practice One

I’ll be unusually interested in others.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
— Simone Weil

Think about the times when you’ve been on the receiving end of positive, specific, welcome attention … the sort of attention that made you feel in that moment like the most important person in the room — because someone asked a question in a way that made you the only person who could answer it.

Most of us don’t have an overabundance of such memories to draw on, which is why the ones we have tend stay with us forever — a teacher who encouraged us, a friend’s parent who made us feel welcome, a college roommate who introduced us to her friends — all filed away in a mental folder titled “Impossible To Forget.”

Jim Henderson says, “Ira Glass is the creator and host of the wildly popular radio show and podcast This American Life. Ira is a fascinating person, but the habit he


practices that I’m most interested in is his curiosity. On the radio, Ira comes across as a genuinely curious person. I wanted to know if that was how he was in real life, so I asked him. 

“Ira laughed. ‘Of course I’m curious! I mean, how fake would it be for me to ask questions and not really mean them? Don’t you think people would pick up on that?’ Of course they would.” 

Most of us learn to spot fake interest from a mile away. We learn to recognize sincerity, too. And we’re drawn to others who genuinely seeks to understand us. In the 3 Practices, we try to begin every questions with the words, “I’d be curious to know….”

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The first Practice is about genuine curiosity.