Previously, we wrote an article to discuss the various reactions and options available when angry or upset over someone elses’ actions or words. In addition to pushing back or remaining silent, we also have the choise to be curious. 

Why would someone take the “Be Curious” approach?

  1. It Builds Understanding – Our perspectives are often driven by our experiences.  Our experiences are part of our story.  When you collect someone else’s story, you may learn something that explains the perspective that was offered.  It might not make what they said “right”, but it might help build empathy.  Most of the time, you will find that your perspectives aren’t as different as you thought.  You might even find some common ground that will allow you to collaborate with the person.
  2. You Might Be Wrong – Humans are at our most dangerous when we “know” we are right.  There is a good chance if you totally disagree with a statement, that you might be missing something.  By asking questions, you can explore this.  You might find out that the other person has a good point (even if it was delivered the wrong way).
  3. You Might Be Right – Arguing with a person seldom changes their mind.  In fact, it is very hard for one person to make another person change their mind.  However, it is much more possible for a person to change their own mind.  When you ask questions, you make a person unpack their own position.  If their position is untenable, they may discover it on their own and explore it deeper over time.  

Why not just Fight?

When you are mad, you aren’t thinking clearly.  Strong emotions tend to block the more logical parts of our brain and may put us into a fight or flight mode.  That’s why it’s important to “take a beat” when you hear something that makes you mad.  Fighting angry makes you bad at fighting.  It makes you say things you might not mean.  It makes you ruin relationships.  

The truth is that we need each other.  By taking a moment to asking a question, you are giving yourself precious time to think logically.  You might determine after consideration that you don’t want to have a relationship with the person, but taking time and being curious will give you time to make that decision rationally.  

What about the Other Person?

In a difficult conversation, it is tempting to focus your attention on what the other person is saying and how they are saying it.  If they are approaching the conversation the wrong way, it is easy to focus on what they are doing.  The best approach is to stay focused on how you handle the conversation.  You are the only thing you can control.  

Some Empathy Statements

  1. I’m sorry that happened to you
  2. That must have been hard
  3. This is clearly something you are passionate about.  
  4. Thank you for sharing your perspective with me. 

Some Good “Be Curious” Questions

  1. Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
  2. Can you tell me more about that?
  3. Tell me more about why you feel that way?
  4. Did something happen that made you feel like that? 
  5. Would you mind sharing where you got that information?

All of these tips are specific to set you up for success both in your communications and relationships. It can be daunting to argue or feel positioned in a conversation with no way out except defeat. Being curious keeps you engaged and in open dialogue, without making everyone feel put down, too.