Choose Your Default Response to Everything

You aren’t always proud of default responses.

“When I feel on the spot,” a young leader said, “I freeze up. I don’t know what to do or say.”


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Three defaults:

Stress brings out default responses. I become aggressive. You withdraw. In either case, it’s often not our best self. Judith Glaser, author of, “Conversational Intelligence,” shared three default responses to stress during our recent conversation.

  1. Move away – conflict avoidance.
  2. Move against. “I’m taking control.”
  3. Moving with – compliance. “I’ll just go along.”

Glaser in her own words (1:42):

Planned responses require fewer apologies.

A new default:

Choose curiosity as your initial response to every leadership situation and encounter.

Curiosity always fits.

8 powers of curiosity:

  1. Empowers you. The person asking the questions controls the situation.
  2. Moves toward.
  3. Expresses courage and openness.
  4. Strengthens relationships, eventually.
  5. Protects organizations.
  6. Affirms and gives space to others. Curiosity says you and your situation matter to me.
  7. Elevates your status as a leader.
  8. Exposes opportunity.

Curiosity is the most useful initial response to:

  1. Anger.
  2. Worry.
  3. Surprise.
  4. Opportunity.
  5. Complaints.
  6. Ideas.
  7. Pain.
  8. Accusation.

5 enemies of curiosity:

  1. Fear and stress.
  2. Need to be right. (My personal favorite.)
  3. Quick decisions.
  4. Past success.
  5. Defensive postures.

The next time you feel like defending yourself, ask a question.

3 curiosity tips:

  1. Ask about the obvious.
  2. Declare yourself and your intentions or curiosity feels threatening to others. Don’t hide behind curiosity.
  3. Curiosity isn’t the answer. It’s the path to the answer. Execution follows curiosity.

Leaders deal with the nagging thought they won’t have answers. They’ll make painful mistakes.

Release uncertainty by taking the ritual of curiosity with you everywhere you go.

Curiosity is the leaders universal tool.

What blocks curiosity?

What are your favorite questions?

Added resources:

Power Questions,” by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas.

Coaching for Engagement,” by Hancox, Hunter, and Boudreau