Cultivating an Attitude of Curiosity
I want you to like me but I don’t like you!” This was the basic dichotomy my coaching client presented me with. He was having an interesting time with one of his colleagues. As we explored what was happening in the relationship, he said “I don’t think he likes me very much” and when I questioned whether he liked him – he replied “no”. We did manage to work through this and gain some great personal insights which lead to some different choices of behaviour and I am happy to report the relationship is now on a far better footing!
And, the whole session got me thinking about liking someone and what influences that. Of course, it is easy to like people that are like us – whom we have things in common with, similar hobbies or interests: or we hold the same beliefs and values about politics, religion, or even parenting; or we have a shared sense of identity, perhaps we work in the same team or play at the same golf club; or with whom we have shared sense of mission or purpose – we are both trying to fund raise for the same charity or launch a new product to market. When we can find common ground, often it is relatively easy to build rapport and some sort of a connection.
I am curious about what makes it harder to get that connection with people who aren’t like us? Perhaps it is something to do with our unconscious biases – the judgements that we are making unconsciously every time we meet someone.
Implicit or unconscious bias happens by our brains making incredibly quick judgments and assessments of people and situations without us realising. We all make assumptions – it is a natural phenomenon driven by the survival instincts of our limbic brain that trigger our flight, fight or freeze response. Back in the day on the prairie, differences could often be dangerous and could result in you being eaten by something.
Today, our biases are influenced by our background, cultural environment, societal stereotyping and personal experiences. We may not even be aware of these views and opinions, or be aware of their full impact and implications.*
NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) has a great model (The Communication Model)**, which demonstrates how we filter our experience of the world unconsciously and create for ourselves our own realty based on what our filters are. We have 100s of filters including our beliefs, our values, our pervious experiences, how we like to take in and store information, how we hold time etc, etc. By gaining awareness of our filters we can make the unconscious bias / filtering, conscious. And once we have awareness of it we can, if we choose, change our behaviour!
Richard Bandler, one of the co-creators of NLP defined NLP as follows:
“NLP is an attitude, which is an insatiable curiosity about human beings, with a methodology that leaves behind it a trail of techniques.”
For me this attitude of curiosity lies at the heart of NLP – when something, someone or even myself is different than I expected, how can I avoid making judgements and maintain an attitude of curiosity?
One of the ways I have learnt and practiced over the years is to pay attention to my self-talk. When I notice it being judgemental – “they should have done …., he ought to have …., why can’t she just …..”, I change it to “Isn’t it interesting they choose to do that…, I am curious what lies behind that behaviour…I wonder what is really going on with …”
Another thing that I often do to is choose to believe certain things about the situation or person that have me feel more compassionate and curious. One of my mantra’s is “they are only doing the best they can with the resources they have access to right now”. It is surprising how just saying that to myself can shift me from judgemental to curious!
And the final one, that I want to share with you right now, is the Abraham Lincoln quote “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” I believe that there is something good and potentially interesting in everyone – if I can just take the time to find it out. Taking this view and almost overriding my unconscious bias, has enabled some wonderful relationships, which perhaps if I had gone on my first impression, I may not have had the privilege of having.
So perhaps it might be helpful to remember Roy T Bennett’s wise words
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
I am curious about how you get on being curious! Do let me know.
*There are significant implications of unconscious bias in the workplace and a lot has been written about it – here are a couple of articles I found interesting:
**If you would like a copy of The Communication Model, please email me Lisa@Lisabrice.co.uk and I will send you one over!
To find out more about my training, coaching, NLP or how horses can teach us valuable leadership lessons, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.