From whence it comes

Seth Godin had a typically pithy post a few days back about how to deal with people’s reactions to your ideas.

It reminded me of a saying my mother often used when I was a child: “Take it from whence it comes.” Meaning, of course, that criticism (or praise) has a context that’s as important as the comments themselves.

Godin gave several examples of the effect of context on advice. These included praise that’s given because the person likes you, or is afraid to upset you with honest criticism; criticism given because someone doesn’t want to be responsible for encouraging an idea that fails later on; people who push you to take risks; and people who urge you to proceed but only with caution.

I’ve come to expect certain types of reaction from certain people. One of the reasons I moved from the Northeast to the Pacific Northwest 22 year ago was because the typical reaction to new ideas back East was negative and cynical: “Why bother? Someone will just rip off your idea.” “Oh, someone else has probably already thought of that.” “Well, maybe if you have the right connections…”

I liked it out here because the typical reaction to new ideas was positive. “Interesting! Let me know how it develops.” “You know, there’s someone I think you should talk with.”

Godin points out that you have a choice of who to ask about your ideas; I guess I made that choice in a broad, general way just by moving to Seattle.

But, now that I’m here, I find that I like to expose my ideas to a variety of people, keeping in mind the context and motivation behind their advice. What I look for is advice that goes against the expected — a usually conservative friend who says, “I think you’ve got it this time — go for it!” or a usually encouraging person who says, “something about this has me worried.”

One response to “From whence it comes

  1. This is a great post! I have the same problem where i live, in that people are very negative about new ideas. I’ve learned over time who I can talk to and who I can’t, but I really like the idea of looking for advice that goes against what you’d expect. It seems like a great way to judge whether something might really be a good idea or not.

    Like

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