How to Tell Somebody their Idea Sucks?

How to tell somebody their idea sucks?

Saying “That won’t work!”… well, won’t work 😅

We’ve seen firsthand hundreds of teams having discussions and this is so typical. We know you’ve experienced it as well…

You generate an idea, share it with the rest of the team and someone says how it won’t work.

No matter how polite they say this to you, no matter how many arguments they add, this might shut you down.

When someone “kills” your idea by saying it won’t work, you unconsciously transform this as a signal that you don’t belong. That your opinion doesn’t matter.

If this happens once – it might be OK.

If during a discussion it happens many times, you will disengage from the discussion.

You’ll be “whatever, just tell me what to do”.

“Killing” ideas like that makes the whole team climate worse.


1️⃣ Don’t rush into reacting when you hear an idea.

Beware of how you react non-verbally. I tend to have this mean-looking face when I hear an idea that I think… well, sucks!

2️⃣ Listen! But really listen.

You need active listening to complete step 2:
▶ put aside your counterarguments
▶ don’t think of ways and why’s how this idea won’t work
▶ try to understand the idea

3️⃣ Make sure the person who shared an idea feels understood.

It would be useful if you:
▶ paraphrase what you’ve heard
▶ use phrases like “As far as I understand…” and “Did I understand correctly that…”

4️⃣ Express YOUR concerns and ask how the idea will handle them.

▶ Share your concerns by talking first-hand. Use “I-statements”
▶ Don’t use “you” and “your” – the other person might feel they’re being attacked.
▶ Leave the conversation open by asking back how the idea will work in those situations.

⭐️ BONUS: if possible, just test the idea and see what will happen.

It is absolutely normal for some of the ideas not to work and to be imperfect.

The important thing is not to “kill” them along with the person who expressed them. A team discussion during which most of the members stay quiet is not an effective discussion.

Do you hear “That won’t work!” often in your team meetings?

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