Guest post by Kirsten Taberner Siggins and Kathy Taberner, co-owners of the Institute of Curiosity, a coaching and training organization.
“I want strategies to use when I disagree with someone and find myself in conflict with them. How can I have drama-free conversations?”
Therein lies what we at the Institute Of Curiosity call “the million-dollar question.” How do we have an authentic exchange of thoughts and feelings, one that promotes respectful, productive dialogue and leads us to a place of calmness, confidence, and abundance—even in high-stakes situations?
Whether it is a conversation with your boss, colleague, best friend, partner, parent or child—the answer is the same: be curious by being present to actively listen to absorb, choose to listen free from judging, and ask open, curious questions to learn and understand.
Without being curious and asking open questions, even the most respectful conversations can become telling, blaming, and shaming—which leads to conflict.
Neuroscience has found that when we enter into a conversation with another and we become curious by asking an open question, the feel-good drug dopamine is released making our body feel good, creating a mind/heart connection. As we continue to ask open questions to better understand and collaborate, we continue to feel good. We have found this happens even when our emotions are touched and we feel on edge. With curiosity our emotional tension starts to dissipate and wash away. With each open question we are able to shift from conflict to connection, making even the most challenging conversations manageable and drama free.
When emotions run high, we know it takes work to remain calm and curious. Our default is to become defensive, judgmental, blaming, and shaming (internally and/or externally) without ever intending to do so. It just happens. We also know the key to challenging conversations and dealing with conflict is being curious and asking open curious questions. It helps you stay calm, clear, understanding, and open to new opportunities.
This is a simple technique that improves the quality of any conversation, even if it feels heated: those necessary conversations that have been too easy to ignore (addressing the elephant in the room); productive conversations that can become stressful and emotional in the moment; and challenging conversations where you are invested in the outcome.
Life is full enough without the added pressure of having unwanted, stress-inducing, dramatic conversations. Curiosity + questions = conversations that connect and are conflict free.
Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins are the authors of The Power of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations that create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding (Morgan James 2015). Together they founded the Institute Of Curiosity, a coaching and training organization that helps individuals improve the quality of their conversations and relationships, even in conflict.