Our cat went missing this week. On the global scale of things, not exactly a major issue but for our family, it was huge. This little guy has captured our hearts and it was hard to think of anything else besides whether or not he was OK.
Before you tell me to settle down because let’s face it, cats do roam, let me explain my “why”. He was found by a neighbour as a tiny kitten, injured and on the brink of death. We never discovered what caused his trauma but he survived against the odds and made his home with our family of humans and pets.
As time passed, he grew into a strong and feisty boy but he remained vigilant especially when outdoors. He stayed near and never delivered any birds or mice as presents - thank goodness! At best, he managed to swat a passing fly or spider.
So we were worried. Very worried. We hunted high and low. We put food out. Left the garage door open. Watched the windows incessantly … but nothing.
And then, something interesting happened …
We spotted him on the CCTV camera recordings! 4am one morning, 3am the next. There he was, walking outside the front of the house. Looking. Exploring.
So the next night, we waited. Eyes glued to the images from the camera. Determined to be reunited.
And sure enough, he appeared again! He hadn’t given up. He came back to have another look. Having only ever ventured out into the back garden, the front of the house was unfamiliar. But still he returned.
Curiosity is a wonderful thing.
Little children are famed for it. With no “to-do list” or other responsibilities to speak of, they happily waste time looking under rocks and exploring for treasures.
But as adults, we get caught up in our tasks and worries and say “adieu” to our curiosity.
Yes, I know we live in the real world and there is an endless list of things that must be done … preferably yesterday … but …
there is an area where we would fare much better if we were to resuscitate our curiosity …
And that … is in conflict.
The average argument goes something like this …
I feel challenged or offended and so I either,
... shut down defensively,
... or I draw my metaphorical sword and slash the opponent. Usually (because I am a respectable adult), using words (rather than fists) as my weapon of choice.
Verbal arsenal can be openly aggressive in the form of words that belittle or demean others.
Or, … the aggression can be delivered with slight of hand. Sarcasm, parting comments that are intended to cut even though they are said under our breath.
The truth is … this angry dance rarely (if ever) achieves a successful outcome.
It may bring an end to the dialogue but the person who has been shut down does so without actually agreeing to what has been said.
Far from it! In silence, they build a deadly wall of resentment which constantly threatens the health of the relationship. At some point, the dam wall bursts and the damage may be irreparable. The partner leaves. The employee quits. The child refuses to go to school.
What if there was another way?
What if we took a leaf out of my kitty’s book?
Instead of assuming we are right, we use curiosity to find out more.
Instead of leaping to defend, we pause to ask some questions.
Why do you think that? ... What made you say that? ... Help me to understand? ... Tell me more?
Curiosity is the doorway to discussion.
It says, “I am interested in hearing your thoughts”... “I am listening”... “I value you”.
Curiosity creates a safe space where we can develop shared understanding. The space where “my story” and “your story” become “our story”.
That is a powerful place. A place where we discover the other person’s “why”. And when we do that, we move forwards. We find solutions.
Just this week, I heard about a child who was being punished at school for disruptive behaviour during Form time. His mother took the curious approach. Instead of reprimanding him or getting angry with the teacher, she asked questions.
And that’s how she uncovered his “why”. As an autistic child with a strong aversion to noise, he simply couldn’t cope. His behaviour was a cry for help. And punishment couldn’t solve that!
So embrace your inner curiosity the next time you have a tricky encounter. Your sword and your shield may win the battle but they certainly won’t win the war. Put them down and pick up the tool that is far more effective. Curiosity saved my cat and it just may do the same for your relationships!
Linda empowers and equips people to communicate effectively, find freedom in their relationships and experience greater emotional well-being.
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This blog post is for educational purposes and should not be taken as medical or therapeutic advice. If you need medical or therapeutic support, please consult your medical practitioner or therapist.