Replace judgment with curiosity
Monday, October 29, 2018 at 03:14PM

Originally published as Guest Commentary in the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal (October 29, 2018)

Replace judgment with curiosity.  I don’t know if these words found me or if I found them, but they have transformed my life, my work, and my understanding of human-ness. 

I also don’t know if these words represent a quote, a statement, a rally cry, or serve as simple words of wisdom.  Perhaps it is all of those things.  I absolutely do know that they have proven time and time again to be foundational in conversations around personality science, coaching for perspective, and Applied Improvisation methodologies.  

These words are that powerful.  They are that simple.  They are that life changing. 

Living in the land of judgment is a place we all know well.  We hold court there everyday, subjecting our perceived superiority other others.  Don’t believe me…?  Think again. 

Take the simple act of sacking groceries at any big box store.  You have the option of going through the checkout process being assisted by a store clerk, or doing your own thing utilizing the self-checkout system.  Either way your items will get bagged.  I have a strong hunch though that you may not sack your items in the same fashion as the store clerk – for reasons that are unique to you.  Logical even.  Perhaps this is the exact reason why you tend to favor the self-checkout in the first place.  You like your process.  It serves you better. 

I know this to be true. I have been down this road myself.  What you have in this example is the same outcome – sacking groceries.  But we tend to justify our process as the better way (right way) of doing it and then judge the other way (that’s often code for the wrong way) of that same task when someone else does it. 

And this scenario plays out all day long.  In big and small ways.  And in important and trivial ways.  We don’t even know we’re doing it.  Until we stop doing it.

My grocery store story is trivial.  But extrapolate this mindset to business strategies, sports, and loved ones.  From the boardroom to the soccer field to our most coveted relationships, we justify our own behavior.  We judge the same behavior from others.

Judgment is a burden.  It’s heavy to hold, emotionally draining, and drenched in negativity.  It is also petty.  All characteristics that paint a pretty pitiful picture of how we operate from that point of view. 

Enter the freedom of curiosity.  Curiosity is, essentially, a state of mind.  Being curious is being joyful.  It is lighthearted, open and inviting, buoyed in positivity.  It is also closely tied to happiness as referenced in a slew of recent studies published in the field of positive psychology.   

I believe people are capable of great change.  I see it all the time.  In big and small ways.  And in important and trivial ways.  Humans have a great capacity to rise above that which is holding them back.  To change their mindsets.  To shift thinking patterns.  To see the world through a different lens.

Learning to replace judgment with curiosity is about shifting your perspective.  It’s about approaching a situation from a more positive and productive outlook.  A world of possibilities exists if we take the time to be more curious.  To ask a few more questions, to be a bit more thoughtful, to be open to more and different ways of thinking and being, and to be more generous with others.  More, more, more. 

Replace judgment with curiosity.  Shifting your perspective is that powerful.  It is that simple.  It is that life changing. 

We’ve all heard what curiosity may have done to the cat, but as it turns out, curiosity is a thriving state of mind for human beings. 


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