Defend Your Idea without Being Defensive (HBR)

Getting behind an idea means imbuing it with our conviction and our passion. Such commitment is vital when pushing for an initiative or suggestion that you think is important to implement. This enthusiasm also helps you bring others to your cause. But it can also be your worst enemy when someone, such as your boss, pushes back.

Since you are so enamored of your idea, your instinct is to protect it as you might a child. (Just think of the common phrase, “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. The latter opens you to additional criticism because very often defensive will provoke negative behaviors such as lashing out or shutting down. You become caught in the moment and the niceties of polite discourse go out the window. It is fine to be passionate but you want to avoid becoming overly passionate, that is, unwilling and unable to listen to others.

Maintaining an even keel in the face of skepticism or even hostility is a vital attribute to leadership presence, the kind of aura that 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.

Click here to read more:

First posted on 4.22.2010