Defending Your Ideas

Getting behind an idea means implanting it with your conviction and passion. Such commitment is vital when pushing for an initiative or suggestion you think important to implement. This enthusiasm also helps you bring others to your cause.

But it can also be your worst enemy when someone pushes back.

Since you are so enamored of your idea, your instinct is to protect it as you might a child (this project is my baby) Big mistake! This puts you on the defensive.

When you face criticism you need to defend yourself without being defensive. Being defensive opens you to additional criticism because very often it will provoke negative behaviors such as lashing out or shutting down, where you become caught in the moment and the niceties of polite discourse go out the window. It's fine to be passionate, but you want to avoid becoming overly passionate - unwilling and unable to listen to others.

Maintaining an even keel in the face of skepticism, or even hostility, is vital to leadership presence, the kind of aura you need to radiate if you ever hope to instill followership. And when people are whaling on your ideas, it is easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment. The challenge is not to overreact and to separate personality from ideology.

Here's how.

1 - Be prepared. Whenever you propose an idea, there are certain to be people who either don't understand the idea, or don't like the idea, or simply don't like you. So prepare yourself for objections. Consider who will say what and why. For example, one colleague may say your initiative is cost prohibitive. Another might question its efficacy, and another might wonder about its timing. Develop comeback arguments to address concerns. Use such arguments either preemptively - before the criticism is raised - or after the objection is voiced.

2 - Be generous. Compliment others for the constructive feedback they are offering. You can do this even when the criticism is more critical than helpful, because it shows you are someone who is above pettiness. Others might be petty, but you are one who takes the high road; this demonstrates strength of character.

3 - Be patient. Few, if any, will embrace your idea as much as you have. So be realistic with your timeframe. Know it will take time and effort to persuade others to adopt your idea. You will hear similar counter-arguments voiced multiple times; expect it. Refine your ideas to reflect you are listening to others. And remember - patience also requires you keep your cool.

Keeping your cool does not mean you roll over in the face of your opposition. It is essential to continue to project passion for your ideas and demonstrate your inner resolve. So when you encounter criticism, counter with an argument which positions your idea as doing what is best for the organization - not simply for yourself.

Defending yourself without being defensive will require practice. You can practice by having trusted colleagues pepper you with questions about your ideas. This will help you refine your speaking style. Work on relaxing your facial muscles, or even smiling - you want to radiate control.

You are not in control of how others react, but you are in control of yourself, which is essential to demonstrating leadership in the face of opposition.