Gaps abound in families. We have the gender gap, the parent/teen gap, the older sibling/younger sibling gap. Statements like, “Things are different now, Dad” or “You don’t understand” or “You’ll get it when you’re older” reveal the gaps between us. Unfortunately, each of these gaps contribute to a communication gap and the communication gap hinders intimacy and understanding. But curiosity…will bridge those gaps.
It’s true. Curiosity can bridge the communication gap as well as the gender gap, the generational gap, and the age gap. But, for curiosity to truly bridge the gap, you have to first be willing to postpone your own agenda, drop your own story, let go of your interpretation for the moment. When we cling to our agenda and story, curiosity becomes very difficult. Instead of curiosity leading the interaction, we find ourselves led by the search for flaws in “their” story or support for “my” story. In other words, we remain separated from the other person, focused on “my view” versus “your view” with no room for “our view.”
Once you’ve postponed your own agenda for a moment, you can listen with curiosity. You can remain open to the other person’s perspective. In fact, in curiosity you will listen to truly understand “where the other person is coming from.” You will find yourself open to their perspective and experience, maybe even surprised at the wisdom and knowledge they share. You will allow yourself to see the situation from their perspective and, in doing so, gain a better understanding of how they came to the beliefs and ideas they hold.
While you humbly listen with curiosity, pay attention to your body language and tone of voice. Convey an openness with your tone as well as your body language. Make eye contact. Use a calm voice, a voice that conveys respect and care rather than doubt and defensiveness. For the time you listen with curiosity, listen as though the person literally has “the most important thing in the world to tell you” and you want to know it. Yes, gaps abound in the family. But you can bridge each gap when you approach the other person with genuine curiosity and an authentic desire to understand. You might even be surprised at how well the conversation goes and how quickly the conflict resolves.