time. This time, however, it is as if she has opened a whole new trunk of stories and I find myself a good bit of the time listening with unforced curiosity. I would love to know how that happened.
One thing I’m realizing this week is how often I actually do practice interpersonal curiosity and openness in the classroom. That is a really nice realization for me. I seem to go into a special mode where I wait to see what the person means and ask really good questions to find out more (even if they aren’t classic Inquiry questions). For the time being, I’m satisfied with that, even if I don’t transfer that openness to my life outside the classroom as often as I would wish.
Clearly, I am going to be practicing a lot of this kind of curiosity this week. With only two participants–and two participants who do not want to work in a pair but rather want my input and attention all the time–there hardly seems to be another way. But they are pleasant and willing and experienced so at least what I’m listening to is teaching me something.
Listening with interest is also a form of curiosity, and it is one I practiced intensively today. I tend to forget that it should count as curiosity practice because I have been doing it most of my life.
Well, I didn’t practice much curiosity today (Sunday), but I should have some big opportunites to practice tomorrow. I’m teaching a one-week workshop with two participants. (Don’t ask.) Curiosity may be one of my best tools, I’m thinking. Will keep you posted.
After the 10-day Inquiry challenge I did, I wrote that although I did not practice a structured form of Inquiry very much during those 10 days, I did practice the mindset. That, I felt, was more important.
Similarly, at the end of the workshop just I taught, I asked the participants to say what they were taking away from the course. I use a stuffed turtle named Harry as a talking stick. That means that no one is allowed to speak while someone else is holding Harry, including me. I found myself listening with a high level of interest and openness to what was being said, with the primary goal of understanding what people were saying. In other words, I practiced inquiry without saying a word. As simple as that.