Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Curiosity Space

Sometimes we get what we expect.
The reactions to that?
Either satisfaction or no real reaction at all.

When I put my bread in the toaster and it toasts it according to the settings, I don't throw a party. After all, that's what the toaster is for.  The water tap dispenses water, just like always, and that's what I expected. I'm glad for toast and water, but it's not something that will occupy a lot of my thoughts.

If I put in bread and got back a waffle, that would be surprising. I would spend more of my day on that.   Likewise, if I put in bread and received a flood of fleeing insects, that would be surprising.

Which brings us to the point: sometimes what we get is different from what we expect.

We can feel that as delight sometimes, because our results were far better than we expected.

Other times we feel it as disappointment.

If we judge this space, we will feel it as frustration, failure, embarrassment. even disrespect and loss of control. We can react in very controlling, negative ways. We can escalate to intimidation, anger, even force.  We often refuse to take responsibility for the difference, and blame others or blame circumstance. This is unproductive.

We've heard "It's not my fault -- he made me mad" or "they just refused to cooperate so I had to get up in their grill" -- note the lack of ownership. The "I" in these stories had no choice, and had to act inappropriately and angrily because the others "made" them.

I know it's unproductive. I am the father of two boys. I spent a lot of years not appreciating the curiosity space and not exploring it, but merely escalating the control issues.  I try to be better these days, though I still get eye-rolls from my adult sons.

I also am a software development trainer, coach, consultant. I often find that what works in one context has no impact (or the wrong impact) in another context. I've watched some other consultants throw angry fits and yell at people and demand dismissal of the employees who disagreed or didn't go along (I've never done this personally).

It's sad.  It's unnecessary.

I like to call the difference between expectations and results "the curiosity space."

We can't always explore the difference between what we want and what we get. There isn't time, given the number of surprises we see every day.   But when it's important, or upsetting, or delightful, then I think we have to put aside judgement and start asking "why" and "how did that happen" and "does that always happen".

I've written a lot about giving up recreational anger, and one of the most powerful things it has done for me lately is opening up my curiosity.

Now I see so many things I need to learn, and can take the opportunity to ask questions and look at alternatives and gather wisdom from other people.  I learned that if we enter the curiosity space as honestly curious people, we engage others. We can learn so much more. We open ourselves up to alternative explanations and theories and possibilities.

That space between expectations and actuals isn't a "problem" to be controlled.

It's a story to be unfolded.

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