Guest Post by Larry Senn
A question I get asked a lot is, “Why is curious the turning point on the Mood Elevator?” Curiosity is what I like to call the built-in brake on the human Mood Elevator, just like real elevators have safety brakes, we also have a safety brake to help us from plummeting into lower moods.
The Mood Elevator is a concept and awareness tool Senn Delaney uses to describe our moment-to-moment experience of life. It encompasses a wide range of feelings and together, these emotions play a major role in defining the quality of our lives as well as our effectiveness.
Think about a time you rushed to judge someone. Maybe a coworker messed up on the project you were working on, or maybe your spouse forgot to do something important you asked them to do. How many times have we jumped to judge and then found out later there was an outside circumstance that you had no idea about? Maybe your coworker had a death in the family that caused them to mess up, or maybe your spouse had to take your child to urgent care because they had a cold. How would your feelings towards the situation be different if you went to curiosity instead of judgment?
The Benefits of Curiosity
Having a curious mindset could stop many trips to the bottom of the Mood Elevator. Many of us turn to irritation and bother if someone says something we don’t agree with. Our inner dialogue might go something like, “What a stupid thought! I can’t believe they think this way.” However, if we had a default of being curious, not only would we save ourselves some inner turmoil but we might actually learn something new. Our inner dialogue could instead be something like, “I wonder why they think that way, what an unusual and surprising thing to say. It would be interesting to understand what causes them to think that way.”
A Beneficial Inner Dialogue
Being curious versus being irritated or judgmental isn’t always easy. There are several reasons being judgmental, in particular, is appealing. It relieves us of the hard work of trying to understand something that is unfamiliar. It also gives us the pleasurable sensation of being right and others being wrong. However, practicing curiosity when confronted with something that is unfamiliar to us can lead to higher creativity, better relationships, more innovation when it comes to problem-solving, and higher levels on the Mood Elevator.
Even extremely intellectual and creative people can fall into this trap of judgment and close-mindedness. Back in 2007, the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer was being interviewed about Microsoft’s new operating system called Vista. When asked about Apple’s new product, the iPhone Ballmer said, “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.” We all know how that played out. The Vista operating system was a flop and Apple went on to make billions of dollars selling the iPhone.
Think of what might have happened if Microsoft took the time to understand Apple’s ideas with their new phone. They could have gathered all their top people and asked questions like, “What’s new and different about this gadget?” or “What new possibilities does this design allow?” Asking questions like these could have had led to even more innovation, but instead Ballmer simple rejected it because it didn’t fit his image of what a phone should look like. Mistakes like this are made hundreds of times each year in companies that think they already know everything they need to know.
How To Practice Being Curious
Most of us are programmed to follow our emotional impulses of judgment, anger, irritation, etc. so it will take some rewiring. When life throws you a curveball — when things happen that are unexpected, unpleasant or painful, you have the choice of how to react. One of the best ways to change how we think is first to be aware if you find yourself dropping to judgment — take a second to pause and then ask yourself these questions:
- What can I learn from this unusual happening?
- What is the other person seeing that I’m not?
- How can I make something positive out of this apparently negative occurrence?
Make the curiosity floor on the Mood Elevator your best friend. Visit it often and reap the remarkable benefits it offers. You’ll find yourself spending a lot more time in the penthouse and a lot less time in the basement.
Dr. Larry Senn pioneered the field of corporate culture and founded in 1978, Senn Delaney, the culture shaping unit of Heidrick & Struggles. A sought-after speaker, Senn has authored or co-authored several books, including two best-sellers. His newest is The Mood Elevator, the follow up to his 2012 book, Up the Mood Elevator.
Photo by Joseph Rosales on Unsplash