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The Art of Being Playfully Provocative and Curious

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

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Aristotle once remarked that human beings are naturally curious. As children, we explore and playfully engage all of our sensory systems. We see, hear, feel, taste and smell our environment to explore, experiment, try things out, develop skills and build our knowledge and ‘map’ of the world. Playful learning is part of who we are and how we become who we are.

We don’t worry about creating a trail of destruction (in a small way) around the house, scuffing our knees, getting it “wrong” and, to be honest, rushing around like wild chimps.

Rather, we bravely and willingly forge into new unexplored territory and continuously learn about ourselves, and the world around us.

Think about the time when we learnt to walk.  It started with one small step that may not have been forwards.  We might still be clutching the edge of the coffee table. We bravely experimented with a number of strange movements that may have caused us to topple over and fall flat on our bottoms. We persisted and playfully tried different things and made necessary adjustments. After much persistence and repetition we developed the strength and skill of walking.

As we grow older, we learn that being wrong often leads to negative consequences and instead focus on being “right”.

As a result, we become less curious about the world around us. We rely more on research, facts and left logical brain functions and less so on our right brain imagination, creativity and curiosity.

These self-imposed limits often lead us to ‘play small’ and experience fewer choices, freedom and fun in our lives which diminishes the richness of experience that is so easily available if we are willing to be imaginative, creative and curious. In life’s rich symphony some people limit themselves to one note or tune on a piano.

As professional coaches we have the wonderful privilege and responsible for creating a safe environment for the client that is conducive to the exploration of new possibilities, choices and solutions.  When we reach into our child-like curiosity and say: “I don’t know! Let’s find out together!” we open the door for a whole new experience.

To reach these child-like qualities, who do we need to ‘BE’ as coaches to facilitate such an environment

The key ICG Core Competencies that come to mind are…

  1. Bring insatiable curiosity and playful provocativeness

Be present, bring an insatiable curiosity to learn about the client’s map and playfully interact with the client during the session through humor, Role-plays, reframes and metaphors.

Playfulness brings lightness to the conversation and defuses any unnecessary seriousness or tension that are not conducive to creating a learning environment. There is ample research connecting innovation and creative thinking to being curious and playful.

Varying our tonality and physiology is also very helpful here.

  1. Bring a sense of adventure

Be willing to explore and embrace the unknown, create new paths and play with possibilities.  Sometimes this requires us to be unconventional in our thinking, which gives us the freedom to think outside of the box and come up with new innovations and improvements.

  1. Challenge unexplored ideas

Explore, experiment and try things out in a safe environment: consider unusual approaches and interesting angles, challenge the status quo and be willing to seek help and find, test and refine possible solutions.

  1. Demonstrate behavioral flexibility

Take 100% responsibility for communication effectiveness and be self-aware of whether the message is being accepted and well received. Be flexible and adjust the message to help clients manage and overcome setbacks.

  1. Bring lightness, humor and creativity to the conversation

Lightness, humor and sometimes being whimsical and nonsensical are wonderful contexts for learning and encouraging creativity. Sometimes this means letting go of our maturity and discarding our ideas of what it means to be “grown up” to access child-like playfulness, joy and laughter.

If being curious or playfully provocative does not come naturally, become insatiably curious about your surroundings by noticing the brilliant array of colors and textures around you… run through the autumn leaves that are spread around our streets right now and enjoy the sensory experiences… then think of a challenge or issue you’re currently experiencing and discover the answers and possibilities that were always hiding inside you.

Deborah Kleinert

ICG Certified Coach

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