Curiosity - healthy thinking or cat killer?

Has the old adage of curiosity killed the cat left us with a feeling that curiosity is a bad thing?

Curiosity hasn't received a good press over the centuries. Saint Augustine wrote in Confessions, AD 397, that, in the aeons before creating heaven and earth, God "fashioned hell for the inquisitive". 'Care (worry) killed the cat' dates back to 1598 when Shakespeare borrowed the expression from Ben Jonson's play Every Man in His Humour. It took another 300 years before this transformed into 'curiosity killed the cat' which is used to discourage prying. So it seems we have an extensive history of seeing the negative connotations of curiosity, and perhaps it is time to redress the balance.

I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious - Albert Einstein.

Where would we be without the curiosity of explorers, scientists, and inventors? Curiosity enables us to learn, and to grow. Curiosity also plays a really important role in how we listen to other people, and to how we respond to their actions. I often talk to groups about positive mental health, coaching and NLP, and a piece of advice I regularly offer is to replacement 'judgement' with 'curiosity', and then to notice how differently you feel about events in life.


Is it really possible to be non-judgemental?


Have you ever noticed how many judgements you make each day? Good, bad, better, worse, right, wrong, should, shouldn't, could, couldn't, can, can't... We make them about each other, and about ourselves. What if, instead of judging, we replaced those judgements with curiosity? What if we wondered about what was behind the behaviour? What if we wondered about what might be possible?

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid - Albert Einstein.

Judgements are quick and easy. They take no real effort. They allow us to put people into boxes and pay no further attention to them. Curiosity requires some personal investment into observing, listening, asking, caring. And as its reward offers up fresh insights, opportunities and potential.


One of the core attitudes in NLP is curiosity. A curiosity about the whole person, and not just the presenting behaviours or language. It is a practice that has served me well in leadership, management, coaching, mentoring and particularly when facing criticism. I have had the pleasure of doing quite a lot of public consultation work, often on emotive issues, where people are concerned about potential changes that might affect them. Listening to them with curiosity has, rather than simply defending a 'position', allowed me to understand their perspective, thank them for their feedback, and enable that to inform the decisions that are made.

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