On Questioning Curiosity

Cultural Competency

I am struck at this moment by the volume of polarization sweeping our nation. A concerted effort to shelter and protect our views, to limit proximity to anything that might venture outside of our current patterns of thinking. Demonstrated in our politics, approach to vaccines, or even scarier in institutions, like our schools and libraries that, albeit imperfect, have traditionally been sought out as places of knowledge.

These issues and points of conflict have risen above the water’s surface. We can see them and name them and often experience them in real-time. Yet, my thoughts continue to come back to the more subtle ways we actively protect our worldviews, and I can’t help but wonder at what point we lost our curiosity.

Even as I sit in community with those who remain curious, I observe the limitation of that curiosity. It is the desire to understand different perspectives, cultures, lived experiences; so long as one can relate to what is shared. “Isn’t it great that we work in the same industry, both have kids, and enjoy a jog in the morning?” A polite smile, a light-hearted laugh, all the while ignoring that we are not having the same experiences even with the similarities.

The desire to dig a little deeper has me further wondering how we might experience each other if we intentionally choose to pull back the layers. How might our perspectives expand if we sat in curiosity long enough to:

  • Bear witness. To witness with empathy and honor what is shared. To actively listen with the intent of understanding another’s perspective, allowing them to be the tellers of their own story. To provide time and space to listen without adulteration or response on how you had a similar experience, or how this reminds you of a time when____ happened.
  • Ask how similarities might differ. When the moment arrives to deepen the conversation, acknowledge the similarities present, and take the further step to understand what might be different about the experience. Yes, we were both promoted to a new role, or perhaps even experienced gender discrimination, but “What was that experience like for you? How did you make sense of the situation?”
  • Explore the meaning behind the differences. Keeping in mind that, while groups, cultures, etc., may create a shared sense of how to navigate the world, no group of people is monolithic. If we wish to understand the perspectives of both groups and individuals who are different from us, diving down further, curiosity presents us with an opportunity to deepen our learning. It may take the form of a simple, “Thank you for sharing, I hadn’t considered that before,” or an opportunity to keep the conversation flowing, “How did this situation shape your belief about…? How does this tie to your values?”

There are many pathways to understanding differing viewpoints. Yet we may find growth stagnant absent a clear focus on what knowledge we wish to build.

So out of curiosity, how are you challenging your worldview?

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