Stuck is Stuck! Just Because
Do you ever feel stuck, frustrated that the same issues in your life today are those you also faced yesterday? Your default mechanism seems to be rooted in “because.” Because your direct reports don’t think for themselves. Because your wife didn’t take your advice. Because that company only cares about making money.
“Because” can be the scapegoat for our complaints, blames and judgments. But what if we shifted our self-justified knowing into conscious curiosity?
Invoking Conscious Curiosity
Curiosity is a concept we’re all familiar with and most of us probably like to think we keep an open mind and are open to new ideas and experiences. We research subjects we’re interested in, spending hours online investigating and exploring and learning from those we admire or that amuse us. When it comes to our relationships though, sometimes it’s easier to just throw our “because” on the situation.
Unfortunately, when we blame, complain about, or judge others, we are setting the Regressive Cycle in motion. These Reptilian approaches to meeting our needs disconnect us from others. To shift from the Regressive Cycle to the Progressive Cycle, we begin with Conscious Curiosity instead of making harmful statements. Curiosity sets the Progressive Cycle in motion because when we are genuinely curious about the thoughts, opinions, feelings, and needs of others, it sends a message that we care and that it’s safe to share with us. It also says, “I respect you enough to ask you for your input and listen to it.”
I was on a call the other day with a successful CEO who was complaining that people were always coming to him for solutions to their problems. He was annoyed that they weren’t stepping up to their leadership potential. When I asked him what he did when they showed up in his office, he said, “I tell them what to do.” Simple enough. But then he was frustrated that they weren’t leading to the level he wanted them to. If his need was for his leaders to be more engaged and take more responsibility, then providing solutions and then holding it against them was clearly not working. I suggested that in the future, he fight the urge to tell, and instead ask. Question first before making statements. Not only would this calm his reptilian reactions but would empower and support his team to come up with more creative and collaborative solutions.
What Makes Questions So Effective?
Asking questions, of both others and ourselves, invokes Conscious Curiosity. This opens up possibilities and draws us, and our relationships, towards what we really want. When we ask a question, we form a vacuum in the brain. Since our brain can’t stand a vacuum, it goes to work to answer the question. When this happens, electrical impulses begin to fire. Now our higher reasoning center, the neocortex, is in the driver’s seat, and the reptilian brain moves into the passenger seat. Our behavior shifts to a more reasonable and rational state and moves away from the aggressive or defensive way of operating. It takes time for the emotions to subside but if we keep being curious and asking questions, we can begin to engage those around us creatively rather than defensively.
When we self-monitor in this way, slowing down our responses enough to Consciously Choose Curiosity rather than to unconsciously react, the possible outcomes are far more positive. Remember, this is not about changing others, even though many of us probably have a long list of people we’d love to change. On the contrary, it’s about being personally responsible so that we respond in such a way as to elicit reasonable and rational reactions from others. Remember, though, while we can certainly influence other people, the only person we can truly change is ourselves. As the director Rob Reiner has said, “Everybody talks about wanting to change things to help and fix, but ultimately all you can do is fix yourself. And that’s a lot, because if you can fix yourself, it has a ripple effect.” When we change our reaction to others through Consciously Choosing Curiosity, something amazing happens. Our interaction with them also changes. We begin to operate in the Progressive Cycle, where safety and respect are present.
Spice it Up
An orthopedic surgeon I was interviewing told me that unless both participants in a situation are willing to change, the interaction would not change. He was adamant that those around him had to change, even his wife. I asked him whether he thought that changing his tone of voice, facial expression, and choice of words might make it easier to work with these people. He wasn’t quite sure. I told him I thought the interaction was like cooking. If we keep using the same recipe time and time again, we’ll keep getting the same results. But what if we add a different ingredient, like cinnamon? The flavor and taste will automatically change. It’s the same with our interactions. If we change ourselves and throw a different ingredient into the interaction, like curiosity, the interaction can’t help but change. We are in charge of the ingredients we throw into our interactions with others.
I hope you’ll throw some curiosity into your interactions and see how it affects your relationships and the results you’re attempting to achieve together.
About the webinar
The webinars and videos Martin does with Hayden are designed to deepen the awareness and understanding of Martin's two day workshop "Conscious Choosing for Flow." In the webinars Martin interviews Hayden as they discuss topics from Hayden's Book "Conscious Choosing for Flow Transforming Conflict Into Creativity."
These 15-20 minute webinars provide real-life examples of how consciously choosing curiosity impacts relationships and affects the results people are able to achieve. Martin is an affiliate of Conscious Choosing.