Curiosity Killed the Cat

by Ron Potter

My first reaction is that I’m glad I’m not a cat because I’m very curious.

The saying originally meant don’t be too nosey!  It was related to the term “busy body”: someone who seemed to be nosey about everyone else’s business.

But in 1912 the saying was altered to say—

Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back

While curiosity may harm you, the satisfaction of finding knowledge or the truth is worth it. So be curious, strive to find the truth and gain knowledge!

I liked this addition much better.  Curiosity that seeks knowledge and truth brings great satisfaction.  So how do we be curious to seek knowledge and truth while not being nosey?  I think there are two ways of accomplishing this goal.

Blame Game

People who are seeking enough information so they can assign blame (to anything or anyone other than themselves) are nosey.  That’s the kind of curiosity that killed the cat and will kill open and honest discussions.  We know these people.  They want to make sure that it’s never their fault.  They are always looking to shift the blame as an excuse for their bad behavior or poor decisions.  It’s never their fault.

Avoidance Style

Human Synergistics has a leadership assessment titled Life Style Inventory (LSI).  In this assessment, they identify a style they call Avoidance that has similar characteristics.  Their list includes:

  • A strong tendency to deny responsibility for one’s own behavior.
  • Fear of failure
  • A preoccupation with one’s own concerns
  • Lack of self-disclosure that eventually leads to emotional isolation.

If you’re interested in this assessment, find out more on their website.

Being Curious without being Nosey

The other way of satisfying your curiosity for knowledge and truth is to practice Listening with the Intent to Understand.

You’ve seen this concept in many of my blogs.  But the fact that I keep coming back to it is a testament to how important this is as a skill.

When you listen with the intent to understand, people notice.  You’re truly curious about what they think, what experiences they’ve had, and what would lead them to their conclusion.  People not only notice, they feel respected and empowered and want to share to great depths.  And in addition, they become much more curious themselves about what you think.  It’s a two-way street.

Be Curious

Be curious, but be curious to learn, grow, and understand.  If you’re genuine, this will keep you from being a busy body.  Learn, grow, and Listen with the intent to understand.  It brings great satisfaction.

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