Allies Stay Curious

Curiosity vs. the Status Quo

Curiosity did not kill the cat. Curiosity is essential for those who hope to be allies. As children, we are naturally curious about the world around us. We ask a lot more questions than claim to have answers. As we age, we tend to slowly lose this curiosity. As we age it becomes harder to imagine the world being different than how we have experienced it. We have a knack for saying things like, “that’s just the way it is,” or “that’s the way we’ve always done it” when questioned about the status quo.

The status quo is the antithesis of diversity. To eradicate the status quo, we must be curious and open our minds up to new possibilities and new ways of doing things. Curiosity is shifting the mindset from what I know to what I wish I knew. It’s understanding that I don’t have all the answers, but that is a good thing. It’s an opportunity to learn, instead of the fear of being wrong, or the risk of saying “I don’t know.”

Curiosity is the gap between what you know and what you want to know.

Curiosity is one of the ally skills that we can lean on our kids to help us as adults. We can follow their lead. Watch how they stay curious in the face of uncertainty and adversity. Instead of locking in on one answer, they’re more willing to consider a vast array of possibilities. Their minds stay open to new possibilities because they have not experienced as many negative experiences as adults generally do. Research has shown that the more time adults spend with children, the more their curiosity rubs off on us.

This is why vulnerability and curiosity go hand-in-hand. As adults, it’s difficult for us to let go of control and risk not knowing the answers, especially in a delicate conversation like DEI. If curiosity elicits fear for you, ask yourself what’s the worst that could happen? What could I learn from this? What is possible?

Children are naturally curious

One of the compulsions we have, especially as caregivers and parents, is to advise our children. Adults love to tell children what to do when they’re dealing with adversity. Last year, my six-year-old daughter was dealing with a bullying situation in school. She would come home with unpleasant stories about what had happened to her and her friends that day.

At first, I jumped right into advising mode. As I was telling her what to say and do, she would look at me wild-eyed and overwhelmed with my adult advice. After a few attempts to solve her problem for her she finally told me that she did not think that would work. That was my “aha” moment. Taking a cue from her bewilderment as a chance to be better, I began reframing my approach to her problems with, “is this a situation where you want me to give you advice or you want me to listen?” Now, 90% of the time she answers that question with “I just want you to listen, Mom.” My job as a parent just got a lot easier by just simply staying curious.

Curiosity requires a lot of energy. It’s hard to stay in the curious mindset for a long time. The brain desires certainty and avoids ambiguity. If you find this difficult, be sure to give yourself a break. Like many of the skills detailed in this book, with practice, curiosity will get easier for you. Take a walk, meditate, shift gears to another task, and come back to something that requires your curious energy. Often, just holding the curious mindset for a few more minutes or even a few more seconds, can do wonders for the realm of possibilities.

Allies stay curious a little longer.

What’s next?

Want to do better, and not sure where to start? That is why we developed the Lead Like an Ally virtual self-paced training program, perfect for organizations struggling with accountability for diversity. You can also check out all of our other virtual and live program offerings.