“What, courage man! What though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care” William Shakespeare

Curiosity may have killed the cat … but ask any leadership guru worth their salt about the virtue of curiosity and chances are they will have much to say. Is it much ado about nothing?


  • provides the foundation for learning
  • is an antidote to judgment
  • deepens relationships and builds trust

Lately, I’ve been curious about my own level of curiosity. I notice a tendency to use the phrase “I’m curious” within conversations. With all the benefits of being curious, it is no wonder that I announce my curiosity.

After carefully reflecting on my own internal state after I catch myself virtue signaling my curiosity in conversation this is what I have found:

I’m Nosy

At times I am just downright nosy. So what’s the difference between curiosity and nosiness? I’ve noticed that when I am nosy I have already judged the other person and my stated curiosity is a form of deception to cover my underlying motivation. I have already diagnosed your behavior but I’m curious nosy to find out if my diagnosis is accurate.

I’m Greedy

Rather than seeking to learn something from you I am seeking to get something from you. So what’s the difference between a learning mindset and a greedy mindset? I have noticed that within conversation’s I shift from a curious learning state to a greedy get-something state when I make a connection to what I have learned and how this knowledge may benefit me. Self-interest replaces curiosity. Self-interest flows from a place of scarcity. For me, the litmus test of greed and self-interest is in the leading vs. responsive nature of my questions. I’m curious greedy to hear more about how I can personally benefit from this information.

I’m Uncomfortable

Sometimes “I’m curious” shows up in conversations that have progressed beyond the superficial. The curiosity that has lead the conversation to a place of depth has been overtaken by discomfort. The next question I am about to ask is edgy. How will it be perceived? Will they like me? Will the enhanced connection be lost because I have gone too far? I have noticed that behind the discomfort is a lack of clarity about my motivation. Am I being nosy, am I hoping to get something, or am I curious uncomfortable.

I’ve noticed for self that saying “I’m curious” within a conversation is a sure tell sign that I have drifted into nosy, greedy or uncomfortable territory.

I am making a conscious effort to stay curious in conversation.  Questions that flow from a genuinely curious mindset are naturally experienced by the other as curious. Stating “I’m curious” before asking a question is not necessary. To cultivate a genuinely curious mindest I focus on the following:

  1. seeking to understand the other rather than confirming judgment (it is in the process of understanding that I am most helpful to others)
  2. focusing on creating something new rather than on personal benefit (my best interests transcend my self-interest)
  3. prioritizing connection over comfort (clarity of purpose allows me to take greater risks in my own disclosures and my edgy questions)

Do you ever a notice a tendency in yourself or others to use the phrase “I’m curious”?

I am genuinely curious. I invite your thoughts. Leave a comment or reach out privately by clicking here.