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Because we’re wired to protect ourselves against threats to our egos and sense of belonging, it can be challenging to lower our defenses and boost our curiosity. The pursuit of greater curiosity is a long-term project, and there are a few simple techniques to help you along the way.

“A good tool is to simply become more willing to consider unpleasant or inconvenient possibilities about what may or may not be true,” says Julia Galef, author of The Scout Mindset. This can be as simple as asking yourself, What if I’m wrong about this? And then noticing that the sky does not fall if you realize that your belief was incorrect or you decide to change your mind.

Galef also encourages these six strategies:

  1. Tell people when you realize they’re right and you’re wrong.
  2. Notice how well — or poorly — you tolerate criticism. (Galef admits to shortcomings in this area.) Aim to increase your tolerance in the name of growth.
  3. Make things less personal. When you’re discussing issues, focus on the issues. Refrain from making ideas extensions of people.
  4. Visualize a simple plan for doing something you’ve been avoiding, such as apologizing to a friend over a slight. When Galef visualizes how she will apologize to someone, it becomes clear that she really should, and that it won’t be as difficult as she imagined.
  5. Take the outsider test: Look at a conflict through the eyes of a neutral outsider who has nothing at stake.
  6. Do the status quo bias test: Consider whether you’d accept your current situation if it wasn’t what you were already used to.

This was excerpted from “Get Curious” which was published in the January/February 2022 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Quinton Skinner

Quinton Skinner is a Minneapolis-based journalist and novelist.

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