replace blame with curiosity 

Replace blame with curiosity. John Gottman’s research data shows that blame and criticism reliably escalate conflict, leading to defensiveness and — eventually — to disengagement. The alternative to blame is curiosity.

Adopt a learning mindset. Check your assumptions. Do I have all the facts? Is there something I don’t know?  What might be occurring for the person? If you believe you already know what the other person is thinking, then you’re not ready to have a conversation.


  • State the topic as an observation, using neutral language.

    • “In the past two months there’s been a noticeable drop in your participation during meetings and progress appears to be slowing on your project.”

  • Engage in an open exploration.

    • “I imagine there are multiple factors at play. Perhaps we could uncover what they are together?”

  • Ask them for suggestions or ideas.

    • “What ideas do you have?

    • “What would be your ideal scenario?”

    • “How could I support you?”