How to become more curious as an adult?
November 13, 2006 2:10 PM   Subscribe

How to become more curious as an adult?

I find myself making unwarranted assumptions sometimes , e.g. assume that the library will be opened by the time I am done with all my other chores.

May be I am juggling too many balls and am not paying attention to sufficient details?

The bottom line is , how can I catch myself making assumptions when I am making them?

The best information I have found so far include:

Developing More Curious Minds (Paperback)
by John Barell
# 244 pages
# Publisher: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Deve (February 2003)

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
by Don Miguel Ruiz ---- supposedly a book about not making assumptions.

I would like to know how you become more curious and make fewer assumptions and not take things for granted.

What work for you?

Thank you very much.
posted by cluelessguru to Education (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I try to keep myself informed about other opinions/perspectives so that I am usually aware when I'm ignoring the obvious. The best way to keep yourself informed is to read and discuss with others. Magzines such as The Economist are excellent for keeping up with world affairs, while Nature is better for scientific advancement.

Reading the newspaper and talking to others about your opinion will help your curiosity grow and at the same time you'll be more aware of your mistakes.
posted by Aanidaani at 2:37 PM on November 13, 2006

I'll admit this isn't a problem I've struggled with, but maybe that means I'm doing something right.

I find I am very much in the habit of trying to think of reasons. In school, I did not learn unconnected facts easily, and so always tried to deduce what connections existed. I don't know if this is a symptom or cause, but it's another angle to consider.
posted by RobotHero at 3:52 PM on November 13, 2006

I don't think that the quality you lack is curiosity. I'd call it "attention to detail" or "contingency planning." Curiosity connotes (to me, anyway) seeking out information that you find interesting. You're not interested in the operating hours for the library, but you need to know them anyway, or to remember to find them out. I say this not to quibble over terminology but in the hope that it'll help you find other books and websites to guide you.

As an exercise, you might try doing some extreme over-planning for your next round of errands. What stores will you visit, and in what order? At the first intersection, do you go right or left? What's the speed limit on Main Street, and given that how long will it take you to get between stores (don't forget to estimate how long you'll have to wait at red lights). For each step in your plan, ask yourself "what could go wrong?" and figure out what you'll do if that happens, and how you can alter your plan to reduce the likelihood that it will happen. The objective is not to do this kind of uber-planning routinely, but to begin training your brain to think about small details and contingencies.
posted by bac at 5:04 PM on November 13, 2006

Response by poster:
Thank you very much for the great suggestions so far.

I have a feeling that if I was a more curious person, I will stop making assumptions that I should not be making.

I used the library example because I thought I knew the library hours well, but turned out that I was wrong. And this error has happened quite often enough I wonder what is it going to take for me to stop taking things for granted.

A better example I can think of right now is when I wanted to buy a piece of computer accessory at , say, Circuit City, I had sometimes assumed that they carry it or still carry it and showed up to find that they do not carry it because this particular branch is smaller in space and so it doesn't carry everything.

Why didn't I think of or why didn't I remember calling first to confirm?

And again I have made this same mistake at least a couple of times a year, with the same branch of Circuit City.

I have a feelling by becoming a more curious person, I can tackle this challenge from a different angle.

I don't know where else to start.

It is not like I made the same kind of mistakes again and again because I am tackling something I did not know I did not know.

And it is not like I am losing my memory. Somehow I am not internalizing the many lessons about not making the same assumptions.
posted by cluelessguru at 5:34 PM on November 13, 2006

Your affliction sounds like optimism to me, I'd hang on to that if I were you. Would you really want to trade a few disappointments due to overly optimistic assumptions for erring on the other side by needless worry?

Assumptions don't always work, but questioning and pondering relatively small things like those you mentioned might not bring you more joy.
posted by meijusa at 6:10 PM on November 13, 2006

Do you use some kind of calendar or PDA to remind yourself to do these errands? If so, maybe you could go through it and add a note to every item to phone ahead first and check hours/availability/whatever before setting out. After a while it might become a habit.
posted by Quietgal at 9:24 PM on November 13, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you very very much once again.

meijusa I like the optimism angle. I sure hope your diagnosis are right. Yes I can be described as an optimist if I had to choose between being described as an optimist or a pessimist.

Quietgal I think this tendency to make assumptions is symptomatic of a bigger challenge/trait I am still trying to come to grips with in describing. The mere writing down would bore me so much that it saps the fun out of life .

I got a feelling even if I write down to remember to call for opening hours or to see if a certain item is in stock, I am only treating the symptoms, not the cause. And the cause/trait/challenge will manifest itself in other ways.

I used to keep a diary but I find it interferes with my spontaneity.

Nowadays I only use small pieces of papers each of which has a task or deadline I need to fulfill and I shuffle them around when I am not in the mood to do certain task.

I still get things done , by and large, but I am not one of those people who stick to a list of things to do and only find satisfiaction out of completing the list , even at the cost of spontaneity .
posted by cluelessguru at 10:43 AM on November 14, 2006

Response by poster: I have a feeling that the following habit, if practised conscientiously, will help reduce making assumptions and help one to become more curious:

Whenever somebody mentions a noun or an adjective , e.g. constipation, "not very helpful" , "very good", make sure they define it.

We cannot assume that the other person means what we mean if we said the same thing in the same way.

For example, it appears that the way a woman communicates is different from the way a man communicates.

For an example, read Deborah Tannen's article in Harvard Business Review (Source:
The Power of Talk: Who Gets Heard and Why., , 00178012, Sep/Oct95, Vol. 73, Issue 5 )

So it should not come as a surprise that due to upbringing and a host of other factors that in many , if not most or all instances, there is a difference in meaning in the same verbs and adjectives used by different people.

Now the trick is to always remember this lesson whenever we communicate with others
posted by cluelessguru at 1:48 AM on November 18, 2006

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