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The Art of Paying Attention Without Prejudice

  • POSTED ON MAY 30, 2019
Little hiker with binoculars

Curiosity opens our hearts and makes us wiser

Let me invite you to try a little thought experiment. Here are a few words, just marks on paper, bits and bytes on screens.

Here we go: the Las Vegas shootings, Brexit, Catalonian independence, North Korea. Had enough, already? I can hear shutters clanging and doors closing. Unless we are already in an advanced state of enlightenment (count me out), every one of those words produces an immediate embodied emotional reaction. We’re trapped, ensnared, enraged, confused, afraid. And the bad news is, that happens to us time after time, day after day, especially if we’re news junkies or social media twitchers. The first thing that flies out of the window is one of the great coaching and leadership skills: curiosity.

In the Co-Active Model, which is not just for coaching but also for leadership and life in general, we emphasize the power and value of curiosity, the power of paying attention without judgment and without prejudice.Curiosity has an innocence, acceptance, and willingness to learn, an openness to what is happening rather than reliance on snap judgments. Curiosity is innocent, but it is not naïve. It doesn’t quite know what’s going on, but it is more than willing to listen and to learn, to gain greater wisdom, awareness, and insight.

It’s hard to stay curious when we hear about the big issues, challenges, and conflicts, but with focused energy and attention, we can ignite our curiosity and change how we relate to others.

Try to understand and avoid judgments. Judging shuts down curiosity. It stops us from thinking, feeling, and caring about where others are coming from. In today’s political climate, judgments can happen before we even realize it. Try to really pay attention and when you find yourself judging, stop, take a few deep breaths, and start asking questions. Seeking to understand will free you from judgment and get your curiosity in the game again.

Read, watch, explore something that stretches you. Take 10-15 minutes each day to read or watch something that you would not normally be drawn to. For example, if you tend to read political articles, try to find an article about a new scientific discovery, or an essay on life from a thoughtful, inspired writer. Stretch yourself daily. You’ll be surprised by the results.

Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to get curious with the people you encounter. It’s a great way to learn more and deepen your relationships.

Ask yourself some real questions. Why do you believe the things you do? Why are you behaving the way you do? Really take a look at what’s moving and motivating you.

Once we’re able to ignite our curiosity, the other healing qualities of true leadership can come into play. We can appreciate the qualities and values and commitment of others (even the ones we don’t agree with), and we can begin to understand what they truly need and want. Igniting your curiosity is the first step?

How are you firing up your curiosity?

Written By

Antony Parry

Antony Parry worked for more than three decades as a news reporter, editor and a trainer of journalists on four continents. He now coaches individuals, teams and relationships, and specializes in writers, consultants and financial experts—or anyone else who turns up with a sense of fun and adventure. He still turns his hand to writing and course design and loves working with individuals, systems and relationships facing tough and rewarding challenges.

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