“Guys have underestimated me my entire life and for years I never understood why – it used to really bother me. Then one day I was driving my little boy to school, and I saw a quote by Walt Whitman, it was painted on the wall there and it said, ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that.” – Ted Lasso
If you’re not a fan of Ted Lasso, the show on Apple TV, I first need to implore you to become one. The joy in that show is good medicine, for all.
I don’t really want to talk about Ted today. Instead I want to talk about how being curious instead of judgmental is the cornerstone of not just my parenting, but my whole life. So much so that when we heard Ted, like many, misattribute that above quote to Walt Whitman, my kids all looked at me and said, “mom, Ted Lasso stole from you!”.
While I am certain I did not originate that sentiment, (nor did Mr. Whitman) I do know it’s such a part of who I am that my children identified it as mine right away.
Let me explain why curiosity serves all of us so much in all aspects of our life, especially those involving other humans, young and old.
I see it happen in my office. People make judgements and assumptions about other people or situations and it messes up so many things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone give me an explanation of a problem, usually involving a partner or a child, and when I ask, “How do you know? Did they say that?” The answer is always either a blank stare or some response involving what I can only assume is the person’s ESP because they “just know” how the other person would think, react or even feel about said situation.
Of course, I’m joking about the ESP. None of us are mind readers and the truth is, no matter how long we’ve been in a relationship with a person (including from birth) we can never fully know their motivation or true intention unless we ask.
It’s easy to think we can. I know I’ve done it and probably will in the future. Mostly, though I really try to notice when I’m creating the other side of the story in my own head, so I can redirect and get answers from the source instead.
As kids, we’re naturally curious. We don’t assume we know anything because we haven’t even considered that in our youth. So, we ask questions all the time. We look for instead of trying to figure them out on our own make them up our heads.
So why don’t we do that as adults? Instead of assuming another’s intentions or motivations, why don’t we just ask?
I can tell you, amazing things happen when you do. Connection, strengthening of relationships, opening of previously closed doors, growth; it all starts with being curious. I’ve seen the wonder of it all.
I challenge you to this. Tune into yourself and try to see when you judge or assume about a situation or another person. Then, get curious.
Kids behaving weird after school? Ask them what’s new or maybe what’s bothering them? Tell them you notice a difference and you’re curious why. They may be just as surprised as you that something’s up, so they won’t have an immediate answer. But your attention and willingness to help them find the explanation, judgement free, is great for you both.
Partner feeling distant? Rather than assuming it’s job stress, or (more frequently) they’re mad at you for something or just a bad partner, why not ask? Tell them you notice the two of you aren’t as connected as you’d like, or that they seem not themselves and you’re curious if they notice too. Together, you can figure out the why and maybe even find a new direction that helps you both.
Don’t fill in the blanks on your own. Don’t silently sit by, resentment or disconnection growing, because you’re making up the story in your head.
Instead, get curious. Bring in the team to help fill in the blanks instead. Then, watch the magic happen.
You got this.