Stay Curious Longer: Having the Humility to Slow Down
This week, we’re diving into our first value:
STAY CURIOUS LONGER
Inquire and interrogate. Humility fosters learning. Failure promotes innovation.
Great questions even over good answers.
This value is a “practice what you preach” opportunity for us here at Box of Crayons. It’s not enough to help organizations transform from advice-driven to curiosity-led. We need to nurture it in our company too: structurally, in our team meetings and interactions and in our individual work. We think embracing this value acknowledges the importance of curiosity in developing the capabilities — like connection, empathy, resilience and innovation — that will help us do our great work.
In the reflection below, Box of Crayons’ Marketing Coordinator, Carolyn Reimer, shares how this value shows up in her personal life.
I think I’m a pretty curious person. I’m a lover of learning and have been a teacher. I always have one or two books on the go, I’m an avid traveler and invest in really great conversations. You know, the kind that bypasses the annoying small talk and gets to the things that really matter: big ideas, deep feelings, important issues …
I had a one-on-one chat with someone recently. Let’s call this person “Chris”. We were both busy, and this was a chance for us to connect, take a breath and check in with each other.
“What’s on your mind, Chris?”
Chris proceeded to tell me everything that was going on in their life right now, including the incredible stress they were under with juggling life and work and home-schooling kids during our provincial lockdown due to COVID-19. It felt immense, and it wasn’t even my direct experience.
I jumped in. “Chris! That’s a LOT. Seriously, you should lob some of those work things over the fence to the rest of your team.”
My empathy was in overdrive.
I really wanted to make sure Chris felt supported and to ease some of their stress.
I felt pretty good about myself for offering a place for Chris to share and for my empathic response. I was even willing and able to take on some of the work. Go me!
But Chris had more to say. There was all the stuff about pressure from people higher up. And more things about how hard it was to manage the kids’ schooling and activities. And then deeper feelings of being pulled in different directions and of overwhelm, with no clear sense of when things were going to ease up.
I was becoming increasingly aware that my suggestion was actually inadequate to the situation …
Stay Curious Longer!
Looking back, my intention was good. I wanted, and did, start from a place of curiosity. But I didn’t stay in that place long enough. My own (unconscious?) drive to be useful and supportive served to cut Chris off before getting to the deeper issues — ones I couldn’t fix or make better in any substantial way. I would’ve been better off listening longer. Biting my tongue at the moment I jumped in.
My well-intentioned answer to Chris’s stress wasn’t a bad one: support and space could be found in delegating out some part of the work that Chris didn’t have to do themselves. But it was useless — even bad — advice for everything else that was going on.
I’ve been on the receiving end of trite solutions and platitudes myself, and know how eye-rollingly irritating they are: just stay positive; one day at a time; and my “favourite”, miracles happen! Each and every one made me feel worse — sometimes incredibly worse — than if the other person had just listened openly.
My easy solution for Chris was more about me than about Chris. And my work is the inquiry into that.
Have the humility to slow down.
Isn’t it interesting how staying curious just that little bit longer can completely change our perception of a situation and broaden our understanding? All too often we think we have the best solutions for problems we know very little about. We rush in with advice the second we get a chance to chime in. Who benefits from this? Ourselves — the advice-givers? Sure, we feel good about providing “answers” and moving on, but like Carolyn mentioned, sometimes the person on the other end feels ultimately worse when this happens.
There are all sorts of differences — visible and invisible — that shape how people experience the world. Embracing the value of curiosity requires humility in order to be open to other people and to learn. Staying curious longer does some amazing things: it slows down the rush to judgement and allows for a real understanding of other perspectives and approaches.