We have all encountered Idea Killers in our lives. Some of us live with them. Some of us work with them — and some, work for them.
Idea Killers enjoy sabotaging others’ plans with their negative comments. They don’t always come in the form of outright dismissive criticism. They might think an idea is stupid or worthless, but they won’t necessarily say it. This is usually the case in a workplace environment where one has to maintain a professional image.
The “Yes, but” Technique
This is a classic and clever method used to disagree with someone while sounding nice about it. For an example one might say “It’s not that I disagree with you, but…” or “I’m not saying my colleague is wrong, but…” followed by a statement that completely disagrees with or dismisses the other person’s opinion.
The sole purpose of the positive clause is to sugarcoat the negative comment that predictably follows it.
Yeah, No, That’s Great
Sometimes it’s not what they say, but how they say it. An Idea Killer can make a person lose their confidence about their plans just by using the tone of their voice.
They can subtly communicate their disapproval by using sarcastic or condescending language. Alternatively, they might intentionally show as little enthusiasm as possible to passively discourage you.
Now that we know how they murder another person’s idea at its birth, let’s take a look at why they they do it, from a psychological perspective.
Nothing Ever Goes Right!
A person might attack an idea because of their own failures in the past. Because of the negative mindset they have created, they feel that all plans will fail, including other people’s ones.
This type of person tends to overthink about the future and pick holes in other’s ideas. Their comments can seriously damage others’ confidence and cause unnecessary worry in a project.
Why Should I Listen to You?
For some, taking someone else’s idea seriously can seem like a belittling task. This is especially the case where the power dynamic is skewed.
A rising issue I have observed that causes work-related depression is ideas of senior employees being overlooked by their younger bosses. This can discourage valuable input from such employees in the future.
When a person presents their idea to others, they expect the feedback for it to be based on the originality of it. And that’s how it should be. However, with Idea Killers, that is not always the case.
An Idea Killer might bring down an idea simply to pander to his or her bosses. They wouldn’t even bother to evaluate the idea in their heads.
This type of criticism is destructive because it is done in the presence of a person’s superiors. Overtime, it can damage their creativity and self esteem in the workplace.
New ideas need creativity and innovation. Not everyone can come up with new ideas, specially in a competitive environment. Therefore someone does produce an idea, there could be other people who get jealous because of it.
Idea Killers can knock down ideas simply because they’re jealous. They feel angry that it wasn’t them who came up with the idea. So they can’t come to terms with themselves to support it.
You Can’t Be Serious?
When someone brings a new idea to the table, they often feel a sense of vulnerability. This is because they’re putting their inner thoughts out in the open for judgment. And up to some level, we all fear judgment of our creativity and intelligence.
This is a perfect opportunity for a bully to attack someone by mocking their new idea. Sometimes, the victim might even start to doubt their own idea based on bullish comments.
How to Save Your Idea From a Killer
You have probably already me an Idea Killer in your personal or work life. And if you have’t, you are bound to run into one eventually.
Since the actions of an Idea Killer can seriously damage your personal growth and career, it’s important to know how to deal with one.
The first step to handling an Idea Killer is to know that all the negative and pessimistic feedback you’re getting were born from a place of insecurity of their own. By shooting down other’s hopes and dreams, they try to compensate for their own shortcomings.
As tempting as it might be to argue with them about the various reasons why your idea deserves to live, your efforts would be in vain.
In a practical scenario where you’re feeling dragged down by an Idea Killer, try to engage with them as little as possible. That way, you’re not giving them the satisfaction of damaging the construction of your idea or seeing your defeated reactions.
Albrecht, Steve. (1997). Fear and violence on the job : prevention solutions for the dangerous workplace. Durham, N.C : Carolina Academic Press
Ridgeway, T. (2020). INNOVATIONS: Don’t be a creativity killer! How to enhance your own and others’ creativity. College & Research Libraries News, 49(2), 83-85. doi:https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.49.2.83
Grieve, R. and Panebianco, L. (2013), Exploring emotional manipulation. Australian Journal of Psychology, 65: 79-88. doi:10.1111/j.1742-9536.2012.00059.x