Viewing entries tagged
curiosity

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This I believe...

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In everything I write and talk about, I return over and over to a core concept: that curiosity and humility have incredible power to transform relationships, which in turn open up new possibilities for collaboration and creative problem-solving.

I was heartened when one of my readers seized upon it in last month’s post and wrote to me, saying: “I love that you write about the value of more humility and more curiosity—what a different world when this is cultivated.”

Yes, indeed! Imagine the possibilities!

This inspired me to dig up an essay I drafted back in 2005, when National Public Radio had a program called “This I Believe,” and invited listeners to contribute their essays. I wrote about believing that if we all cultivated more curiosity towards others, and humility in ourselves, we could make the world a better place for all. Curiosity and humility help us thrive, both individually and collectively, because they give rise to authentic connections, mutual understanding, empathy, and creativity—even as we disagree or see things differently.

Humility is often conflated with shame or submission. It is neither. Humility means acknowledging that we don't see all there is to see and that there is more to learn, often from unexpected sources. Curiosity is an open query, not knowing where it will take us, knowing only that it will expand our understanding in some way. Curiosity and humility are the foundation of deep wisdom, and they help endeavors to flourish.

Coincidentally, this dovetails with a podcast I listened to recently with Esther Perel, a well-known psychotherapist. She talks about the power of curiosity to revitalize a relationship—any relationship—by checking our tendency to assume that we know all there is to know about someone.

Subscribe to our newsletter for more about Perel’s podcast, including a few snippets that really resonated with me.

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Copyright © 2019 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.

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Impact vs. Intent: Which is more important?

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In the public sphere, much is being said about impact vs. intent. “If the impact of what you said or did makes me uncomfortable or offended or stressed, then you are at fault and your intent is irrelevant.” Impact is being touted as the only thing that matters.

But there is little logic in many of these affirmations; only scolding. Ironically, the same journalists who condemned Joe Biden for the discomfort he caused with his overly affectionate behavior also took umbrage with a mother who expressed her discomfort with young women wearing revealing leggings in church. The scolds blamed Joe Biden for his impact (his intent was immaterial), and then they reversed themselves and blamed the mother for not understanding the intent (and the impact she felt was trivialized). There’s no internal logic; the only consistency is the scolding. It reminds me of the game called Whack-a-Mole, where the objective is simply to squash another, over and over again.

I believe that in most cases, intent and impact matter in equal measure. A few weeks ago, I texted and then called one of my daughters with a suggestion that I hoped would relieve some stress from her daily overload (medical school, planning a wedding, and an upcoming trip). The impact was the opposite of my intent. She gently told me that I was adding to her stress because I was one more person she needed to respond to. We quickly cleared the air, laughed about the difference between my intent and how she received it, and we parted with a better understanding of each other. When I learned the negative impact of my actions—in a dialogue that was mutually respectful—I was open to hearing what I could do that would actually be helpful (which was my intent).

The crux of the matter isn’t who is right and who is wrong; it is whether or not the parties involved see and respond to the dignity of the other. Every experience is an opportunity to grow and learn; it is our choice whether or not to take it.

Communication is about the give and take between two or more beings who have different perspectives and frames of reference. We bump up against differences and misinterpretations many times a day. To function effectively, we need to engage with each other, with curiosity and humility, to try to find new solutions that take differing views and reactions into account. It means that we clarify, seek understanding, and hopefully find some common ground.

Contact us to learn more about the communication skills we teach for leadership and effective collaboration.

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Copyright © 2019 Sharon V. Kristjanson. All rights reserved.

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