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man holding his chin facing laptop computer

What could happen if instead of reacting we just asked a curious question?

By ThinkingNo Comments

So much has happened in the last 3 months.

Families brought together for never-ending half-terms, people who live on their own cut off from physical contact, a world-wide invisible enemy attacking without pre-thought and uncomfortable decad-delayed truths surfacing about how society treats race.

As my wife, Nicolle, rushed into the kitchen whilst I was on a zoom call the other morning, 20 minutes before she normally would even be awake, I reacted with annoyance and carried on with my call.

man holding his chin facing laptop computer
Reconstruction — not actually me

After I finished the call I went to find out what had happened (or ask for a well-deserved apology) I found her dealing with a genuine work emergency that involved multiple emergency and public services.

The guilt instantly flooded me.

Why did I react like that without a thought to what could possibly be happening — how could I have been a better husband in that moment?

I won’t dare to tread on the toes of those much more educated than me in this area, my Clinical Psychologist wife included, but a great accessible resource is Dr Steve Peter’s book, The Chimp Paradox. It is probably a slight simplification of how and why we react in certain ways in different situations but contains some really helpful information and strategies.

So instead of the why we react, I wanted to propose how could we react.

What if we chose to react with a curious question?

What if I had asked myself “What could possibly be making Nicolle rush around the kitchen at 6:45?” Instead of angrily reacting — I am sure I could have come up with multiple sensible suggestions that would have allowed me to deal with the situation in a much better way.

The next time that someone shares something on social media with emotion that doesn’t match the article they are sharing, your partner rushes into a room to locate something interrupting an important meeting or a friend doesn’t respond how we want them to, maybe we could start by asking ourselves a curious question.

Not even an audible one.

Just one to yourself in your head.

Especially with so much charged emotion on social media, this can really change how we react to people.

Before we correct a spelling mistake, challenge the facts of a post or highlight a small inaccuracy, why not ask ourselves why someone we know would possibly post something like this, what else is driving them.

Years of society reminding someone of the colour of their skin translating into an emotional outpouring on social media probably doesn’t need a comment asking them to state their sources, highlight the wrong usage of they’re or even silent judgment thought as we scroll by.

When we respond to the visible tip of the iceberg, we miss the vast unseen elements of why a person acts in the way they do.

It may have been as innocuous as a rushed morning due to an alarm mishap, or it could be years of abuse, everyone has hidden experience informing their visible behaviour.

body of water and ice berg

I am certainly not proposing this as a catch-all, silver bullet and COVID vaccine. But I would love to see what our interactions could look be like if we took the humble posture to ask ourselves a curious question before we act.

What do you think?