Greatness Project 2017: Are We Really Curious?
The fake commercial by the Saturday Night Live cast about Amazon Silver, “the echo built for seniors,” is very funny and very true. And one part of the commercial is very close to reality. One of the characters keeps asking Alexa how Satchel Page batted today. Alexa responds that Satchel Page is dead. The character mumbles “I don’t think so.” And that is where the commercial is like many of us. We KNOW the truth don’t we? Even in the face of evidence we hold on to our beliefs. And that is what gets in the way of openness, acceptance, empathy, and innovation. We are so certain that we have all the answers.
In my consulting practice with individuals and organizations we continue to offer a mantra when they come to a session, “be curious, not certain.” Yet even as I have experienced, this is tougher to say than it is to live out. Why? Because most of lean toward a confirmation bias. We believe we already have the right answer, so we look for the information that will lead us back to what we know or what we want to believe. It is not easy to keep an open mind.
Right now, what divides so much of our world, is this lack of curiosity. No matter where we live we believe we have the answers, the correct beliefs, the way it should be. And we dig our heels in and refuse to even hear what others might think. So, it affects us on a world-wide level, but it also affects us personally.
When we can’t hear our lover’s insight on something we might personally change, when we can’t have a dialogue at dinner unless everyone agrees, when we are “unfriending” people just because they hold a different view, we aren’t curious. That lack of curiosity leads to a narrowness that breeds a sense of superiority and eventually anger.
Yet, when we enter a space, a dialogue, a learning environment, even listen to a show we don’t normally listen to, and we let go of our pre-conceived notions, then we will really hear the other. When we are willing to ask more questions than state our opinion, we can learn. And when we place ourselves in the situation of another individual and see it from their point of view we will know real empathy.
Curiosity is not the characteristic of someone lacking knowledge. Curiosity is the skill of someone who courts wisdom, who embraces change and loves diversity. It starts by putting aside our ego and believing that we can learn from everyone, everything, and every situation. Curiosity can change our lives and it can change the world. Be curious, not certain.