Did Curiosity Really Kill the Cat?

I chose the tag CuriosityCoach for my (much-neglected) Twitter account, I sign many of my business (& private) emails ‘With love & curiosity’, and I believe my personal mantra that: Where true curiosity is present, judgement cannot exist.

Yet like all words, ‘curiosity’ is as open to individual interpretation as the rest of them. We have our own unique definitions for words, regardless of how commonplace or highbrow they are; and these meanings we imbue words with are influenced by the context we see them in, our personal experiences and memories, and particularly what we need or feel at the moment of hearing/reading them. For example, what comes to mind when you hear ‘I really need some money.’? Each of us will have a different reaction to the word and sentence, depending on things like:

  • your childhood circumstances and the predominant beliefs you were taught – ‘money can’t buy you love’, ‘money doesn’t grow on trees’, ‘work hard and you’ll be paid well’, ‘money gives you choices’, ‘saving money for a rainy day’ etc.
  • your current financial state, and how comfortable or stressed you are about your investments, bills and income.
  • and the context you read the word in as well as the influence of the Media – For just $x, you get…You’ve just won… or You owe… Millions lost… etc.

It could mean ‘I’m desperately broke and can’t pay my bills’, or ‘I don’t have any cash and they don’t take plastic’, or ‘I can’t wait to buy that latest x’ or even ‘I really want to sponsor that child/animal/fundraiser’.

In this age of electronic communication, we’re all likely to have been party to misunderstandings related to emailed, blogged or even Twittered text – whether we were the one misunderstood, or the one who reacted to an unintended tone or connotation (which Emoticons can only begin to address). However, communicating face-to-face or verbally doesn’t ensure immunity either.

Spoken words are not susceptible for exactly the same reasons as text – where tone and body language are largely absent – but rather because the way your listener processes the words you say may not match the way you intended them.
Assumptions can be risky at the best of times, but how aware are you of the dangers in assuming someone assigns the same meaning to a word that you do?

Let’s play with this a little: (take a moment to consider) what does curiosity mean to you personally?

A Twitter friend, @deltalady, described it as a ‘renewal of your younger self to be more open to current experiences’ after establishing for herself that my @CuriosityCoach title wasn’t simply facetious!
I think of curiosity as being in a state of childlike wonder & awe, of asking lots of questions (usually avoiding starting with ‘Why?’, & most requiring me to let go of being right/having all the answers), of being willing to see the extraordinary in ordinary things, and ordinary in extraordinary ones, plus handfuls of other nuances – some of which I’m sure I’ve not even discovered yet!
The dictionary offers even further connotations including prying, meddlesome, and inexplicability!
And one person possibly interpreted it through his hormone-filters to be ‘I’m interested in getting to know you intimately!’ …which is one I’ll certainly need to be more aware of going forwards!

So, what does this mean for you?

Start by noticing the assumed meaning you give to words that you hear or read. After a while, you’ll find it easier to pick up on times when a word shared with someone has different definitions for you both… this can help you maximise your understanding of what you’re hearing, and minimise the scope for someone else’s interpretation of what you’ve said to remain unaddressed.

You may even find yourself getting curious about what particular words can mean to a range of different people! 😉