How to turn a critic into an advocate

How to turn a critic into an advocate

Do you work with that person? You know the one. The one who always picks holes in your work, points out errors or rejects your ideas offhand. Well you’re not alone. Many of my clients report working with a critic. They struggle to get their ideas through and end up frustrated and annoyed. Take Jonah. Jonah worked with Ian. They were peers and collaborators and Jonah was expected to get Ian onboard with his ideas before submitting them to their boss.  

Jonah tried to work with Ian, but every time he presented an idea, Ian would point out the faults and tear it apart. Jonah would defend the ideas and a battle would ensue. Jonah found these exchanges demotivating and exhausting. In the end he would give up and present the idea anyway, leaving the door open for Ian to once again express his reservations, but this time in front of their boss. When Jonah came to me we experimented with a technique to turn a critic into an advocate – and it worked. Here’s what we did. 

1. Identify: We identified the patterns.  

Ian liked to focus on errors, gaps and risks. And he liked to feel important and validated for his perspectives.  

2. Embrace: Jonah agreed to embrace this response instead of fighting it.  

3. Invite: Jonah started presenting ideas and asking for Ian’s ‘eagle eye’ to spot the errors and point out any gaps or risks. He encouraged Ian to pick the idea apart in the spirit of making it better and then validated his inputs.  

 As a result, Ian started coming on board with the ideas. After all they were now partly his. He started supporting Jonah and a true collaboration began. Not only was Ian more supportive of the ideas Jonah put forward, he was also supportive of their collective work when Jonah wasn’t there.  

 Not every critic can be turned into an advocate, but you won’t know unless you try. Here’s hoping this technique gives you a great head start.


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