How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Guest articles > Inside Curiosity
by: Sharon Drew Morgen
Curiosity is a good thing, right? But what is it? Wikipedia defines curiosity thus: a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in human and animal species.
What, exactly, does this mean? What’s ‘inquisitive thinking’? Does it matter that everyone’s inquisitiveness is subjective, unique, and limited by their biases? ‘Evident by observation’? Evident to whom? And by what/whose standards? And ‘observation’? Really? We all see, hear, feel the world through our subjectivity – so what standards, what criteria, are the observer using – or doesn’t it matter? And what makes one piece of information the correct answer – or a wrong answer?
The problem is that our natural curiosity restricts our ability to acquire a complete data set to little more than an extension of our current knowledge and beliefs: the way we seek, accept or dismiss incoming information may glean only a subset of the knowledge available due to
Sure, we’re told to ‘be curious.’ But how do we know that the information we seek, find and retrieve is accurate, complete, or the most useful data available? How do we know that found learning is important, even though it ‘feels’ uncomfortable and we dismiss it? How do we know the best source to use to get answers? Who or what to believe? Can we supersede our biased judgments (or intuition, as some would call it) that restrict/influence the standard all is compared against?
The limits of our curiosity define our results: the broader the range of possible answers the higher the likelihood of an accurate outcome. And herein lie the problem: we unwittingly severely restrict the range of possible, acceptable answers because of our existing beliefs while continuing to believe we’re Intuitive, Investigative, and Clever. Hence, I pose the question: can we really ever be entirely curious?
Once during a conversation with a colleague, he complained that he had just gotten a cold, and that now he’d be ‘down’ for 2 weeks. How did he know it would be 2 weeks? As a doctor himself, he’d been to doctors over the years and followed protocol: lots of rest and liquids, and wait two weeks. The following conversation ensued:
SD: I hear your conclusions about a cold cure come from parameters set by your medical colleagues and that you’re comfortable restricting the full set of possible treatments accordingly. What would you need to believe differently to be willing to expand your parameters to some that may be outside your current comfort zone, in case there might alternate, reliable cures you’re not aware of?
H: Hm… I’ve always used the medical model as my choice criteria. Well, I guess I’d need to believe that the source of the new data was trustworthy.
SD: I have useful data that has helped me and my family cure a cold in 2 days, but it’s very far outside the conventional model. How would you know it would be worth trying, given it doesn’t fit within your medical criteria?
H: That’s sort of easy, but scary. I’ve known you a long time. I trust you. If you have a different cure, I’d love to hear it.
I offered him a simple vitamin-based remedy (large quantities of Vitamin C and simultaneous Zinc lozenges). He used it; he called 2 days later to tell me his cold was gone. And, btw: this man is a famous Harvard McArthur Genius. See? Even geniuses restrict their curiosity according to their biases.
WHY ARE WE CURIOUS
There are several different reasons for curiosity:
We just can’t seek, find, or receive what we don’t know how to consider:
I just had an incident that simply exemplifies some of the above. I’ve begun attending life drawing classes as an exercise to broaden my observation skills. I took classes 30 years ago, so I have a very tiny range of skills that obviously need enhancing. Last session I had a horrific time trying to draw a model’s shoulder. I asked the man next to me - a real artist – for help. Here was our conversation:
SDM: Hey, Ron. Can you help me please? Can you tell me how to think about drawing his shoulder?
Ron: Sure. Let’s see…. So what is it about your current sketch that you like?
Ron: If I put a gun to your head, what part would you like?
Ron: You’ve done a great job here, on his lower leg. Good line. Good proportion. That means you know how to do a lot of what you need on the shoulder.
SDM: I do? I didn’t know what I was doing. So how can I duplicate what I did unconsciously? I’m having an eye-hand-translation problem.
Ron: Let’s figure out how you drew that leg. Then we’ll break that down to mini actions, and see what you can use from what you already know. And I’ll teach you whatever you’re missing.
Ron’s brand of curiosity enabled me to make some unconscious skills conscious, and add new expertise where I was missing it. His curiosity had different biases from mine. He:
My own curiosity would have gotten me nowhere. Here was my Internal Dialogue:
How the hell do I draw a twisted shoulder? This sucks. Is this an eye/hand problem? Should I be looking differently? I need an anatomy class. Should I be holding my charcoal differently? Is it too big a piece? I can’t see a shadow near his shoulder. Should I put in a false shadow to help me get the proportions right?
Ron’s curiosity – based on me possessing skills – opened a wide range of possibilities for me. I never, ever would have found that solution on my own because my biases would have limited my curiosity to little more than an extension of my current knowledge and beliefs.
HOW TO EXPAND YOUR CURIOSITY
In order to widen curiosity to the full range of knowledge and allow our unconscious to accept the full data set available, we must evolve beyond our biases. Here’s how to have a full range of choice:
Curiosity effects every element of our lives. It can enhance, or restrict, growth, change, and professional skills. It limits and expands health, relationships, lifestyles and relationships. Without challenging our curiosity or intuition, we limit ourselves to maintaining our current assumptions.
What do you need to believe differently to be willing to forego comfort and ego-identity for the pursuit of the broadest range of possible answers? How will you know when, specifically, it would be important to have greater choice? We’ll never have all the answers, but we certainly can expand our choices.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? She has developed facilitation material for sales/change management, coaching, and listening. To learn more about her sales, decision making, and change management material, (www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com) go to www.sharondrewmorgen.com. To learn more about her work on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com. Contact Sharon Drew for training, keynotes, or online programs at email@example.com. Sharon Drew is currently designing programs for coaches to Find and Keep the Ideal Client, and Lead Facilitation for Lead Generation.
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
Published here on: 6-Nov-16
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