EQ,  Executive Presence,  Leadership,  productivity

My Learnings From Turning A Cynic Into A Collaborator

Imagine you shared an idea with a co-worker, and they said, “That’s a terrible idea.” How would you feel? Most of us would feel discouragement and react with either active or passive anger, ultimately hindering our progress. However, what if I were to propose that there is an alternative path where handling the situation with grace can indeed lead to progress?

Stay curious and engaged, and keep your larger vision in mind. It will help you to overcome such obstacles and make progress.

I encountered a similar experience a few weeks ago. Even though I was the leader of the team (higher status), anyone, irrespective of their position/status, could benefit from this.


I was in the process of recruiting a few dedicated and passionate individuals to lead a critical initiative within my team. As I shortlisted a few candidates, I started talking to them to gauge their interests and commitments. Jeff (not his real name) was one of them. Jeff was known for his outspoken, direct approach. He asked me how I wanted to implement it. Even though I didn’t have anything set in stone, I shared my preliminary thoughts. To my surprise, he immediately said, ‘I think that’s a terrible idea!’. Looking at his face, I knew he was not joking. I was taken aback by it, as it starkly contrasted with his prior enthusiasm for our conversation.

Instead of dwelling on Jeff’s blunt reaction, I got curious. ‘How would you approach it?’ I asked. This simple question opened the door to a constructive conversation as I built on his ideas. Within 15 minutes, we made significant progress and established a solid rapport.

While Jeff’s initial behavior was far from collaborative, my choice to move past it allowed us to make substantial headway. By the end of the week, I had not only garnered support from the rest of my nominees but also successfully launched the project team.

Reflecting on this experience, I’ve gathered some valuable insights:

Key Learnings

  • Don’t let other people’s words/attitudes get in your way – Even when a person doesn’t say things kindly, that doesn’t mean you should let it hurt or stop you. Practice your emotional maturity so you don’t get stuck by it.
  • Stay open and curious: When people critique an idea, there is a possibility that they have some other ideas. So, if we can let go of our ego and let our curiosity take the lead, we can get moving.
  • Keep an eye on the big picture: There are multiple ways to move forward. Keeping an eye on the bigger goal will help us relax our attachment to our way.

While I do not encourage such blunt behaviors as Jeff’s, situations like these are a harsh reality. But when we can let go of our ego and stay curious, we have a higher chance of building allies and succeeding in the long game.

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