One of the many benefits of Improv is learning to be more curious.
Curiosity and Judgment are two sides of the same coin. Both are a valid response to the world around us. Both have their benefits and their detriments (let's not forget that curiosity did kill the cat, after all). It’s not always wise to be curious, just as it’s not always wise to be judgmental.
But the truth is, all human beings are judgmental—and this isn’t inherently a bad thing. In fact, it could be argued that our ability to judge the world around us is what has allowed the human species to thrive on a hostile planet for generations. Since the earliest human interactions, it’s been critical that we learn what’s safe and what’s unsafe, and what’s helpful and what’s harmful to us, our families, and those in our tribe. (And the only thing that’s changed is the size, number, and locations of our tribes.)
Equally, it could be said that we are all naturally curious creatures. After all, it’s our innate curiosity that's been a driving force behind all human exploration and discovery, and thus to new growth and expansion. Like so many other innate emotional reactions, both judgment and curiosity are simply neutral tools to be applied in our lives at appropriate times.
But in daily life, it’s easy to forget that you have a choice in how you respond to things, and instead simply react from a place of habit. And due to its incredible ability to keep us safe, sound, and alive for centuries, our Judgment response—like a strong muscle—is well-established in our subconscious, and it often becomes our go-to, knee-jerk response to… pretty much everything. Which isn’t helpful.
To be clear, judging things is not the mistake here—the only dubious move is applying judgment where curiosity would have been more helpful. The error is forgetting that we have a choice in how we respond, and that another response might be more beneficial to all.
On the Improv stage, if you have a knee-jerk reaction and judge an idea offered to you (and thus don’t accept it), it interrupts flow of the skit and kills the energy of a scene. In real life, a knee jerk judgment can shut people down and may keep them from offering up their real opinion or new and potentially better ideas.
The solution to this is to Yes, And… everything that’s offered to you.
To Yes, And… means to be playfully curious with what the world offers you; to see the opportunity in everything. To Yes, And… means to be receptive and flexible. Really, to Yes, And… means to be fully present and in the moment with another person, and that can lead to magical and hilarious outcomes on stage, or improved team dynamics at the office, or even better customer experiences and increased revenue.
Often, it’s our egos that get in the way and make us believe that our pre-existing idea is better than another idea offered up. Make no mistake, approaching new ideas with curiosity doesn’t change what you are offered, but it changes how you perceive and receive them, and thus how you feel about them—and this is important. In fact, it might be one of the most important things that we as humans can ever learn: if we can get good at becoming aware of our feelings and then taking accountability for them regardless of our circumstances, we are going to live a more empowered and fulfilling life—period.
If you are well-versed at being judgmental in your life (like we all can be), for a month, I challenge you to see what it feels like to approach the new and unknown from a place of curiosity instead. Watch how your stress level lowers, and how your interactions with others become easier and more joyful. Try it with your kids, your partner, your friends, and your co-workers, and then come back and share how it went in the comments.
Ultimately, we all simply want to belong. Being accepted by our tribe is part of human nature, and being rejected by it can be the equivalent of death in our minds (and in previous generations, in our realities). But for all of the benefits judgment can offer us—like feelings of safety, security, and inclusion in our preferred tribes—when applied to new ideas or concepts, it also can prevent connection.
No one likes to feel judged. But the reality is that, for centuries, we’ve all benefited by judging the world around us (and all the people in it), and yet we all hate being judged. On its face, judging others seems to make perfect sense to each of us—how else are we to understand the world and each other? And regardless of where it's coming from, being judged by others rarely feels fair or just, and usually it causes more division and harm than it does connection and unity. Quite the pickle.
When dealing with new ideas, new people, and unknown circumstances, responding from a place of curiosity (rather than reacting from a place of judgment) is often far more well-received. Instead of putting people on edge, approaching novelty with curiosity allows new ideas to be heard, new people to feel seen, and new circumstances to be experienced. Curiosity has a tendency to open us up to the world, and judgment tends to have the opposite effect. Again, both of these things can be useful, but neither is useful in every scenario.
So, next time you come across something new and challenging, remember that it comes with a choice: you can react from a place of judgment, or you can respond from a place of curiosity.
Hello Gorgeous exists to help the world smile. We design and lead improv workshops and portrait photography for teams and individuals to upshift their self-image, self-confidence and authentic connection with themselves and others. Schedule your free consultation to find out more here.