He was walking along beside me, looking around him – and being uncharacteristically quiet. Then, as four or five-year olds do, he stopped and made a few attempts to say it but in the emotion of the moment the words sort of log-jammed a bit before he could get them out: ‘Why… emm why… why are the clouds so high?’
It was one of those ‘get out of that one questions’! Do you give a sensible and logical and scientific answer, which would damp the moment of curiosity and wonder, or do you keep the mood going by throwing the question back to him?
I did the latter, with a ‘what do you think?’ question, and we had a wonderfully existential chat.
The curiosity attitude
Curiosity about anything and everything is a trait which we all had – and which some lucky people manage to maintain all their lives. How does this work? What are they doing or saying? Why have you got wrinkles? What would happen if we did it differently? Why do we have to do it now? Why don’t we weigh more immediately after a big meal? (Good question, incidentally!)
NLP grew out of curiosity – out of the ‘how is it possible?’ attitude. The originators noticed that therapists (since they initially observed or modelled therapists) using quite different approaches could be equally successful.
Curiosity, fresh solutions and innovation
We need to be able to throw preconceptions, expectations, prejudgements, etc. aside and simply be curious otherwise our approach to difficulties and set backs risks producing ‘more of the same’ solutions.
Einstein, a very curious man, said ‘Our thinking creates problems that the same type of thinking will not solve.’
Curiosity is an essential part of the innovative attitude. It’s one of the traits that account the outstanding success of Toyota (more recently acquired traits such as greed and the inability to manage rapid expansion may be about to account for its demise.)
That’s why many big businesses have ‘playrooms’ in which creativity teams sit around on beanbags and play with toys and re-connect with their playful and curious side. This interesting approach often does work because of the anchoring effect of the childlike surroundings and props. But it’s a strange, and for some a rather awkward and embarrassing, way of doing something which NLP anchoring can do in a more straight-forward manner – for example, in our own NLP Core Skills course we use a simple anchoring exercise to re-develop Curiosity as part of the five key states which make up the Pegasus NLP Attitude.
Curiosity and self protection
Most of us have a conditioned response to the criticism or the nastiness of others. We respond with a ‘what is wrong with me?’ attitude – thereby empowering them – rather than being curious about them and their motivation e.g. Why are they being so nasty? Are they, perhaps, unhappy? Are they seeking to have power over me? Why are they picking on this particular toipic – and at this particular moment.
Here our sense of curiosity about them and their motives is our first response – and this is proactive rather than defensive.
Curiosity and self management
Many of our personal and professional difficulties arise because we approach them with the pigheaded ‘no pain no gain’ approach in which, as the difficulty escalates, we try harder rather than smarter. Hence the NLP comment ‘if you always do what you’ve always done you always get what you’ve always got!’ Einstein is attributed with a similar quote ‘Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting diffferent results’.
Curiosity enables us to consider what we did and why it didn’t work to our satisfaction from many different angles and come up with fresh angles.
Curiosity feels good
Yes, it does feel good to be curious! It’s the kind of emotion many of us move into when exploring new places or activities – like your first morning on a foreign holiday in a country you’ve never been to before!
If we could have it, if we could take time to smell the roses – and wonder about the clouds, it could make a curious difference.
The good news is that we all felt intensely curious about everything – even if only for a short period in our lives and even if it was way, way back – so the neural pathways still exist… even if they’ve become a little overgrown 🙂