I was recently contemplating humility. I have known many wonderful and talented people in ministry who have become self-important and pretentious, only interested in voicing their own opinions and stubbornly ignoring opportunities to grow and learn. On the other hand, I’ve also known many equally incredible and important people who are still deeply humble. They seek connection and growth through conversation. They are open to new ideas and will admit when they’ve doubted, changed opinions, or even been wrong. These leaders, I’ve noticed, have one essential quality in common; curiosity.
Curiosity leads to humility for the simple reason that when you are truly curious about another person, it means you value them, you want to know them, and you are open to learning and growing from what they have to say or how they choose to act. As a mentor, this characteristic is essential. While mentors are meant to impart knowledge and wisdom to their mentee, it should also be clear that the mentor respects and values the mentee. A good mentor takes the time to reflect on what their mentee has said and allows it to impact them appropriately.
How can I practise curiosity as a mentor?
Michael Peterson, one of the world’s most renowned trainers in professional supervision, gives these three questions to build curiosity:
What do you notice?
What do you wonder?
What else arouses your curiosity?
These questions are so helpful in a session with a mentee. Curiosity begins with paying attention. You might notice your mentee is grinding their teeth, jiggling their foot, or avoiding a topic. Noticing small details leads to curious questions. Next, you can add a layer by wondering why. What causes this behaviour? Is it related to previous experiences? Finally, what else arouses your curiosity about their situation? About other aspects of their life?
When a person comes into the room, they bring all their connections, their past, their hopes, their trauma and joys. All of these are impacting them. There is always something to be curious about!
Here are a few things to keep in mind while practising curiosity and humility:
- Avoid making judgements, pre-formed opinions or jumping to conclusions in your head.
- Ask your questions aloud, and let your mentee speak for themselves.
- Just because you are curious about someone else’s ideas doesn’t mean you need to adopt them for yourself.
- Be aware of your own opinions and behaviours if you find them shifting. Make sure these shifts are still aligned with your principles.
- If you are struggling with being curious, this could be due to overwhelming issues in your own life. Find someone to speak to, you can help you regain your curiosity.
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