lesson three power of presence study guide individual track

Power of Presence Series

Individual Track Learning Guide

Lesson Three: Curiosity

Questions Worth Considering

4. “As care providers, we often want to know answers. We want to give people certainty – this is what you should do – but in not knowing we can turn to curiosity, open and honest questions, and offer our care receivers support and a sense of connection that our expertise can never give them. What a beautiful gift of presence.” –Soul & Science Lesson

5. “When we get stuck somewhere and we feel reactive - that is a place of pausing and waiting and then being curious. It may lead you in a very different direction: a place of connection with people rather than protecting and defending your point of view. It is a nice opportunity to offer healing to both parties through just being curious.” – Soul & Science Lesson

6. “Empathic Curiosity allows patients to convey their story and to clarify relevant points so the patient feels ‘heard.’ It provides a space for interaction, and not just a question and answer assessment. It’s more than just ordering a battery of tests because you’re interested in confirming or rejecting your diagnosis. It’s a validation of the patient’s symptoms by taking a genuine interest in the patient through a compassionate, caring and genuine concern for their well-being. In the absence of curiosity, the healthcare provider fails to properly understand the patient.” - Larry Laveman, LCSW, BCD

7. “Dr. Charan Ranganath, a neuroscientist from UC Davis, has discovered there’s this basic circuit in the brain that energizes people to go out and get things that are intrinsically rewarding. It lights up when we are curious.” –Soul & Science Lesson

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Best Practices – (Choose at Least One)

1) “Most of all, relationship mindfulness requires not forgetting the authentic, valid experience of the other person as well as of yourself. Even if the other person has said or done something you do not like, his or her experiences, needs, and desires are valid. Even if your own emotional responses are difficult to tolerate, they are valid.” – Jeremy Schwartz, LCSW

An important part of validating the feelings of others is to listen and summarize what they have expressed. By rephrasing or inferring what you have just heard, you are showing your desire to understand what the other person is going through. You may get feedback that you are understanding them incorrectly, which is important information as well. Getting it “wrong” is a perfect time to use open-ended questions and empathetic curiosity to gain clarity and accurate understanding.

Some examples of summarizing and rephrasing are as follows:

“It sounds like the constant pain is really getting you discouraged.”
“It must have been a very bad night.”
“I think I understand: you are worried about possible side effects, and that makes you afraid to try new medications.”
“It seems like things are getting a little bit better, but you were hoping for more.”

This week, make a concerted effort to validate others’ feelings by summarizing what you have heard. Record your insights.

Article: How to Validate Someone’s Feelings/Wikihow

2) “So often—and this is reinforced by our social context—we make assumptions rather than being curious. In conversations with others, we think ahead to what we are going to say next, or we make interpretations about the meaning of what the other person is saying. What if, rather than interpreting or analyzing another person’s words or actions, we were to remain curious about the many possibilities for what the person may be thinking or feeling?” – Jeremy Schwartz, LCSW

Spend one day making an effort to stay present with those you talk to. Don’t think ahead, analyze the conversation, or mentally drift away. Make an effort to ask at least three curiosity-driven questions during the course of each exchange.

3) “To have empathic curiosity is to ask open-ended questions that cause the patient to think differently about how they perceive their situation and to problem-solve in more effective ways. In other words, it engages the patient. It’s more than just “putting yourself in their shoes”, it’s the desire to know, combined with an interest in understanding, complemented by a direct action that is clearly articulated to the patient.” – Larry Laveman, LCSW, BCD

Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a simple yes/no answer – they require critical thinking. “The best single mark of an honest, open question is that the questioner could not possibly anticipate the answer to it.” – Parker Palmer

The following is an excerpt from the article “The Redemptive Power of Questions” by Terry Chadsey of The Center for Courage & Renewal:

It takes practice to ask an open, honest question. Look for a question without an agenda, without a right/wrong answer, and where you couldn’t possibly predict the answer.

It also takes a willingness to listen with a different ear. Ask an honest, open question and truly wait for the answer. Let silence fill the space while you wait. Resist the urge to come up with a witty response or a corrective comeback. Give your genuine presence.

Make a list of five possible open-ended questions you could use in your caregiving interactions. Some examples include:

  • Can you tell me what you’re feeling?
  • How can I best help you?
  • What is most important right now?