Why it is better to stay curious
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Someone I coach told me the following story. Her husband had ordered something via the internet, and the package was delivered to the neighbors that day, even though she had been home all day. When her husband came home, he asked her why the package was delivered at the neighbors house. She felt a little guilty about that. She had indeed been home, but had been in the garden pruning the hedge with her headphones on and music playing. As a result, she did not hear the bell when the delivery person came by. She felt responsible.

But was she sure that her husband wanted to speak to her about this and hold her accountable? She therefore decided, instead of explaining why the package was delivered at the neighbors, to first ask what he exactly meant by what he said. She had learned to paraphrase and therefore asked him if she had heard him right: “Are you asking that because you are concerned that your package will end up in other peoples hands and it is important for you to know that it is handled with care? ” He then responded with: “No, I was afraid that the doorbell got stuck again, and we would not hear it if someone rang the doorbell. That was a problem before!” She breathed with relief. It wasn’t about her at all!

That’s how it often goes. We worry because we take things personally when we actually don’t have enough information to know what the other person means. The question ‘why the package had been delivered at the neighbors’ could have been answered in many ways. If she had taken it very literally, she could have said: “Because the delivery person rang their doorbell and gave them the package for us. ”A completely correct answer. We don’t really know anything more about the facts of the story. Not even whether she didn’t hear the doorbell because of the headphones she was wearing and the music she had played while she trimmed the hedge. We don’t actually know whether the doorbell was working or not. So why feel guilty for something you don’t know? On the other hand, it was also a gamble to ask if he was concerned because he wanted the package to be handled with care. But the question about how he felt about the situation and what he needed brought her closer to the heart of the matter. He was looking for reassurance and wanted to know if the doorbell worked so that visitors would be heard. This shows that curiosity and first checking whether you have understood a question correctly pays off. Instead of friction, both quickly gained clarity and were able to start their evening together without friction and in a pleasant way.

Govert van Ginkel

This article is written by Govert van Ginkel. Govert specializes in Nonviolent and Effective Communication and is active in this field as a trainer, speaker, coach, and mediator. More information about Govert can be found here. The current training offer can be found here


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