Choosing Curiosity Over Judgment

We often choose between judgment and curiosity. Which one tends to serve you better?
Christi Hegstad April 16th, 2019

In nearly any situation, we can choose between two mindsets: a judgmental one, or a curious one.

For example:

Someone posts an opinion on social media with which you disagree. You might write her off as foolish (judgment), or you might ask a few questions (curiosity), such as genuinely inquiring what beliefs or life experiences led her to those conclusions. If you choose curiosity, you might learn a new perspective, or experience empathy, or practice respectfully agreeing to disagree.

Or maybe someone drives a bit under the speed limit on the freeway. You could assume he’s inconsiderate and a terrible driver (judgment) and expend a bunch of energy getting upset. Or you could imagine what else might be happening (curiosity); maybe he’s a teenager and has never driven on the freeway before, or maybe he was recently in an accident and it’s his first time behind the wheel again. You’ll likely never know the real reason, but wouldn’t a curious approach bring a bit more peace?

I had a client who was extremely driven. She frequently took on new projects, always went for the promotions, and did what she could to increase her paycheck. To an outsider, it may look like she put money above all else; she sometimes received comments to that effect.

To her, however, she was caring for her family: She vividly remembers growing up with very little, watching her parents struggle to make ends meet, and the strain her entire family felt around filling even their basic needs. She wanted more for her family, and she also donated a great deal to help other families find their way out of such challenging circumstances.

Someone who judged her on appearances would miss out on a beautiful story of overcoming – as well as a truly kind and loving human.

Curiosity is open. Curiosity is kind. Curiosity tends to lead to more accurate findings. In my profession – coaching – curiosity is an absolute job requirement. There is no way I could effectively coach someone if I spent the session judging him!

Ask questions. Seek alternative possibilities. Assume positive intent.

Judgment is too easy and too boring. (There. I just judged judgment! :-)) Judgment tends to lead us astray.

Where could you let go of judgment and replace it with curiosity this week?

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