I blame Nancy Drew. And my Mom. When I was a little girl, each week my mom would take me to the library where I would check out the next Nancy Drew book in that delightful series to devour, usually within hours. I love mysteries. I love questions. I am by definition a curiosity queen.
This week I was tasked with preparing for an expert witness’ deposition in a complex custody case. Preparing for it seemed overwhelming at first glance. I needed to review the American Psychological Association Guidelines for Forensic Evaluations, I needed to refresh on the facts of a case I have been handling for three years, I needed to prepare tough questions to challenge a very skilled professional.
After having been in practice for nearly 13 years, my default is now set at building my case. I am a master at proving how right I am. (Just ask my little sister and she will give you an earful.) When I began drafting my questions I first designed them to prove the expert wrong and I began struggling with all the “what ifs” of her responses. Then a light bulb went on. I needed to be curious, not right. Once I shifted the focus to channel my inner Nancy Drew, my energy picked up and before I knew it I was fully enjoying my assignment. I no longer needed to argue in my mind every potential response the expert might provide because it no longer mattered. My job was to gather information, not pick a fight.
Curiosity is a useful skill, particularly when faced with a potentially contentious situation such as divorce. It is natural for divorcing spouses to want to prove how wrong their spouse is. That approach inherently adds stress as spouses focus on a preparing for battle mentality. Instead, if spouses turn from preparing to fight and use curiosity to approach the positions of their spouse, soon judgments are dismantled and empathy emerges.
The next time you feel yourself wanting to prove someone wrong or you feel your judgments start creeping up into a conversation, ignore it. Instead, put on your Sherlock Holmes cap and start asking questions. Be interested in learning about the position or the underlying beliefs. Observe how that openness provides an immediate sense of relief because you are no longer in an antagonistic space.
It may not make you change your mind about your own feelings or your own position, but it will remove part of the struggle. And the result is that the act of being open is often reciprocated. Isn’t that curious?