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A Relation Beyond the Rhyme

Many of my weekly missives begin with the inspiration behind them, and that makes this one a bit tough for me.

There’s often some kind of story behind how an idea came to me and why I then choose to write about it here, in the context of how if relates to my work advising families around their wealth or business transition challenges.

Regular readers know I use a simple Gmail folder to store ideas that come to me at any given time, and for this one I even needed to look at the date of the email to recall when the idea struck me.

That’ll help a bit, perhaps, but what I do recall is that I awoke early one morning with the idea of “curious, not furious”, but without any clue as to from whence it came.

Inspired by My Colleagues?

The date on which I emailed myself the idea was the Saturday of a weekend-long peer meeting I’ve written about here at times, where colleagues gather to share how we do our work with families, in order that we may all improve.

We began on Friday afternoon, and for some reason when I awoke on Saturday morning, I had “curious” and “furious” on the brain.

I don’t recall any particular discussion from the previous day that might have caused this, but alas, here we are.

I have to believe that just being with these colleagues was somehow responsible for this.

Now my challenge is to turn this into something useful, while being entertaining at the same time. Here goes.

Curiosity as an Antidote

A couple of years back in Curiosity as the Antidote to Assumptions in Families, we looked at how getting curious and asking questions can be a great way to get out of the rut of sticking with our assumptions, which are so often wrong or simply just outdated.

But it now strikes me that when I’m angry, which is not as bad as furious, I can usually walk myself back from the ledge by thinking about why someone might do what they did which has now angered me.

I touched on some of this last year in Stop Assuming the Worst – Using the MGI Method. There, we looked at how forcing oneself to think of the “most generous interpretation” (i.e. MGI) can be useful in lowering our own anxiety.

Trying to come up with such an interpretation cannot be done without getting curious.

Important Family Discussions Can Create Tension

A huge part of my work involves helping families have important conversations they need to have.

They know deep down that they need to have such discussions, yet despite this, they almost always have difficulty starting them and then having them go well, when left to themselves.

Having a neutral third party in the room can do wonders, and so I am often the person who brings my curiosity out first, and then encourage others to follow suit.

In a similar way, I often flex my calm, in the hopes that it too will become contagious. See Calm Is Contagious from 2018.

Discussions about how things will need to evolve and change going forward are fraught with emotions, and it’s not unusual for things to get charged, and inevitably someone may become angry, if not furious.

Those who experience these strong emotions typically don’t even know exactly why they’ve been riled up, because the thinking part of our brains is not where the emotions are regulated.

Curiosity to the Rescue

As the unrelated party in the room, it’s much easier for me to inquire as to the source of the emotions.

I can and do ask questions about what’s at the root of the outrage, because I’m genuinely interested in learning the answer.

The person in question can often be perplexed by my intervention and desire to know, but the mere fact that I’ve asked can be enough to interrupt the tension long enough to provoke some necessary reflection on their part.

On some occasions the self-reflection can be outright surprising to everyone, and if the space feels safe enough, others in the room may offer their own answers too.

Much of the success of such interventions comes down to a positive attitude that an experienced facilitator brings, so as to properly hold the space for productive dialogue.

And genuine curiosity is always a huge component of success.