Tuesday Creativity in our Relationships at Home and at Work--Keeping it CURIOUS...Even Under Pressure

First a Question:  What do you think it means to go from the DANCE FLOOR to the BALCONY and from the BALCONY to the DANCE FLOOR in never-ending cycles throughout our lives?

Another question:  Have you ever noticed in work situations as well as during personal or family crises, the more intense it gets in what may seem like a hopeless situation, or the more we’re under pressure to meet an impossible deadline, the more impatient we may become--the more abrupt, rude, or even cruel our actions?

It’s an odd way to handle things. Because that’s when we really need to practice patience and consideration. It’s ironic isn’t it—choosing to behave in ways that actually increase the pain and frustration instead of lessening them for ourselves or others?

What if we try something else? What if we use our natural sense of curiosity to find a better way to work things out in stressful or emotionally painful situations? As mammals, humans and other creatures are born curious. Think about it. We come out of the womb not knowing a thing. And in a little while we’re searching with our mouths for the nipple, hungry for the unknown taste of nourishment, and for what it feels like to be satisfied. As our senses develop, we gain increasing awareness and curiosity about our surroundings through them. When our eyes finally open and learn how to see, the search is on to take in and explore all we can in order to survive and thrive in this strange amazing world. Curiosity is a natural healthful gift for experiencing and navigating through this life.

In fact, as animal behaviorists and child psychologists will tell you, the happy infant or pup is usually curious, alert, interested. As they develop, the curious ones are going to be the most teachable and or trainable, depending on the species and stage of development. Whether with a paint brush in elementary school, a box of tools and duct tape in middle school, or at a robot-building competition in a high school setting, creative problem-solving often starts out as “serious play.” Fast forwarding, if you talk to successful artists, educators, business persons, and scientists, and I’ve worked in left- and right-brain capacities with more than my share of all of these, curiosity is at the heart of all their most successful creations, discoveries and innovations. Necessity plays a role, of course, but with or without necessity and the pressure to succeed for whatever reasons, the “winners” have been and remain curious about many things.

Now let’s back up the truck a bit. You want to know how animal and human behaviorists spot the unhappy, sick, or unhealthy baby or pup in a group? One of the things they’ll notice is an obvious lack of curiosity which may have at its heart or may, through a series of unhappy circumstances, result in fear. Some animals then go on to become fear-biters. People too, if you think about it. We go into “attack mode” under pressure, instead of being patient, kind, considerate. It’s hard to be creative when we’re attacking or feeling attacked, isn’t it? Under those circumstances, curiosity seems kind of silly or inappropriate. Wow, here comes a predator! I wonder, what if I… “Chomp!”

When creativity and curiosity go out the window, do you know what goes with them? A friendly and healthy sense of humor. I say, “friendly,” because sarcastic humor may replace it. Sarcasm is a tricky thing. Some will disagree with me, but I don’t think it has any place in a business setting—or in a loving relationship, for that matter—built successfully on trust. I’m sure many of us could go on and on, pro and con about that. Perhaps another time. I’ve seen sarcasm used to make a point. In the hands of an expert, say a Mark Twain, it can be a useful device. The problem is, many people, even in leadership positions in families, social settings, and church or work situations are far from good at being sarcastic. The thing is, their timing sucks and their motivations can be questionable. From those lips, sarcasm quickly becomes an implement of cruelty, intentional or otherwise. It might get a point across efficiently under pressure, “Snap! Zing!” But zingers can be pretty ineffective when it comes to loyalty over the long haul. I’m just sayin’.

So we lose our curiosity and our creativity. And a healthful friendly sense humor seems to go out the window with them. What next? Well, when we lose a sense of humor, there’s a certain amount of our heart or “soulfulness” that follows. Pretty soon our way of being becomes quite colorless in our relationships with others, including our relationship with our higher power, if that is our belief, and in our relationship with our Self.

Instead, here is an invitation to stay curious and keep it creative when we’re under pressure, whatever the situation at home, at work, or in our travels. Curiosity keeps us open, so some of the pressure can escape. And that helps to keep us from blowing up, or worse, from shutting down as individuals, as couples, as members of work teams and other community organizations. Bottom line, curiosity helps us to continue to learn and grow in situations that challenge us, so that the stresses and other difficulties in our lives, when combined with a healthy curiosity, can be real gifts and graces for our development as humane beings.

For further exploration:

  1. Tell about a predictable, even seasonal time of stress or pressure in your life. What if you try a curiosity-practice, to creatively prepare for the experience, and reduce your likelihood of just reacting anxiously or even snapping angrily in the moment.
  2. Revisit a disappointment in your life. Who said what? How did you react inwardly and outwardly? How did it feel? Rewrite the scenario, and this time respond with curiosity before, during, and after. This kind of re-visioning is how elite athletes refine their game to prepare for big athletic events, and handle whatever comes with skill and finesse, by the way.
  3. What do you think the “dance floor to the balcony” question means?
  4. Observe a child or other young mammal, even your own inner child or inner artist. Tell about their experience of curiosity in the next week or so.

Good luck and happy creating!