Be Like Ted. Curious, Not Judgemental
If you haven’t already, we urge you to get an Apple TV+ subscription and watch Ted Lasso, an American comedy-drama series with our guy Ted as the protagonist. Considered an average man, maybe even below that, he is often not taken seriously by his peers and sometimes even ridiculed. Ted lands in London to coach a soccer team, armed with his experience of coaching American football and nothing more.
There is a pivotal scene in the series where Ted, whose dart-throwing skills were assumed to be non-existent, lands a bull’s eye and then comments on how he was underestimated his entire life and that he spent a great deal of time wondering why. Then, one day, he comes across a quote by Walt Whitman, “Be Curious, Not Judgemental,” on a graffiti wall.
It then dawns upon him that everybody that did not believe in him was simply not curious enough to ask him questions and get to know him better. Instead, they assumed and presumed and came to all kinds of conclusions about him but never mustered up the curiosity to ask him instead.
The simple but powerful quote got us thinking about how, much like Ted’s peers, we fail to look at things from a curious perspective and opt for a judgemental one instead. Be it personally or professionally.
A lot of our judgement itself needs to be looked at from a curious perspective, though.
Why do we judge?
Because it is faster to do so. In a world where time is our most valuable currency, coming to conclusions quickly is often to our benefit.
However, in doing so, are we missing something? That’s the real question.
When the boss calls for a meeting, our first instinct is that something must have gone wrong- experience tells us that.
Before we pitch to a client, we mentally prepare ourselves for a million roadblocks and a whole lot of convincing. We assume that these questions will need to be fielded and therefore bring a certain amount of judgement to the picture.
Being curious, however, allows us to consider other possibilities. For example, is this person asking questions because they don’t know, or is it actually a play? Is the assumption that we’ll have a lousy meeting stopping us from looking for solutions?
Judgement also has a much wider scope at the workplace- we all make decisions based on subconscious cues. If we have had two bad calls in a row, it is virtually impossible to not expect the third one to pan out likewise.
Our hiring decisions are usually skewed by what worked and didn’t work in the past. So in many ways, a conversation around workplace diversity is a conversation on judgement.
In short, we judge because it allows us to decide faster. Unfortunately, seeking information and running experiments is not a trait that most workplaces encourage today.
The real questions to ask
Often, being curious needs an environment of curiosity. In other words, it is best to build the trait outside of work before bringing it to the workplace. How many new perspectives do we receive in a day?
If the house-help is unable to show up, what is our knee-jerk reaction? How many publications do we continue to read because they present a perspective that disagrees with our own?
In general, when a certain amount of judgement enters a situation, let’s ask ourselves these questions:
- Have I done my homework?
- How prepared am I for this conversation, and how well do I understand the other person’s point of view?
- Is there an aspect or a trend that I am missing?
Do you see a perspective shift here?
Is curiosity a habit that can be formed?
It is, and like everything else, starts with taking baby steps. The next time you approach a situation, the following steps will help you ask better questions-
- Research the person you will be engaging in a conversation with.
- Research your own pitch or standpoint and analyse if it is neutral to both parties.
- Take account of other participants at the table and find a way to include them in your analysis.
- Think about what you are bringing to the table that someone else is not.
Is being curious a leadership attribute?
Have you ever noticed that children are quick at grasping and learning things compared to adults? Why is it so?
Studies attribute this to the never-ending curiosity in children. They look at everything with a great deal of amusement and with the need to find answers to their big bank of questions. This is an extremely vital quality that helps them grow and adapt to social circumstances and life in general.
Let us consider this- how is a professional setting any different? Being curious, observant and wanting to learn will only help you climb the ladder more efficiently as you are equipped with better skills and, most importantly, a better attitude.
The best thing is that curiosity is a gift that keeps on giving. When you look at work with the gentler focus of curiosity, you automatically begin to see newer perspectives that didn’t exist before. And no one can take that away from you either.
While hard work and diligence are highly recommended, being curious is a leadership attribute that will help you stay on top, see the world with a questions mindset, and understand things that most others simply cannot.