036 How to tell someone their idea is stupid

We run across them every day it seems: stupid ideas. But what’s the best way to tell someone their idea is stupid?

How to tell someone their idea is stupid.

This episode’s Inspire Me quote is from Sir Oliver Wendell Holmes:

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.”

Even dumb ideas can stretch our minds. When confronted with a dumb idea, before entirely dismissing it, consider how it might actually change the way you think about something.

Consider the following before you offer that piece of helpful, but critical advice:

  • Remember, some of the best ideas at first appeared stupid. There may be something in it for you to learn as well.
  • Ask yourself if you’ve earned the right to be heard. There are lots of hit and run critics whose only contribution is to discourage another. Remember the words of Jean Luc Godard, “He who jumps into the void owes no explanation to those who stand and watch.”
  • Check your motivation. Are you trying help or show off your prowess with your critique?

When you do give someone feedback be sure you:

  • Praise effort not results. This is one of the big takeaways from the Mindset episode (episode 4). The results are not done yet, but the effort is demonstrable and probably praiseworthy. Praising effort increases their likelihood of listening to your other suggestions.
  • Get permission to give. Don’t ram something down their throat. They may not be ready for the advice you want to give them. It may be painful, but the best strategy may be to wait until they are ready.
  • Leave them better than you found them. Don’t hit and run. If offering a connection, set it up to make it as successful as possible. If offering an improvement, engage them in discovering first the need.
  • Help them see what you see. Ask questions in the spirit of discovery, not interrogation. Summarize what you think you’ve heard of the idea in several situations. Couch the area of flaw with other areas that have merit.
  • Distinguish between preference and requirement. Keep in mind that you may not be the target market. Your preference won’t matter. What’s stupid to you may be a brilliant solution for someone else.
  • Suggest outside, objective help, if necessary. This is vitally important if you are stakeholder or shareholder in the idea. If your business partner or your spouse is pursuing a really dumb idea, get outside help.  Work from your common interests to maintain the partnership and resolve the differences.

The Challenge Me for this episode is to put these ideas to work the next time you see a stupid idea. Leave some of your own suggestions in the comment section below.

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