“Shared stories are the only way anyone has for escaping the straight-jacket of the self...only inhabiting another’s story can deliver us from certainty.”
These quotes from American novelist and philosopher, Richard Powers, remind us of the power of story and perspective-taking. They’re also quotes that our CEO, Tim Urmston, references in SEEK’s Science Behind Empathy and Storytelling talk.
But what does story have to do with empathy? Well, everything, really. Some talk about empathy as “walking in someone else’s shoes,” but it would be amiss to say that it stops there. Walking in someone else’s shoes means that you’re experiencing their world, but it still may be from your lens. Truly walking in someone else’s shoes is experiencing their world through THEIR lens, and being compelled to act on their behalf.
None of this can happen, however, without curiosity. Assumptions are the killer of curiosity. So often we like to think we know. We’ve been there. We get it. But the reality is that even if we’ve been there, we only know OUR truth…and it’s up to us to be curious about someone else’s.
The realization that everyone is living in their own movie is perhaps one realization that could change the face of how we interact with each other on a global scale. This realization, again, delivers us from certainty. It promotes curiosity. Asking why. Asking how.
There are a number of ways that we feed our curiosity. We talk to people. We read blogs, books, and even scroll Instagram to learn about people who are different from us. We see people on public transit and wonder about their stories. We travel -- to another country, another state, another city, another neighborhood.
Sometimes, curiosity runs so deep that it takes you down a Google rabbithole, clicking link after link and becoming so engrossed in a topic, brand, person. Curiosity can be addictive.
Curiosity has led me to some interesting places. A cross-country move from Kansas City to San Francisco, starting a job at SEEK almost five years ago, random conversations in transit, and even into a field of work that encourages digging deeper and asking questions. Curiosity has beckoned me out of my comfort zone on multiple occasions - curiosity to learn cultures, people, food, natural beauty, and even curiosity to see how I handle all of these new experiences.
Time can sometimes be an enemy of curiosity, especially in travel. Spontaneity is great, but when you only have 3 days in a city, there’s usually heavier planning involved. So, that is why 2019 is going to be a year of totally giving into that curiosity. I will be taking an extended leave to travel around the world for 12 months. There is so much unknown that begins on January 16, but one thing I know for sure is that I will be in a constant state of learning about humans, the world, and myself...and to think it all started with just a little bit of curiosity.
What stokes your curiosity? Share it with us!