My instinct always is to rush to judgment.

I love pondering what someone else’s ulterior motives might be, making up an entire backstory as if I’m going to play that person in the TV adaptation of their life. I shut down and believe that they can never change or won’t listen to my perspective. In short, I assume the worst about that person.

This is not my best quality.

On a retreat that I attended years ago, one of the behavioral guidelines we were asked to live by was, “When your mind turns to judgment, turn instead to wonder.” In other words, if you feel frustration, disgust or despair erupt like bile in your throat when you hear someone else’s statement or opinion – Stop. Be grateful for the moment and the opportunity it presents to learn about the other person. Then ask a question.

I don’t recall needing to use this practice much during the retreat itself, but the instruction stuck with me. I knew my tendency was to judge someone else’s “bad” opinion and make assumptions about what I believe to be their questionable motives and ethics. But this tendency often created more trouble than it solved.

So I decided to use this practice of wonder when I felt frustration, disgust or judgment arise. I paused and breathed (always a good technique from my yoga practice) and instead asked a question. When I was able to pull this off, I found myself grow in understanding and empathy for the other person. It didn’t usually change my opinion, but my understanding of them and their perspective always increased. (I say more about this practice in the video below.)

The practice fosters connection rather than separation from the other person.

To help ask questions or invite more conversation, you might use some of these phrases I’ve learned to use:

  • Tell me more about …
  • I’m wondering why you believe that/feel that way …
  • Say more about that …

In our divided times, we need to develop this ability to sit with our discomfort with another’s perspective and opinion and be open to learning more about it. When I was working in leadership development roles within the United Church of Christ, I often said that I would much rather work with leaders who are open and curious and ready to learn. People can be taught almost any skill, but not if they aren’t open to it. Turning to wonder became a way that I practiced what I preached, and it enabled me to connect with a much broader range of people.

Curiosity is one of the core values of the Defy the Trend Community. Experience has taught me that being curious about another person or a new subject or new way of seeing the world is key to being a great leader who guides people toward a change rather than simply forcing them into it.

Get curious with me and the Defy the Trend Community by joining the Mindful Leaders Lounge Facebook Group or become a part of the community of curious, connected and courageous leaders by getting a Defy the Trend Community Package that supports your growth as a leader.

Have questions for me? Schedule a free curiosity call.