The moment we allow ourselves to get curious about something or someone, and drop into a state of wonder, our perception changes. The world becomes a novel, refreshing place again as we stop thinking we already know how that thing works, or how that person will react.
Two friends of mine, Kay and Gina are masters of curiosity, taking it to an art form. Our biking trips are filled with unique, laughter-filled encounters with “the locals” because these two women are willing to ask strangers questions, that might typically feel unnerving, except for the fact, the questions are asked from such a place of genuine curiosity, there is no sharpness; the sense of wonder about who the person is, free from any label or judgment, is so evident that curiosity takes the edge out of their line of questioning.
Hedonic Adaptation Kills Curiosity:
Now, granted, the road-trip curiosity is fueled in part by the fresh and unique cast of characters in each town; however, wouldn’t it be something to bring the level of curiosity demonstrated by Kay and Gina back into our long-term relationships with our lovers, friends, and family?
We know from happiness research, that in most aspects of our lives, we get used to the surroundings and circumstances that stay the same; this phenomena is called “hedonic adaptation.” What was once new and exciting—be it a lover, a new house, car, restaurant, or jogging route—nearly always loses its luster over time. Our curiosity is dampened when we get comfortable, and when we begin to think we know all there is to know about someone; this assumption leads us to jump in with an interpretation of an action or situation, or quickly assign judgment, or label, because we are so certain.
Create A Love Map:
An honest question, sparked by genuine curiosity, is one way to go on a mini road-trip with the people in your life. In fact, by asking questions like the ones from the list below is a good way to create your “Love Map”; a term coined by John Gottman, a world renowned psychologist for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction.
A love map comprises the area of your brain where you file all the important things to know about the people you love. In other words, you have “created cognitive room in your brain for your relationship”. According to Gottman, couples who have created detailed love maps of each other’s worlds are far better prepared to cope with stressful events and conflict.
If you find yourself in a candle-lit restaurant worried about becoming, or knowing you have become, one of those couples who sit there and not say a single word to each other, then you can use this list of questions to spark curiosity and start the conversation flowing.
The following questions are part of Gottman’s 20 Questions Game. Points are assigned each question. To play the game according to Gottman rules, see the bottom of this post.
- Name my two closest friends. (2)
- What is my favorite musical group, composer, or instrument? (2)
- What was I wearing when we first met? (2)
- Name one of my hobbies. (3)
- What stresses am I facing right now? (4)
- Describe in detail what I did today, or yesterday? (4)
- Who is my favorite relative? (2)
- What is my fondest unrealized dream? (5)
- What is my favorite flower? (2)
- What is one of my greatest fears or disaster scenarios? (3)
- What is my favorite time of day for lovemaking? (3)
- What makes me feel the most competent? (4)
- What turns me on sexually? (3)
- What is my favorite meal? (2)
- What is my favorite way to spend an evening? (2)
- What personal improvements do I want to make in my life? (4)
- What is my favorite get-away place? (3)
- What am I most sad about? (4)
- Who was my best friend in childhood? (3)
- Name one of my major rivals or “enemies.” (3)
- What kind of books do I like to read? (3)
- What was my most embarrassing moment? (3)
- What was my worst childhood experience? (3)
- Name two people I admire most (3)
- What are two of my aspirations, hopes, wishes? (4)
- Do I have a secret ambition? What is it? (4)
- What is one of my favorite desserts? (2)
- What do I fear the most (4)
- What are some of the most important events coming up in my life and how do I feel about them? (4)
- What is my favorite animal? (2)
Questions from: Gottman, John and Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1991.
Directions: Play this game in the spirit of laughter and gentle fun.
Step One: Each of you take a piece of paper and pen or pencil. Together randomly decide on twenty numbers between 1 and 30. Write the numbers down in a column on the left-hand side of your paper.
Step Two: Below is a list of numbered questions. Beginning with the top of your column, match the numbers you chose with the corresponding question. Each of you should ask your partner this question. If your partner answers correctly (you be the judge), he or she receives the number of points indicated for that question and you receive one point. If he/she answers incorrectly, neither of you receives any points. The same rules apply when you answer. The winner is the person with the higher score after you’ve both answered all twenty questions.
For the complete list of 60 questions please visit this resource: Gottman, John and Nan Silver. The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1991.