The Yes Blog

How to Voice Concerns Without Being a Jerk

The Circumstance and The Problem

New ideas represent change. And change implies risk. Risk brings fear. So…

Very often, when one person in the office proposes change, someone else — out of fear — responds with some form of “no.” And, “no” is a communication inhibitor. No takes many forms.

  • That’s a good idea, but it won’t work.
  • We’ve always done it this way.
  • You don’t understand.
  • We tried that once and it didn’t work.
  • That’s not my job.

We’ve all said these things… and we’ve all been on the receiving end. It feels like talking to a brick wall, or getting a flat tire. It starts an argument, or ends all conversation, or leads to someone pulling rank. And pulling rank is a communication inhibitor.

The Alternative

To keep the discussion rolling try these conversation starting alternatives.

You can say:

  • Here’s a challenge we’d need to address.
  • To make that work, we’d need X.
  • Have you considered Y?
  • I’d offer this tweak for that reason.

Taking this open and supportive tack is a communication that you’re on the same team, even if you have reservations.

How to Practice This

There’s a three part principle at work here.

  1. Leave open the possibility the idea could work. Your perspective may have led you to believe it won’t. You can acknowledge that your perspective — like every person’s perspective — is limited. Therefore solutions may exist that you can’t see.
  2. Identify potential problems. Your perspective — including your objection — is valuable. You can and should identify and point out potential problems.
  3. If you can, identify what it would take to make it work. Instead of shooting the idea down, name the problems that would need to be resolved in order to make the idea work.

By following these three guidelines, you become a collaborator instead of a nay-sayer.