Curiosity vs Interest

In the Thinking Partnership teaching groups people often ask ‘what happens if I’m curious about something the Thinker has said… what do I do with that?’ Fair question. Especially when so much coach training focuses on curiosity about the content.

And the Thinking Environment way of being with curiosity takes a different angle.

So here’s a modest proposal.


If as a Thinker we knew that our Thinking Partner/Coach wouldn’t wish or be able to grasp every background detail of the situation, problem or idea that we want to think about in our session, then as Thinkers we get to save a lot of time by going to the edge of it earlier – and we move into our fresh thinking sooner.

Start from what’s interesting

If we knew that it’s impossible to express everything that’s relevant inside an hour or 90 minutes, what difference does that make? The invitation is to start from where it’s interesting and challenging for the Thinker, rather than to spend disproportionate amounts of time explaining how we got there in the first place. This does require discipline, and getting used to, and would have to be part of our contracting and setup with new Thinkers in the future.

Worth it

And it’s worth it if it frees us as Thinkers from that consistent, human and entirely understandable compulsion to try to map out everything that we know first, largely for the benefit of someone else – the listener/ Coach/ Thinking Partner. All of which slows down the moment when we really start to think for ourselves.

Curiosity… kills the thought?

What does this do to the Coach or Thinking Partner? Will our very human desire for story and detail generate curiosity, which shows up as a spike in the Response Stream of Attention? Almost certainly.

What does the Thinking Partner do with that?

The discipline of noticing that inevitable spike of curiosity, the rigour of accepting that if we formulate and ask the question that will satisfy our curiosity we may well derail where the Thinker is going, is hard. Ultimately it means accepting that the ‘curious’ question is mostly about finding out what we (Coach or Thinking Partner) want to know or understand better.

After all the Thinker already knows the answer to our question…

Drivingly interested…

Instead, we need to become truly interested. More drivingly interested in where they are going next than we are in satisfying our own need for information. Now that is a big ask.  Yet being interested rather than curious is so satisfying in its own way. It helps us to settle into truly generative Attention, it stills the activity in the Response stream, it generates new thinking for the Thinker. Beautiful.

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