We’ve all had those moments where we are trying to communicate with our partner or spouse and the next thing you know, it’s become miscommunication! We find ourselves defensive and maybe even digging in our heels instead of really listening to what the other person is saying. We all want more intimate and more deeply connected relationships with our partners, but often feel hopeless of how to get there – curiosity can help!
Curiosity comes from a desire to know more. Webster’s dictionary says it is “…an inquisitive interest in others’ concerns.” Too often, we aren’t curious because we assume what our partner’s experience is, and so we don’t truly desire to know more.
I wasn’t always a curious person, in fact it would be fair to say, that I took things at face value and rarely dug deeper in my interactions with others. I think I assumed if someone had more knowledge, they would simply share it with me. I also think I thought I understood far more than I could have understood without having walked in someone else’s shoes. I wonder if it’s possible that you do the same?
What I have learned, in my quest to cultivate curiosity is that when we come from a place of curiosity, we can have a deeper understanding of others, they tend to feel more understood, and our relationships can be more open and less defensive. Asking a few simple questions with an open mind and open heart can make all the difference in open communication with our partners.
Here are a few ideas to start your quest for curiosity:
Often, communication between ourselves and someone we are comfortable with happens pretty quickly. To cultivate curiosity, slow down the communication process. Really listen to what your partner is saying and reflect back to them what you heard them say. An example of this is “What I heard you say is you don’t like brown speckled bananas. Is that accurate?” Repeating out loud what we heard has dual benefits of keeping you present in what you heard (and reinforcing it in your own mind) and it lets your partner know that you really heard their words. It also gives you the opportunity to practice the next step in cultivating curiosity….
Practice asking good questions
When your partner says “I don’t like brown speckled bananas” and you slow down the process to make sure you heard them correctly, you still don’t know why they don’t like brown speckled bananas or what their experience is with them. Their simple statement gave you no information about any of that. After they confirm that you heard them correctly, the next step is to find out more. An example is “That’s really interesting – I didn’t know that about you! What is it about brown speckled bananas you don’t like?” or “…”How do you like your bananas?” or even “….How long have you felt that way?” The options are really endless, but the key is to ask open-ended questions and continue to slow the conversation down.
Talk less, listen more
While asking questions is important to cultivate curiosity, so is listening to the responses and keeping the focus on our partner. When talking with others, we often interject our own experiences or share something similar that happened to us. This takes the focus off the other person’s experience and takes us out of a mindset of curiosity. Listen to understand, not just to hear. If you are really listening to what is said, it is likely more questions will come to mind, allowing you to further develop your curiosity.