Curiosity in Cooking Leads to Lessons in Coaching

Mar 24, 2020

Last week I was ill. So my parents decided to pay me a surprise visit. How blessed am I? 😀

Having my entire family around- my kids, husband, parents-in-law, and now, my parents not only contributed to having a soothing effect on my recovery but also made me feel incredibly loved.

Both, my mother and mother-in-law are excellent cooks. Observing their interactions in the kitchen served as an excellent opportunity to learn a thing or two about curiosity. My mom-in-law CURIOUSLY inquired from my mom the recipe of a dish before preparing it. I found myself awestruck as she intently listened as my mom listed out the ingredients of the recipe for the first time. If an ingredient she had never used was mentioned, she would gracefully accept the suggestion.

Just for context, my mom-in-law is 75 years old and has been independent right from the age of 16. She got married at 18 and has been cooking ever since.

Curiosity in Cooking Leads to Lessons in Coaching

While overhearing them, I felt this conversation was a win-win for both, my mom and mom-in-law. While mom-in-law learned about a new ingredient, it was a special moment for my mom to be able to share a recipe that is dear to her. You see, this recipe was handed down to her by her mother.

I could closely relate this situation from the perspective of a coach:

  1. The coach must be accustomed to having a “not knowing” approach. This empowers the client to open up. In the above example, if my mother-in-law had shown the slightest possibility of knowing the recipe, my mother would have felt like her cooking skills were being put to the test. It’s likely she’d have felt that my mother-in-law’s intent was not to learn a new recipe.
  2. By being fully present, where the ego is absent. When a question is asked with genuine curiosity, it will land well on the ears of the person being asked. They will feel safe to answer in the absence of ego.
  3. The body language of the coach while displaying curiosity: Curiosity can be misunderstood for judgment. A lot of communication depends on body language as well. Curiosity comes from a place of “not knowing”. Judgment comes from the assumptions of “knowing it all”.
  4. The TONE of a question also helps communicate whether it is genuinely being asked out of curiosity or not. If a humble tone is not used, it can be disempowering and ultimately the client holds back from opening up.

Key Takeaways

So what did I learn from watching the moms cook that you can apply to your coaching practice?

  1. Be a curious learner
  2. Be non-judgemental
  3. Be a generative listener

I’m convinced that constantly growing in curiosity helps empower a person. One can master the art of curiosity and still have scope for improvement.

What do you think?

Share your story of being curious and how it helps you and others you are conversing with.

Smita Raghum
Smita Raghum


Related Reading