Powerful Conversation Starters Get a Distracted Co-worker
to Pay Attention to Your Great Idea
You have a great idea. You’re confident it’s game-changing. Maybe it will reduce a big frustration for your customers, or save you and your co-workers a ton of time. So what do you do when a co-worker won’t listen? How do you get them to take your idea seriously?
Why You Should Try
First, inertia is real. It’s quite possible your team is tired. And even if your idea will make life easier, it still takes energy to consider doing something different. It’s worth trying because you can make life better for everyone, even if you have to overcome inertia to do it. Get the confidence to persevere by connecting to WHY your idea matters and THE IMPACT that it will make.
Second, when your peers are on board, it’s more likely that your manager will take the idea seriously.
In our research for Courageous Cultures, 67% said their manager operates around the notion of “this is the way we’ve always done it.” And, one of the best ways to get your manager’s attention is to get your co-workers behind it. So rallying your co-workers around your idea is a great place to start. Read more about how to engage others as you share your I.D.E.A.s here).
And, third, advocating for your idea, just might bring you some satisfaction and even joy. When we ask participants in our strategic leadership and team innovation programs about courageous moments where they spoke up and advocated for ideas, the words they use to describe their feelings after are remarkably consistent: “fantastic,” “proud,” “relieved,” “excited”, “accomplished.”
6 Steps to Communicate When a Co-worker Won’t Listen
So here are a few tips to capture attention and strengthen your pitch when a co-worker won’t listen to your idea.
1. Be a great listener yourself
If you want people to listen to your ideas, make it a habit to listen to theirs. If you have a reputation for caring about your peers and supporting them in their efforts, they’re more likely to take you and your idea seriously.
2. Know what matters most to them, and communicate your idea in that context
As you listen, you may find real barriers or needs that you can address as you develop your ideas. When your coworker won’t listen, start with what matters most to them at multiple levels. Sure you want to consider WIIFT (what’s in it for them), and appealing to the higher value goal can be just as compelling.
- I’ve found a workaround that could save us at least 10 hours a week of wasted effort, can I walk you through it?
- Would you be open to hearing my idea to dramatically reduce client frustration?
- I’ve figured out a way to stop our boss from micro-managing us on this project, would you like to hear more?
3. Talk them through the “how” of your idea
When a coworker won’t listen, it’s also because they’re afraid of taking on more work. Showing them that you’ve thought through the idea with tangible actions can help to reduce that feeling of being overwhelmed.
4. Anticipate their objections and concerns, and speak to them directly
Anticipating and speaking to your co-worker’s objections as early as possible in the conversation is a great way to get them to listen.
- If I were you I might be wondering…
- Of course, the trickiest part of implementing this would be ________. I’ve thought about that, and this is how we can overcome it.
- I imagine you have some concerns about how to pull this off. I’ve given a great deal of thought to that (list your concerns and how to overcome them).
5. Ask them to articulate the benefits
It’s human nature. People are more likely to buy into an idea when they feel like they’re involved. Show up curious about their hopes and frustrations for the problem you’re looking to solve.
- Have you experienced this challenge too?
- How much time do you think we waste each week on this problem?
- What do you think would be the benefits of this approach?
6. Articulate your “ask”
One of the biggest ways to get a coworker to listen and engage with your idea is to know your “ask.” What specifically are you asking for them to do? Are you looking for help engaging stakeholders? Do you need help on certain elements of the project, what specifically do you need done?
- So here’s the support I would need from you…
- I’m thinking that if each of us spent (insert required time) this month, we could knock this out.
- My hope is that you will help advocate for this with your manager. I’ve prepared some talk points.
- I’m looking for a few customers to trial this with. Would you be open to that?
When you can connect at a human level, communicate your idea in the context of what matters most to them, talk through logistics, anticipate and address concerns, and know your “ask” you’re considerably more likely to have your co-worker take your idea seriously.
What advice do you have for when a co-worker won’t listen?