How Can We Encourage Curiosity?

Curiosity is an important trait to have for any healthy human. How can we make sure that we are as curious as possible?

There are many ways that curiosity helps us, and there are also ways that a lack of it can hurt us.

For instance, being curious about our environment is how we learn as children. We wonder about about the things around us, and that helps us with motor skills, language, reasoning, and other developmental skills.

It also helps us continue our education, both formally and informally. Formally through school and from teachers, and informally as we read on our own and in the hobbies we pursue.

To see how a lack of curiosity can hurt us, look no further than today’s political climate. Most people are content in echo feedback chambers, listening to opinions that mirror their own. They seek out news outlets that confirm their own viewpoint, and may even choose friends the same way.

One way out of this problem is to be curious about people you disagree with. Do you dismiss them out of hand, or do you wonder why they have another opinion? Being curious about something different — different religion, political party, skin color, native language,  and so on — allows us to be more understanding.

Curiosity can also lead to better mental health. As we age, learning about things you don’t already know keeps our brains flexible. It can help our own health as well as helping society at large.

So those are some of the benefits. But what are the specific methods we can employ to achieve these positive outcomes? What can we do in our everyday lives to encourage curiosity?

Related questions: How do you learn? What does it mean to be healthy? How do you adopt new ideas? How can we maintain wonder?

3 thoughts on “How Can We Encourage Curiosity?”

  1. I’ll offer an equation to answer this question: Opportunity plus an open mind plus a safe learning environment equals how we can encourage curiosity.

    The first thing we need to do is get people out of their bubbles. Some examples might be actively engaging people with different opinions than you or traveling to a country you’ve never been to and finding a way to interact with the locals. Then, we need to embrace experiencing situations outside our comfort zone. An example I’ve used is trying to engage people I know who have different opinions about gun control than me. And last, we need to set up encouraging environments to ask questions.

    I’ve followed or have been given the opportunity to embrace this equation a number of times in my life. I’ll provide two examples. First, when I travel to a different country, I either find an organization that pairs me with a greeter or I’ve found a local group guide who will spend two or three hours showing me some of the sights and encourages me asking frank questions about the place’s historical and political situation. Second, I have successfully had an in-depth conversation with a Facebook friend who reads the Constitution’s Second Amendment differently than I do. It was a challenging conversation that encouraged questions. Surprisingly, we found some limited common ground, which I consider a success.

  2. To start, I think it is important to be comfortable with — or even to enjoy — not knowing things. Our society does not reward people for expressing ignorance, which is a shame. It is only when you don’t know something that there is an opportunity to learn.

    To do that, I think you have to actively seek out difficult or challenging situations. If you do it enough times, you might start to disregard the discomfort, or maybe even to recognize that good conversations and positive out comes are the result.

    Similarly, try to say the words “I don’t know” out loud, clearly, at least once a day. It might feel awkward at first, but hopefully not for long.

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