Why curiosity is a power skill

There are many varieties of curiosity, and they’re all important.

One person in a crowd is orange and red with clouds floating over them and they are looking up in a curious way.

Around here we have a curious habit. We have a curiosity habit.

We ask, coach, direct, and yes, implore, others to do the same. 

Contrary to its acclaimed effect on cats, in humans, and especially in humans working on their social and emotional intelligence skills, curiosity is life

You might wonder why curiosity itself isn’t an emotional intelligence competency. The reason is that its qualities transcend any one competency –  it’s a mash up of competencies. So we prefer to think of it as a power skill.

It’s tricky, in part, because curiosity does different things for us in different contexts. Here’s a few close to our hearts. 

Empathy and curiosity

There are times in life when, unfortunately, we lack empathy. It’s not the best. It’s not on purpose. We know we’re not the only ones who do this. The good news is, empathy is a skill. And it can be practiced. 

Being low on empathy in some contexts has a huge impact on relationships. So it’s good to work on doing better at it. 

When we catch ourselves having low empathy, the go-to power skill is curiosity. 

Getting curious about what someone else is going through, what they’re experiencing, what they’re feeling, is a great way to tap into empathy and your relationships will be stronger for it.

Conversely, aiming empathy inwards is a huge aid to curiosity. Cutting ourselves some slack, and having empathy for ourselves, can relax our “harshest critic” and allow us to investigate what is going on for us. 

Curiosity and reality testing

It’s probably intuitive to most that curiosity is a prerequisite for reality testing. And yet, it’s an occupational hazard for many leaders, especially men, to mistakenly believe they ‘know stuff’. 

Believing we know something is a huge obstacle to actually knowing stuff. Men think they know stuff all the time, perhaps with a little too much gusto. 

The people with easy curiosity also happen to have the critical skill of being able to change their minds. Curiosity is essential for science, and it’s also critical for the necessary skill of losing an argument.

Losing an argument is good for your health

There are some people (not us, obviously) who love to win arguments. So attached are they to winning arguments that they refuse to lose an argument. 

But if you can lean into curiosity, losing an argument can become a joy as well as a critical life skill. Your relationships will thrive.

Do yourself a favour and work on losing arguments. 

Curiosity and emotional self-awareness 

Beginning the journey into emotional intelligence skills development can be daunting. The average human messes up a lot. And so do above average humans. Messing up can cause pain, and cognitive dissonance, and there are a lot of built-in reasons for us to avoid seeing the mistakes we’ve made. 

Curiosity is our friend here. It’s early recognition. What is it that I’m feeling? Why am I feeling that? Is this feeling important in this context or interaction? How can I use this data? 

For folks who have learned to suppress feelings reflexively, this is a powerful moment. Instead of suppression, choose curiosity. 

Being able to assess in the moment whether there’s something that needs to be expressed is powerful, and sometimes we will need to take a deeper look into why that feeling is coming up. 

By choosing curiosity, you will increase your capacity.

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