Sam Radford

March 22, 2022

Regaining our curiosity with those we know the most

My friend, Hermann du Plessis, has a new book out called ‘Lead with Intent’. I’m enjoying it! It’s been a while since I’ve read a book on leadership; I’m learning lots, and being reminded of plenty too. 

This morning I read a section on curiosity. Though his focus is leadership, I couldn’t help but think about it in a wider life context. Here’s what he wrote:

Research shows that curiosity drops by 95% between the ages of 3 and 23. By 23, you believe you have the world figured out. It is a shame, really, but understandable, considering what a great challenge it is to hold on to our curiosity as we grow up. We do the same in our relationships: “this is who my wife is”, “this is who my child is” and “this is who my colleague or team member is” we put people in boxes. We label them and lose curiosity and subsequently empathy.

This is sad, but not surprising. I was especially struck by how we stop being curious with the people we are in relationship with.

This feels all too true. Whether it’s family, friends, or colleagues, after a while I assume I know them. 

Take family. We grow up with our siblings and parents during our curious years, settle on a picture of who they are, and then hold on to that forever more. 20, 30, 40 years can pass but we still hold onto that view of them.

I know I’ve changed though. There’s lots that’s different about me; about what I think, what I value, what interests me. Yet with family I’m somehow held to a former version of myself. And I do the same with them. In short, I need to regain my curiosity about who they are now

It’s the same in my marriage. It’ll be our 18th anniversary later this year. And I know for a fact I’m not as curious as I should be about continuing to discover and explore more about who Rachel is now

Losing our curiosity with the people around us comes at a cost too. As Hermann writes, we lose our empathy. Perhaps, if we’re feeling low on empathy towards those closest to us, we need to consider it a timely reminder to up our curiosity.

—Sam

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