If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable or afraid of sharing your ideas, this article is for you. If that doesn’t describe you, I invite you to read the article anyway and share a comment to pay your confidence forward to our friends who may need some help.
In his 2005 book, Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell writes: “Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out.” Our insights and ideas, in other words, tend not to be fully formed or ready to launch us into action when they arrive. Instead, they need to be cultivated – we need to give them oxygen to keep the flame going.
Here’s the problem, as human beings, we sometimes do the opposite. When we get an idea to do something new and different, we tend to place an enormous amount of imaginary pressure on ourselves to have everything figured out before sharing it with anyone. We unintentionally starve our ideas of oxygen, actively preventing them from seeing the light of day.
If you’re an aspiring entrepreneur, with a business at the idea stage, the thought of sharing your ideas, might feel uncomfortable. That’s normal. Your ideas and innermost thoughts are intimate and, likely, core to your identity. We fear the reaction or concerned looks we might get and that stops us in our tracks. But, at some point, if you want to shift from ideas to action, you’ll have to confront your fears, put yourself out there, and share it with friends, family, and, yes, consumers.
If that struck a chord, keep reading — just because something has been true in the past for us, that doesn’t mean it has to be true going forward.
I believe that learning to balance fear with courage is a skill you’ll need in order to thrive on your entrepreneurial journey. And, since sharing your ideas is one of the first opportunities you’ll have to confront your fear as an entrepreneur, it’s the perfect place to start practicing courage. Let’s explore 2 simple ways to practice courage and share your ideas.
Frame your idea as a question or a hypothesis.
Statements like “I have an idea for a business” tend to invite commentary, feedback (wanted or unwanted), and more statements. When in reality, you might just want support, encouragement, and for them to show an interest in your idea. Questions, on the other hand, invite curiosity, new perspectives, and more questions. Questions make it easier for people to look at an idea in an abstract way. Once you’ve put it out there, it’s not tied to you or your security. It’s just a conversation about an idea. They don’t need to know just yet that it’s your idea. Here are some examples:
By the way, this is a classic change management tactic too. You don’t want to catch people by surprise. It just raises their own need for security and certainty, which reduces their receptivity to new information. Instead, you want to start planting seeds. Eventually, it will feel like they came to the conclusion on their own.
This tactic also helps shift your own mindset to be open to feedback. Which, of course, is what you will ultimately need in order to flesh out your idea when you’re ready.
Model the kind of support and encouragement you’re looking for.
If the reaction you usually have is skepticism and laughter, you may not be making it safe for others to share their ideas either. Set the tone. Be a model for others to act in kind. When they share their ideas, be supportive. For example:
- Thank them for sharing and for being brave.
- Ask questions to show you’re interested.
- Listen without judgement.
- Acknowledge and validate their story so they feel heard.
People tend to mirror what they see and experience from others. Give them every reason to show you the same level of support. That’s just one of several ways you can foster an environment where everyone feels safe to share their ideas and thoughts freely. Not only will that help you feel safer when sharing your ideas, but it has the added benefit of making for richer conversation and building trust that’s essential for your long term relationships. Bonus!
While sharing your ideas might feel scary, it’s an essential step that will help you move forward. Talking about it with another person or even writing it down will help you clarify your thoughts. That’s because thinking about it and finding the words to express it are two very different things. Give these tactics a try and let me know how it went in the comments. For those that feel comfortable sharing, how have you been able to practice courage?
Side note: if you’re interested in learning more about courage and vulnerability, you need to meet Brené Brown.
One more thing.
Starting and growing a business is not a straightforward and linear process. It can feel messy. It zigs and zags. It starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok. It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself. And, that’s why it’s worth it. If you’re ready to turn your ideas into action, you might be interested in the 321 Liftoff Business Readiness Assessment – a free assessment I’ve developed to explore the most common struggles of new entrepreneurs and growing businesses.