Getting to Love Someone Better Through Precision in Language
I often hear people say, “I think that’s really interesting.” What does that mean? Interesting like noteworthy, exciting, or fascinating? Interesting like disgusting, confusing, disappointing? Do you want to know more, do you feel cautious or repelled when you think of it?
“Interesting” does not mean much to me. I think it is a placeholder for deeper feelings, usually said out of unconscious habit. Therefore I often ask, “what kind of interesting?” or “what do you mean by that?”
Genuine Curiousity is a Key To Loving Someone
This interaction has a tendency to feel like a meeting with the Gestapo, but they key to it being nourishing and loving is being genuinely interested in knowing a person better, and understanding them more fully. I might be wanting to imagine the world from their point of view, or I might be desiring feedback from them on how they perceive me. In my best moments, I am gentle in my approach, aware that the question might throw them off guard, and I am not attached to getting an answer.
But What Does “Curious” REALLY mean?
There are a few words people use in a similar way to “interesting,” and one of them is “curious.” Sometimes people have a true feeling of curiosity, which generally feels like excitement, anticipation, and even wonder. But usually when someone says they feel “curious,” there are stronger feelings underneath that—such as a desire to get closer to someone, or skepticism / judgement on what someone has said.
Hearing these words is like hearing a meditation bell for me—I suddenly breathe more deeply and check in with myself: what is my purpose in the moment? In this conversation? Do I want to know them better? Do I want to avoid them? Do I feel friendly and loving, defensive, or standoffish? What is our purpose as a group of people relating, and how can I align with that more fully?
My invitation is not necessarily to have the same reaction to the words “interesting” and “curious,” although you are welcome to join me in this meditation. My invitation is to recognize that language is one of the most powerful ways we have to communicate, and we can communicate more love through awareness of our language patterns.