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Listening with Curiosity in Times of Social Distancing

Updated: Dec 28, 2022


“Generous listening is powered by curiosity, a virtue we can invite and nurture in ourselves to render it instinctive. It involves a kind of vulnerability - a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. The listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one's own best self and one's own best words and questions.” ― Krista Tippett


This quote from Krista Tippet struck a chord with me. It seems greatly appropriate for our time. Now that most of humanity, or at least a great number of us, is juggling some deep and big philosophical and spiritual questions, I have been wondering what it means to explore this topic of curiosity. In a very simplistic definition, curiosity is powered by our need to find answers and to know. As children, our curiosity was triggered by novelty, color, brightness as we went on about the task of discovering the world. But that changed as we grew up and now curiosity continues to be both universal and personal as it is driven by the things we are interested in or feel the need to know about.



Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels
Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

As we practice physical distancing from people and still look for ways to connect with one another, what would it look like to approach our conversations and brief interactions with others with a conscious intention to offer them our most generous listening? I mean, our vulnerability is right in front of us and we can’t escape it, but, in spite of that, to choose to go the extra mile and summon our best selves to be fully present to others; to be truly curious about what they have to share and how their words reveal to us something we didn’t know about them, and, as we set the intention to listening generously, to open ourselves to be surprised. It is worth trying, we may also learn something new about ourselves in the process.


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And finally, a random thought, I personally like it when I am surprised by curiosity. That is, when I learn something new and experience a sense of wonder because I didn’t know I “wanted or needed” it. It’s like reversed curiosity because I feel equally grabbed by it and suddenly open to all the other things I still have to learn. If you’re curious, this is the podcast that triggered this thought https://www.npr.org/2020/02/25/809336135/two-heartbeats-a-minute

If you choose to listen to it, make sure you listen to the end.

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