Curious may be just the word you are looking for
Want a friendly word that helps explore something you are concerned about? Let your employee, boss, friend, children know you are Curious and see what happens.
Why did your employee come to work late? Not necessarily a friendly conversation, but they are always on time and today for some reason he/she was 15 minutes late. Break into the conversation with “I’m curious why you were late today.” This gives the employee space to explain and helps you find out needed information. Don’t you think that is more friendly and disarming than “Why were you late today?”
I’ve tried it out many times and in many situations (even very angry) and the results are excellent. I believe that part of this is because of our childhood attachment to Curious George. Remember H. A. Rey’s creation? that monkey was always getting into situations, but he was just “curious,” so it was admirable exploration and not negative.