Choosing Curiosity Over Judgment


Yesterday my daughter was telling me about a recent night out with friends, and as well as the fun they had, she had a moan about some of the behaviour exhibited.

One friend has a new boyfriend and has dropped all of her friends for him. This was the first night in ages they had actually managed to get her out, and she left early to be with him. Another, as usual, didn’t buy a round, or put any money towards the Uber at the end of the night. As my daughter vented to me, I pointed out how I am sure these friends weren’t behaving in such a way to annoy her.  In fact they probably aren’t even aware of their own behaviour.  Maybe the first has an anxious attachment style, and has thrown herself into this new relationship without realising she is dropping her mates.  Maybe the other friend had little money growing up, or has something going on that we don’t know about?

My daughter, disgruntled that I wasn’t just agreeing with her and bad-mouthing her peers with her, changed the subject abruptly , which started me thinking about my own thought processes here.

I was coming from my own place of curiosity over judgment:

  1. I wonder how this person is feeling?
  2. I wonder what happened to this person in their life?
  3. Is this person’s behaviour affecting me directly and if so, why?  Is it intentional? Is it my own triggers?
  4. What can I learn from this?
  5. Who is this human?
  6. What motivates them, and why?
  7. How might I feel if I were them?

I didn’t always come from this place.  I remember having to do a speed awareness course a few years ago, and actually finding it quite interesting. A big part of that was the assumptions we make about other drivers on the road.  But what if they have a woman in labour on board?  Are rushing to see a dying relative?

This was years before I became a therapist, and during my training, as part of becoming self-aware, I gradually learnt how to see the world through the lens of curiosity and compassion, and not judgment. The situation changes as soon as we change that lens we are looking through.

As Anais Nin put it,’We don’t see the world as it is.  We see it as we are’.

In other words, the assumptions we make about others come from a place created by all of our own experiences up until that point.

It is important to recognise that each human, big or small, has their own unique set of experiences and circumstances and is navigating the world through their own distinct lens. When we are curious and engage in listening to understand vs. listening to respond during an interaction, it is quite a rewarding experience.

When I came from a place of judgement, I assumed things should be different than what they were. I felt as though I knew everything, and had it all figured out. I could see where people were going wrong, and why. A small place inside my mind of perceived safety that my ego created and fenced off with ideas, conditioning and assumptions about life and how things should be (done). It feels safe because everything is known and knowledge suggests safety. So being curious and compassionate to my previous ‘self’, I can see that I became judgmental to keep myself safe in my world which was an unsafe one.

As well as safety, being judgemental is very limiting, just like staying inside our comfort zone is safe but limiting: learning and growth only happen outside my comfort zone, outside the known.  Judgement can bring stagnation and rigidity.

Conversely, curiosity is a place of growth and expansion. Curiosity is our desire to learn—to understand, investigate, and explore. When we honour our desire to learn instead of using our assumptions to judge, our communication improves, our relationships with others improve, our tolerance and resilience grows. And we feel more at peace.  Being curious and compassionate with yourself as well as others is the biggest step towards loving yourself and becoming aware of your own behaviour. Judgment and curiosity can’t live in the same place.

‘Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there’ (Rumi)


Andrea x

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