I have a middle school son who is very into Dungeons and Dragons. Last Saturday he invited me into this world. We created a character. I’m a wood elf named Lulu. When he asked what I wanted my super power to be I told him that I wanted the sound of my laughter to cause the defensive mechanisms of all those around me to suddenly be disengaged. He stared at me for a moment and then hand on hip, “really, Mom?”
I wish that were my real super power and in a way, I think I’m on the path. I am kind of the manatee of human beings. I don’t really get defensive. I tell people, “if you’re trying to offend me, please bluntly tell me, because I will probably miss it.” A close friend asked me to deeply reflect why that is. I think the key is this: I care about the “us” more than the “me.” And I’m almost obsessively curious.
Maybe I wasn’t always like that. Maybe it’s from hanging out in youth-centered spaces all these years. I remember in one intense conference planning meeting there was something on the agenda that got people’s feeling stirred up. A youth leader asked another youth leader something that could be construed as a slight. I started to feel defensive on behalf of the apparently insulted youth and before I could step in as an adult holding the space, the youth stuck three fingers out from their face and looked at the leader running the meeting. The procedural leader acknowledged this youth with the three fingers fanning out from her cheek who then asked a series of questions back to the other youth. They weren’t terse or tense, they were clarifying. The intensity of the moment evaporated. What is this magic? Turns out the three fingers were the whiskers of a “Clarifying Question of a Curious Cat” or shorthand for “may I meet the intensity of this moment with curiosity instead of defensiveness?” I find youth spaces full of these shorthand ways to bring people back into covenant.
And when I am out in the rest of the world and have those moments of defensiveness (because I am human) and need extra inspiration to be my better self, I think of the Curious Cat and turn to curiosity.
- Courage to Not Know, by Brené Brown
- Why Curious People Have Better Relationships, Jill Suttie in Greater Good Magazine
- Get Curious Before You Get Furious, Gary Bradt in Forbes magazine
- #354 We Laugh We Cry
- #346 Come Sing a Song with Me
- #1003 Where Do We Come From
- #1013 Open My Heart
- Brene Brown: What's the Difference Between Fear and 'Armor'? (2:45)
- When in Doubt, Turn to Wonder, a touchstone from Parker Palmer’s Circles of Trust (2:28)
- Ego and Defensiveness in Communication, Sharon Strand Ellison (2:05)
- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson
- Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, Sheila Heen
- Touchstones from Parker Palmer’s Circles of Trust