Behavior Modes – Curious Versus Critical

Summary: “Think of troubling interactions with curiosity and empathy rather than anger and frustration.” 

Being highly critical of others is an ineffective way of resolving problems. Demonstrating genuine curiosity, and empathy if appropriate, is a good alternative for criticizing someone.

A behavior mode is a person’s state of mind and the behavior associated with that state of mind. Some behavior modes are almost always unproductive. If you become aware that you are in an unproductive mode, switch to a corresponding mode that is productive and you will typically produce much better outcomes.

For example, if you are in a critical behavior mode (criticizing, controlling, using negative words, voice tone and body language), switch to a curious behavior mode (get curious and try to understand what is really going on with the person you are interacting with).

Remember this general guideline to help with the behavior mode switch: When you feel like making critical statements (such as, “you are an idiot”), ask questions instead (such as, “help me understand why you feel that way”).

The goal, in this case, is to get the other person’s reasons, beliefs, assumptions and interpretations out on the table so you can better deal with them. You do not have to agree with them, but you need to try your best to understand them if you want any hope of producing a positive outcome.

Remember, when people are behaving inappropriately, they always have good reasons for doing so in their own mind. Whether you end up agreeing with them or not, you need to understand their reasons in order to make progress. The curious behavior mode will help you do that, the critical behavior mode will not.

People are often dealing with things you know nothing about when they behave in an unproductive ways. Being curious is a better alternative when this is the case.  For example, when people are using intimidating tactics in an effort to get what they want, in other words bullying others, it’s best to keep in mind that others almost always formerly bullied people who are bullies. Bullying others is what they learned to do if they want to get what they want. Until someone shows them an alternative, they will likely continue to use bullying tactics.

It is difficult at times, but if you want to successfully work through troubling issues with such people, it is best to look at them with empathy and curiosity, rather than anger and frustration. It’s a good way to joyfully participate in life.

Joyfully participate in life today…Chris

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