“Love is three quarters curiosity.” –Giacomo Casanova
As I work with couples and individual clients there is one word that I use frequently; Curiosity. I encourage couples to become more curious about their partner and I encourage individuals to become curious about themselves. Curiosity is key to breaking free from old patterns, but what exactly is curiosity and why is it so important?
Dictionary.com defines curiosity as “the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.” Curiosity is a natural state. Watch any young child and they are immensely curious about the world around them. They want to know everything and ask ‘why’ relentlessly. But, as they grow older and begin to learn more, that curiosity takes on a different shape. There is excitement and energy when we are curious, but unfortunately, once we believe we know, that curiosity fades. We feel satisfied in our answer and we move on.
There are four basic stages of learning, as developed by Noel Burch. We start by not knowing, what we don’t know, which he calls Unconscious Incompetence. It is not on our radar and we have not put any energy into thinking about it. We are blissfully unaware. The second stage is when we know what we don’t know, Conscious Incompetence. We realize that there is something we need to learn. Mistakes are common in this stage as we develop a new skill. The third stage is when we know what we know, Conscious Competence. We begin to feel competent in our knowing, although it may still take a significant amount of focus and energy to perform the task successfully. The last stage is when we gain mastery of what we know, which he refers to as Unconscious Competence. Our knowledge is integrated and fluid. We are able to perform the task with ease.
When it comes to relationships and emotional understanding, many of us, unfortunately, have a skewed perception. We think we know who we are and who our partner is, so we lose curiosity. We assume that it is obvious how we are feeling and no longer put any energy into exploring what the anger or sadness truly is. Unless we have done some significant work in this area, most of us fall into the first stage of learning when it comes to our own emotions and knowing our partner’s emotional landscape. We are unaware that there is more to know. Admitting that we don’t know what is going on internally is critical because it gives us permission to become curious. Stage two is when we begin to focus our energy and become inquisitive. This is where the magic happens in relationships and self-development. It is where we begin to get clear on who we are and get to know our partner intimately. Curiosity is critical for growth. It changes you from the inside out. Will you dare to be curious?