When Bob spoke to Arnold, he was open to Arnold’s message. He listened curiously.
What are the elements of curious listening?
When we listen curiously, we come from a mindset of wondering rather than one of already knowing. Maybe we know; maybe we don’t know. We are open, curious, and present in the dialogue in the current moment, not in the past of what we have already said and done.This curiosity is the seed of creative problem-solving.
Curious listening is an attitude rather than an action. Visionary leaders often have the quality of openness to new possibilities, but most of us need to work to develop this habit.
- What would it take for me not to know the answer right away?
- How can I allow the space for uncertainty, discovery, and creativity?
- Can I simply be present with another person without the need to judge them, fix them, solve a problem, or take immediate action?
Relating to life and people from curiosity and openness is often, ironically, the best way to get the best solution to a problem. Succumbing to the need to put the other person in a box (younger, less experienced, lower status, had the wrong answer last time…) and jump immediately to the solution that first comes to mind may ultimately cost our organizations and us immensely. Curious listening is the antidote to the problem of rushing for immediate answers.
Who listens curiously?
Effective mediators listen curiously when they ask each side to give its version of a situation. Parents often listen curiously when children run in the door from school saying, “Guess what happened today?” Spouses may listen curiously when they ask each other, “How was your day?” And good managers listen curiously when confronted with problems that may have complex or multiple answers.
Could you give it a try?
It may feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar to give up the role of being the person who always knows the answer right away. But if we are willing to embrace curiosity and uncertainty, we open vistas of possibility untethered by our past.
©2017 Elizabeth Danziger All rights reserved
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy this post on 8 Habits of Curious People.
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