Curiosity, The Great Relationship Saver

CuriosityWe appreciate and put trust in those who are self-confident. With confidence comes feelings of strength and certainty. Confidence, then, is generally thought of positively. In relationships, however, confidence can be a killer.

Here’s how it works. Say you neglect to answer a text from a friend that has escaped your attention. The friend becomes angry and accuses you of neglecting them. Further, they characterize you as self-absorbed and “obviously” not interested in a relationship. Suddenly you’re in defense mode, stating that there’s been a misunderstanding and trying to figure out how to bring the conversation to an amicable conclusion. Your friend will have none of it because they are sure about what’s going on.

Many times we fall victim to a double whammy involving mind reading and confirmation bias. Mind reading is the phenomenon in which we convince ourselves that we know how another person is thinking or feeling before they have even had a chance to explain themselves. Confirmation bias is a thinking error that involves seeking information that’s consistent with our assumptions and discounting information that conflicts with those assumptions. In effect, this is why conservatives tend to watch Fox News and liberals tend to watch MSNBC – each “confirms” their world view by consuming information that’s consistent with their preexisting viewpoint. In the world of relationships we do this by convincing ourselves that we know what an acquaintance, friend, partner, or spouse really thinks and feels (mind reading) and then no matter what they say the information will be filtered through our preconceptions (confirmation bias). Sadly, this judgment occurs based on reflexes and a slim amount of information and before true understanding can develop.

Curiosity is the cure. The friend must be willing to be open to new information that they have yet to have considered. You, on the other hand, must believe that there is further understanding to gain about your friend’s emotional reaction rather than simply dismissing it as “crazy.”

By truly listening (see The Greatest Communication Tool Ever Invented) with an open mind we can learn so much more. While it’s possible that our initial assumptions will be correct, it’s much more likely that new information will be learned that can radically change perception if one is open to it.

Stay curious, my friends.