Dealing with a boss or coworker who often rejects your ideas at work can be challenging. But there are ways to influence people to a state where they will be more willing to accept your ideas.
FEELING HELPLESS WHEN PEOPLE REJECT OUR IDEAS
If you are frustrated with getting your ideas rejected and are not sure what to do, there is good news for you. There are techniques that you can employ to influence people enough to make them start giving your suggestions a better chance of acceptance.
But first, we must delve into why your ideas get rejected in the workplace. Because knowing where the resistance comes from, lets us reach into our box of influence techniques. And pick out the right ones to fight back with.
WHY YOUR BOSS AND COWORKERS REJECT YOUR IDEAS
New behavioral sciences research shows that the rejection of our ideas may be related to unconscious biases people have towards ideas that are simply not their own. This prejudice creates a strong mental block in someone’s mind.
All of us—and later we shall see even corporations—succumb to this bias. We are unaware of it because much of it happens beneath the surface of our conscious, rational thinking. The mental illusion completely fools us. And the reasons people later provide for their decisions are literally made up. Done only to provide internal sanity and rationale for the choice.
If you work outside of sales, you’ve likely not been exposed to this science behind decision-making. And you will find it hard to believe. But any graduate student in social psychology can now prove this with a quick set of questions to random passersby.
1. THE IKEA EFFECT IN GETTING SOMEONE TO ACCEPT YOUR IDEAS
The IKEA effect was first described by behavioral economist, Dan Ariely, from Duke University. Here, there is pride and admiration in us for the piece of IKEA furniture that we put together by doing the final assembly at home. We are aware that a major part of the labor was done at the factory. Yet, people assign higher value to furniture they have assembled.
Take advantage of the IKEA effect at work by giving your manager or colleagues a chance to contribute to a part of your idea. Find the person who is most likely to oppose your idea and turn them into a co-creator. Having them come up with just a name or slogan for it will be enough to get them to support you.
In fact, studies have shown that co-creation makes your boss and coworkers overvalue your idea. They have an emotional attachment to it. And they see a part of themselves in it. They will now even defend your idea to get it accepted by others.
2. PACING AND LEADING TO GET PEOPLE TO ACCEPT YOUR IDEAS
Pacing and leading is another way to increase the likelihood that your ideas will get accepted. For this, you match the behavior and emotional state of the person you are pitching the idea to. You will need to do this just prior to presenting your idea to them. Salespeople use this approach often. You must have unknowingly been on the receiving end of it at least a few times.
When you pace someone, they develop a liking and bonding with you because their subconscious sees you as one with them. In this state, they more open to your suggestions and proposals.
3. RECIPROCITY AND SUPPORTING OTHER PEOPLE’S IDEAS
The reciprocity influence principle works by giving something to someone first, so they feel motivated–and at times even obligated–to repay you the favor back. The easiest way to get people to reciprocate on your ideas, is if you are supportive of their ideas.
Develop a reputation of being fair to other people’s ideas at work. Your team, in return, will be considerate of your initiatives.
4. COMMITMENT AND CONSISTENCY TO GRADUALLY BUILD SUPPORT FOR YOUR IDEAS
The influence principle of commitment and consistency requires a bit of patience. Here, you first get someone to agree to something small related to your future plan. Once committed, they now feel an inner obligation to be receptive to the second part as well.
Initially, only propose a light version of your idea. You will be more likely to get this starter idea accepted. It will appear innocuous and entail less risk. You then propose your full plan some time later.
Those who accepted your initial idea will need to show to others that they are consistent. Their subconscious now will nudge them to accept your idea in its whole.
5. FRAME FOR ONLY POSITIVE ATTITUDES TOWARDS YOUR IDEAS
When presenting your ideas, always frame any input from others as advice to you. Do not ask for their feedback or opinions. This small shift in wording will significantly guide them away from being negative towards your ideas.
When you ask people for their opinions, they are internally triggered to focus on their own needs. You are forcing them to look introspectively. This separates you from them and will prompt critical thinking.
Advice, on the other hand, invokes a togetherness mentality. This makes them look to find areas where they can support your ideas and collaborate with you. Advisers are obligated to help you. And as we saw with the IKEA effect–to even defend the idea on your behalf.
GIVE YOUR IDEAS THEIR BEST CHANCE OF GETTING ACCEPTED
People draw on unconscious cues when evaluating ideas and deciding on them. So, you should not try to rationalize too much with them to counter this resistance.
Instead, neutralize the barriers to idea acceptance even before you make the pitch. Bond with their subconscious minds. Get them to co-create with you on the idea. And use influence methods that nudge their inner mind towards the direction you want them to go.
Of course, they won’t be aware of your methods of influence. They will find intelligent-sounding reasons why your idea is good. But you will know what made the difference.
CORPORATIONS THAT REJECTED OUTSIDE IDEAS
Not surprisingly, many corporations succumb to a variation of the IKEA effect. And there is a name for it–the not-invented-here bias. Years ago, Sony was reluctant to get into the MP3 and flat-screen TV product lines. This was mostly because those technologies were pioneered outside of Sony. Instead, they wasted their efforts on products like cameras that were incompatible with memory storage devices of the time. In the end, these products from Sony did not do well in the marketplace.
Dan Ariely’s book, The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic, discusses the IKEA effect and the not-invented-here bias in more detail.
In his books, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and PreSuasion: A Revolutionary Way To Influence and Persuade, Robert Cialdini, provides an overview of all his seven principles of influence and persuasion.
BOOKS ON INFLUENCE
And if you are looking to improve your influencing and persuasion skills for other situations, here are some books that have great advice to get you there.
On a related and funny side, here is a Dilbert comic strip on how to “bossify” your proposals and get your ideas accepted.
Shaun Mendonsa, PhD is an influencing expert and pharmaceutical development leader. He writes on the topics of influence and persuasion, and develops next generation drugs in human pharma by advising international pharmaceutical CROs and CMOs.
Key words: Influence someone who rejects your ideas, suggestions, proposals; get people to accept your ideas; Boss, manager, coworkers ignore your ideas; workplace rejection; difficult boss, manager, coworker
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