How To Respond To Curveballs In Business Relationships

Curve In The Road
Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

Even in a digital world we work with people. It could be a reality that we work with¬†more people than ever before. Thanks to technology, the world is an incredibly small place. Sure, you’re not communicating face-to-face and there are drawbacks to this form of communication, but the fact that you can see and talk to someone on the other side of the world is pretty incredible.

In an office setting it’s common for a coworker to kind of throw you off your game. You kind of fall into a rhythm when you’re working. You encounter certain personalities and develop your routines for interacting with them. But every once in awhile someone will throw you a curveball with how they act.

How to respond to these curveballs, even in a digital setting, can be a key to your ongoing success.

Recognize Your Normal Patterns

Many of us go through life without taking some time to analyze ourselves. And trust me, I get it. I don’t always want to look in the mirror because the closer you look the more you start to see the flaws.

But understanding yourself is a great way to see how changes may be able to help, or not help, if you’re looking to grow and find more success. Not just in your work, but in all areas.

And I think a key mindset for self analysis is understanding that just because you react a certain way to some situation isn’t right or wrong. It just is.

For example, I recognize that I’m an introvert and I’m probably more toward the extreme than other introverts. If I have more than 4 or 5 sales calls, for example, in a day I usually crash in bed early from exhaustion. It’s not because I don’t like the calls or that the calls go poorly. It’s just that talking to that many people kind of wears me down.

In a work setting, though, I recognize that my default reaction to an extrovert is to keep a certain distance. I think it’s a mechanism to help conserve energy. But over the years I’ve recognized that it’s not good to avoid extroverts in a work setting. I’m certainly more comfortable with introverts and can succeed with introverts. But obviously if I avoid all extroverts I’m going to missing out on a lot of opportunities.

So the first step is to understand yourself and your reactions to curveball people in work settings.

Lean In To The Curveballs

In my first job out of college I kind of learned that I was a bit of an oddball in the office. My introversion was likely part of it. I liked to work. I didn’t like meetings that much. I did like working in small groups on projects, but not in larger groups.

I also recognized that I had tendencies for dealing with all kinds of different people. And sometimes I’d get someone that was kind of a curveball to me. I wouldn’t know how to handle it and I would kind of just step back and avoid the situation entirely if I could. Or if I had to work with the person I did so with a very guarded personality.

But as time went on I learned that if I leaned into curveballs I almost always did something new. And usually that something new led to growth for myself. I would learn a different way to do something and that would make me better at what I was doing.

Even today, after working remotely for nearly ten years, I still try to remind myself to lean into curveball situations. The ones that make me uncomfortable. I find that at learn something at minimum and sometimes you really take yourself into a new level of competence.

Seek Out The Occasional Curveball

Sometimes you can get so wrapped up in your normal routines that the curveballs are completely out of your radar. you can improve and grow and succeed in these situations, but I think you can do even more if you’re seeking out curveballs.

I’ve always been intrigued by the story of Brooks & Dunn. Each had been a struggling singer-songwriter in Nashville for at last 10 years and probably more. They were nearly 40 years old when one or two executives finally thought to put them together to write some songs.

Their personalities were different. They probably had been seeking out people similar to them for years. But now they’re together as different people and for whatever reason their creative juices really started flowing and they wrote one of the most successful country albums of all time. And that success continued throughout the next 20 years.

There is no reason you can’t seek out curveball people and curveball situations in order to change your routines.


The idea of a curveball or a change up in baseball is simply that you’re getting a series of fastballs and then the pitch throws one that’s slow and possibly curving a lot. You’re not ready for it most of the time. It totally takes you out of your zone and it can lead to disaster.

Curveballs happen in life. We often look to avoid them. But if you learn your tendencies and lean into the curveball once in awhile you can teach yourself new things and new routines that can lead to real growth.

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