Why curiosity is better than reactivity

When someone around you says something that rubs you the wrong way, there is one question you can ask yourself to get more clarity in the situation.

Steffan Surdek
June 13, 2022
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Sometimes, even the best leaders can get reactive or take things personally. In my day-to-day work with clients, I often see this happening in meetings and discussions between leaders and their teams.

Have you ever been in a situation where someone says something that shocks you? At that moment, your gut instinct kicks in and you cannot help but wonder, “what the f***?" You may also be left wondering why that person would even say something like that.

In this article, we will go deeper into this topic and give you the one question you can ask to get a deeper understanding of the situation and of the other person.

What do I mean by WTF?

The problem with these "WTF" moments is that they can lead to miscommunications. I bet that often when this kind of thing happens, you cannot say those words out loud, can you?

What happens is that you start to assume things about that person and the reason why they said that. You may also get defensive because deep down you are afraid to lose face in the situation. This could then affect how you view your team's dynamic.

What would change for you if you decided to change the question? I was in a Management 3.0 training class a while ago and one of the participants, Ellen Grove, a fellow agile coach, told us how she did just that.

She replaced it with a question so powerful that she actually wears a bracelet with WTF engraved on it! It reminds her that she needs to keep asking herself that question.

The question is this: Where is that coming from?

How one simple question can change everything

When one of these situations happens, instead of getting caught up in your feelings and your defensiveness, you can get curious and ask yourself that simple question: "I wonder where that is coming from"?

When you do this, you will see that it can open up the possibility for you to show compassion for someone. It can allow you to find another way to deal with the same situation. It could also offer a possibility to learn more about someone and try to see the world from their point of view.

Let's start with the assumption that people react to how the world occurs to them. Can something as simple as changing your reaction change how these same situations occur to you? If that is true, what else could it change? Could it change the perception of the people around you? Could it also change how these people perceive you?

When you start to wonder, “Where is that coming from?” it allows you to approach the world from the perspective of Curious George and come from a position of openness and compassion instead of judgment. This is also one of the core soft skills we teach our clients.


So the next time you are in a situation where you have an uncontrollable urge to scream “WTF!” out loud, I invite you to take a deep breath, change the question and see what opens up for you.

Leaders who regularly ask themselves, “Where is that coming from?” will have an easier time communicating with their team and leading them to success.

What new possibilities open up for you when you transform those WTF moments to asking, “Where is that coming from?”