In reorganizing my communication files tonight, bulging from years of researching and presenting Get Along programs, I came upon a button that reads, “I’m not bossy. I just have better ideas.” Know anyone who wears this invisible message and then complains of lack of cooperation? Indeed, it’s a big communication crusher when somebody tunes out or invalidates our opinions.
People need to feel they’re being heard and their opinions honored. When our ideas are discredited, it often crushes feelings of capability, makes us angry and creates bad connections. Criticizing or negating ideas can be deadly because it violates our universal need for respect. Think in terms of honoring both egos and ideas. For instance, when someone says, “That’s a really dumb idea!” it gets very personal because their ideas are being discounted and that stirs up a range of responses from anger to embarrassment. Keeping face keeps productive communication flowing. Providing a reason for your perspective instead of any inflammatory remarks allows others to have a better idea where you’re coming from. A face-saving alternative that avoids personal attacks would be,“That idea would cost an extra $50,000 which isn’t in our budget.” This focuses the issue on dollars, not egos.
Resistance sets up polarities—the more you resist, the more others push back and hold firm in their positions. Likewise, the greater the acceptance you express, the more flexibility they will feel, since you’ve honored their need to be heard and respected. You don’t have to like their ideas, you just need to hear and respect their thoughts.
Some responses instantly evoke antagonism, contempt, or animosity, all putting respect in jeopardy:
“Do you really know what you’re saying?”
“You’ve got to be kidding!”
“Oh no, that would never work!”
“Do you know what a stupid idea that would be?”
“You can’t really want that!”
“You can’t be serious!”
“You’re crazy! You want what?”
“Don’t be crazy … ridiculous … stupid … !”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
While you may be tempted at times to fling those phrases when others might deserve them, that won’t get what you likely want–less stress, teamwork, greater harmony, and cooperation. Providing an opportunity for a healthy exchange of ideas creates a safe environment to explore creative solutions, build respect and cooperation.