Don't just tell 'em they're dreaming: listen and give ideas some space

Don't just tell 'em they're dreaming: listen and give ideas some space

I'M often reminded of The Castle quote "You're an ideas man, Steve!" when I think about the importance of creative thought in career development.

Sure, some of Steve's ideas are a little questionable, but without fault, Darryl Kerrigan boosts his confidence and encourages him to never stop thinking about things.

So, if Darryl sees the value in recognising the beauty in simple ideas, why can't we be more supportive of the people around us?

So often, I work with people who are beaten down to the point of not being able to see a way out of the hole they've been whackamoled into.

Trying to think creatively when in a crisis takes an extra dose of determination when we are feeling lost, confidence when self-belief is often lacking, and empowerment when we are feeling out of control.

At no point in our lives is the support of those around us more important. And yet, we find people are much faster to beat our ideas down than to boost our self-esteem.

Perhaps this is fuelled by a misguided sense of success being a competition, or perhaps a subconscious lack of confidence in the ability of others to drag themselves out of the black hole they've found themselves in.

Think about the last time you shared an idea with someone. Was their response "what an amazing idea!" or did they start with "yeah, but ..."?

I honestly think that we believe that our ideas exist in a bubble. When you listen to someone else's idea, we see it in its entirety, not as a composition of multiple, adaptable parts. So when we find problems with it, the whole thing comes crashing down, rather than seeing the problems as parts of the whole that can be addressed individually.

Think about the last time you shared an idea with someone. Was their response "what an amazing idea!" or did they start with "yeah, but ..."?

I could count on one hand the number of times my ideas have been greeted off the bat with "I love that!" I'm just as stubborn as a mule and do it anyway (with some time spent on critical analysis and problem solving - I might be stubborn, but I'm not stupid). However, someone in a position of vulnerability, like a person trying to address their current experience of unemployment by creating themselves a job, might not have the luxury of stubbornness, confidence or unshakeable determination to resist the pessimistic brick wall that we so often find ourselves up against.

I'm not the only one who has pondered this phenomenon.

Research from the University College London indicates that humans aren't inherently optimistic at all.

In fact, in his book, The Hope Circuit, Dr Martin Seligman has noted that our very species' process of breeding and selection was underpinned by pessimism - optimistic cave people didn't survive!

He also notes that one of the hallmarks of pessimists is the belief that "bad events are permanent and that they're unchangeable," and I honestly think that this regularly carries over into our conceptualisation of ideas in whole-form.

When we hear others' pessimism about our ideas, it's very difficult to overcome that and usurp that negative space with self-belief. Let's be honest, there's a reason why mindfulness is a billion dollar industry. An optimistic culture doesn't need little books of affirmations, meditation programs and coaching systems focusing on how to manifest our own reality based on projecting to the universe what we want out of life.

A pessimist wants life to get better, they just don't believe that it can. They take convincing. So, how can we combat this pessimistic tendency to shoot down ideas before they've even fully been articulated?

Listening to each other is important. Don't just listen to hear the problems with something, listen to hear the creativity, the innovation, the passion, the excitement. Learn to read emotions as well as words and recognise the power of your own words to either build up or destroy the self-belief and confidence of others.

Ideas don't exist as a solid. They are malleable and adaptable, changeable and growable. But only if they are given the chance to be all of those things.

If you share an idea that you are passionate about with someone and get told "you're dreaming," remember that pessimism is a reflection of their inner cave-person.

Take the time to think innovatively, identify solutions and find the confidence to take that idea "straight to the pool room".

Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocateat impressability.com.au