Open and curious is a helpful mindset shift for navigating relationships and challenges. In this week’s episode, we dive into Pam’s mantra and some of the many ways that it has proven to be so valuable in our lives. Being open and curious takes us back to beginner’s mind and allows us to see possibilities and question limiting beliefs that no longer serve us.
We hope today’s episode sparks some fun insights for you and we invite you to dive deeper with our Episode Questions. Join us on Instagram or YouTube to continue the conversation and share your reflections.
Let’s dig deep, challenge paradigms, choose connection, and live joyfully!
- How does it feel to think about being open and curious about the people in your life? What do you discover through that lens?
- Try being open and curious while navigating a conflict this week, rather than jumping right to the solution you have in mind. What felt different?
- Think about something in your life that you’re feeling stuck around. What bubbles up when you approach it with openness and curiosity? What other possibilities exist?
- Next time you’re judging something your partner or child is choosing to do as “bad,” play with the question “Who would I be without this perspective? What would I do instead? How would that feel?”
ANNA: Hello and welcome to the Living Joyfully Podcast. Thanks so much for joining us as we explore relationships, who we are in them, out of them, and what that means for how we move through the world.
If you’re new to the podcast, we encourage you to go back and listen to the earlier episodes. We started with some foundational relationship ideas and have really enjoyed how they’ve been building upon one another. And if you’ve already been enjoying the podcast, we’d love it if you could leave a rating and a review. That definitely helps new people find us.
In today’s episode, we’re gonna talk about being open and curious. This is something you will hear us say a lot. I first heard about it from Pam and I find myself saying it daily at this point. When you think about the opposite, it’s being closed and disinterested, so it’s pretty easy to see why we both love it.
I don’t want to move through the world feeling closed and disinterested, and it definitely doesn’t help us solve problems or to connect with the people around us.
Being open and curious serves us in our relationships on a lot of different levels. When we’re open and curious about our partner, we want to understand them, what’s important to them, why they see things the way they do. We want to set aside any judgment and really lean into connecting with the person in front of us.
When I find myself not understanding something they did or said, I can remind myself to be open and curious about it, to not jump to conclusions, to not write a story, like we were talking about last week.
That gives us the best chance to avoid a misunderstanding. And part of being curious is asking questions and listening.
PAM: Yeah. I love this so much. I have found open and curious to be such a helpful lens to bring to my relationships. For me, it’s a quick way to get to beginner’s mind, which is a place where I don’t feel like I have to know the answers, and I’m just curious to learn more. I often feel a sense of wonder and a childlike energy when I can get there. And it’s not childish. Childlike. There’s a big distinction.
So, when I’m open and curious, I’m attentive and I’m interested in hearing new ideas and new perspectives. I want to learn how the other person is seeing things. I want to learn what they’re interested in and why it lights them up. And, of course, that doesn’t mean forgetting about who I am.
To me, beginner’s mind is about understanding that the world is richer than just my story. My story, the one I tell about myself, is definitely a vibrant thread, but it also weaves alongside the stories of the other important people in my life. And it reminds me that their story is theirs to tell and I want to listen. I want to know them, not my version of them.
And to take that metaphor just one step deeper, being open and curious reminds me to explore the tapestry of my life, which includes the people I love and care about, not just the thread of my story, thinking it’s the one right way to move through the world. It’s a tapestry of unique people and stories that weave together to create the bigger picture of my life, which leads us nicely into the next aspect that we wanted to talk about, doesn’t it?
ANNA: It does. Because being open and curious also really serves us when there’s a conflict. So often, when we find ourselves in a conflict, we have in our mind the right answer, how this needs to resolve for me to be satisfied. And unfortunately, It just rarely works out the way we plan.
If we come into the conflict pushing our agenda as the only way, we put the other person on the defensive and we end up spending a lot of time defending ideas back and forth, really rarely hearing the other person’s perspective at all. And if we come into the disagreement with this open, curious mindset that we’re talking about, we aren’t abandoning our ideas, like you said, we’re just remaining open to hearing the other person’s perspective.
That energy is felt by the other person, and then they are so much more likely to join us on the journey to understand and figure out options. We’re going to be committed to finding something that works. We’re going to get there faster by remaining open and not tunneling in on our one perspective or idea or what the fix should be.
PAM: I know, for me, when I first heard the advice years ago to listen to my partner, it made so much sense. So, when we were navigating a conflict, I listened. But eventually I realized I was still holding tightly to my right answer, and my listening was mostly focused on picking up the pieces that aligned with my solution, right? Everything else just kind of flew by. I truly wasn’t hearing their perspective. I wasn’t hearing their story. I was only taking in what I thought I could use to support my agenda or my solution, that tunnel vision that you mentioned.
And unsurprisingly, we often ended up at an impasse that way. Each person trying their best to defend and convince the other that their interpretation of the situation and their proposed solution is a right one. Our conversations were energetically draining and steeped in a power dynamic that definitely strained our relationship.
So, once I came to recognize what was happening, I chose to instead try to bring an open and curious mindset with me into our conversations. How are they seeing the situation? What parts of it feel important to them? What parts feel especially challenging to them? Does that make sense alongside what I know about them as a person, all the things we talked about way back in episode three that make them the unique person they are, their personality, their strengths, their weaknesses, sensitivities, all those pieces?
And in these more open conversations, with defensiveness down and curiosity up, there was space for me to share my thoughts and perspectives, not with the energy that this was the solution, but as more information to consider. And without that grasping and no longer feeling like the only choices we have are their initial solution or mine, we could often find a third or a fourth or a fifth path forward right through the situation that took each of our perspectives and needs into consideration.
So, it turns out that open and curious mindset not only gave me the space to learn more about what was going on, it also gave me more space to get creative in finding a solution that worked for everyone involved.
The process is like a muscle that gets stronger with practice. With each experience, where shifting to being open and curious helped us creatively navigate a challenge or a conflict, it became a bit easier to shift the next time, and then the next. Over time, I found myself shifting more quickly from defending myself to trusting that we could find a way through together. Being open and curious just helps me in so many ways, in so many situations with so many people.
ANNA: Oh my gosh, yes. I see it in so many different ways and I feel like it’s one of those tools we can cultivate that gives us something to do instead of taking things personally when we’re in a conflict. And that is so key when we want to navigate those conflicts with more ease and connection.
And this idea is also really important if we find ourselves stuck or with some limiting beliefs. Often this involves outside voices or some cultural constructs that maybe aren’t serving us. And if we bring that open and curious mindset to it, we can start asking questions. Where are these ideas coming from? Are they serving me? Who would I be without them? What other options can I find?
But we can only get there if we open up our minds beyond the parameters that are being applied to us by forces that don’t know who we are or what’s important to us. This allows us to start questioning these societal constructs. So, if I’m in a job that I don’t love, why am I still here? What’s stopping me from leaving? What would life look like if I made a different choice? How would that feel?
And also things we view as “have tos”. We talked about this a few episodes ago as well. We can start to question those have tos. And being open and curious allows that exploration to move us away from things that aren’t serving us, the things we’ve just accepted even if we don’t like the way they feel. “Relationships should be this,” you know, “School looks like this,” “Being successful looks like that.”
All these ideas are worth questioning, especially if we’re wanting to live our best life, a life where we can truly thrive.
PAM: Yeah. When we realize that we can question everything, that we can be open and curious about all the possibilities, I swear it just feels like the whole world opens up. I feel so much lighter. And it’s fun that you mentioned that. One of my favorite thought experiments is to play with the opposite perspective to see how it feels, particularly when I’m feeling stuck or frustrated.
So, say the story I’m telling myself is, I hate that my kid wants to play video games all the time. In my head, it’s fascinating to explore the question, “Well, what if I was a person that loved that my child is excited to play video games all the time?” So, being open and curious means letting the likely immediate reaction of listing all the reasons I think that’s a silly perspective just float on pass, because that’s definitely not being open and curious, and then just noticing what comes up next. How would I feel in those circumstances when I saw my child happily playing?
Well, I think I’d be happy too, because I like this. I’d probably have a big smile on my face.
And then I was like, okay, so then what would I do? If this was something I loved and I was excited about, I’d probably join them, sitting with them, and watching them play. I’d listen attentively to what they shared. And they’d probably be really happy that I’m showing an interest in something that they really enjoy. I’d cheer with them when they beat the boss or finished the level or solved a vexing puzzle, and we’d celebrate together.
So, I have that vision in my head, and then maybe it would occur to me to ask myself, so what’s wrong with that? It sounds like I’d be seeing their game playing through their eyes, which definitely helps me better understand who they are. And it sounds like a very connecting thing to do, which is something that I want to do. So, when I play with that thought experiment, so often I discover that things aren’t as bad as I imagined them to be on the other side. And I can ask myself, why was I holding on so tightly to my fear and judgment of the thing?
It’s just a great tool for me when I’m feeling stuck around what often turns out to be a conventional message that I’ve absorbed, that once I take some time to play with it and dig a bit deeper into it, I discover it really doesn’t make so much sense to me in my life in this moment.
ANNA: Exactly. And I think it’s so interesting that we can find ourselves defending and enforcing ideas because we think we’re supposed to, yet, when we choose to examine them, we find they don’t serve us or our relationships at all. And that open and curious mindset allows us to tune into ourselves and evaluate ideas related to who we are and how we want to move through the world.
Another time I use this idea a lot is when something bad happens, especially something that I might initially label as bad. Instead I can say, hmm, I wonder what’s going to happen here. I wonder what’s coming next. I don’t have to have all the answers. I don’t know all the things.
So, being curious allows me to look for new directions around things that might first be considered roadblocks. I don’t want to be shut down by what happens to me and around me. And the fastest way for me to avoid a spiral is to start asking questions and look at the issue with a wider lens, not jump into the judgment about it.
PAM: Yeah, that makes such a big difference. When you can just know that there are other possibilities. We talked about that tunnel vision, and we can especially feel that when something is going wrong or bad around us and we can get really fixated and pulled into that. But when we can take a step back to start asking questions around it and just looking a little bit bigger picture, that really keeps the possibilities bubbling.
ANNA: Right, and I think it’s related to the things we’ve talked about with time. There’s plenty of time. Because that’s the other thing. You feel the expansiveness of that open curious mindset. So, when something happens, instead of locking in and the judgment, you can feel that expansiveness of, hey, I can take a few minutes to kind of look at this from the wider perspective. So, I like those inner things that we can find energy shifts, because that’s what can help us move through any of these challenges, bumps, conflicts, whatever, with a little bit more ease.
PAM: Exactly. The energy is the whole thing, because the energy is, is ours, but it’s also the energy that we’re bringing to our interactions with everybody around us. It’s so helpful.
ANNA: So, here are some questions you might want to ponder as you explore the idea of being open and curious this week. How does it feel to think about being open and curious about the people in your life? What do you discover through that lens?
Number two, try being open and curious while navigating a conflict this week, rather than jumping right to the solution you have in mind, and then look at what felt different. How did that change how that conflict played out?
Think about something in your life that you’re feeling stuck around. What bubbles up when you approach it with openness and curiosity? What other possibilities exist that maybe you didn’t see at first?
And next time you’re judging something your partner or child is choosing to do as bad, play with that question. Who would I be without this perspective? What would I do instead? How would that feel?
So, hopefully you’ll take some time to think about those questions and about what an open and curious mindset could bring to your life. And we really appreciate you listening and being here with us today, and we will see you next time.
PAM: Yes! Bye.