Everyone has heard about the breakups—or been a part of one—where someone used the line, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Maybe this time, it is you. I am not talking about breakups here, but rather why your “great” idea didn’t gain traction or was flatly shot down. You may think it is because you are a woman or a man, or you are young or old, or because so and so doesn’t like you. Any or all of those things may be true, but before you accept any of those reasons, ask why. Ask the person who said no to tell you about their thought process in reaching that conclusion. Do it in a nonconfrontational way. You want to understand their thinking so you can better understand their needs.
Maybe it isn’t because John doesn’t like you, but rather because he tried a similar idea five years ago. Learning that could open the door to what has changed in five years that may allow the idea to work today.
Maybe it isn’t because you are a certain sex, but rather because you are in production, and your great idea is for the sales department. You think you are being a good team player and helping the company move forward, but the person you are talking to thinks you are overstepping your bounds. Learning this could inform you about how to better bring up the idea in a way that is nonthreatening or within your scope of work.
Maybe it isn’t because you are of a different generation than your boss; maybe it is because you haven’t done enough homework. You have a great idea but don’t have the numbers to back up why it is great. You know it will work, and you know that you can sell this new product or implement this new idea and save money, but if you can’t prove it, it may be a tough pill for the other person to swallow. Hearing this reason tells you to get your supporting documentation together and try again.
Maybe, maybe, maybe. Until you ask, you will never know that real reason why you got rejected. You will not be able to match your communication style to the situation or get your ideas moved forward until you know the answer. Before you take the easy way out by assuming you know why you received the answer you did, think about the fact that it really might be you, not them.
Virginia Humphreyis director of membership at AICC.