The Generous Sceptic

A great addition to your team of supporters


Do you get fed up with people rubbishing your dreams and plans of a new career?

Let’s face it, whenever you come up with a Big Idea, there will be a naysayer somewhere ready to shoot it down – that just seems to be the way of the world.

In most cases, your critics may think they have your best interests at heart. They are afraid for you and don’t want to see you fall flat on your face. But they think the only way to stay safe is to stay small.

Is that what you want for your life and career?

What really matters is how you respond when you encounter this kind of challenge. Do you let it get to you?  Do you doubt your plans and retreat into inactivity?  Or do you take a step back and ask what you might learn?

Naysayers vs generous sceptics

What is really important is to fine tune your ability to differentiate between the people who can only see the negative and those who are willing and able to give you supportive and helpful feedback – even though it may initially sound critical.

Seth Godin calls these latter people the ‘generous sceptics’ and you definitely need a few of these on your team when you are planning big changes in your life.

So what is a generous sceptic?

The key difference between a generous sceptic and the naysayer, is that the former genuinely wants you to succeed. She is someone who is totally on your side and who also knows you well, understands your strengths and weaknesses and maybe understands something of the new career area you are trying to break into.

portrait of beautiful african woman, pensive face expression

The constructive criticism that she offers is based on wisdom and understanding, not fear.  When she says ‘Hmmm, yes, but have you thought of this…’  she is being curious on your behalf, so be ready to stop and listen with an open mind.  If you get defensive and take her comment as a challenge or an attack on your plans you run the risk of losing the gift of the perspective she is offering.

So rather than get defensive, just step over to her point of view for a moment and see the situation from her side. Ask her to talk through her concerns and reservations and listen with an open mind. Then ask her to share how she sees your strengths and experience working for you as you plan your next steps. This way you get your confidence boosted as well as having some useful insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your plans.

Rather than closing down, open the conversation up with ‘tell me more about that’ or ‘what makes you think that might be an issue here’. Be ready to take the gift of constructive feedback and learn from it.

And don’t forget you can turn this gift around and offer positive and constructive feedback in return.  This will only serve to build the trust between you and help you support each other further.

What do you think?

  • Can you think of occasions when you have been overly defensive to feedback intended to help?
  • Who can you include in your team who will be a ‘generous sceptic’ for you?
  • What opportunities are there for you to be a ‘generous sceptic’ to a friend or colleague?

PS In case you are wondering, I write in British English, so no, ‘sceptic’ is not a spelling mistake! 🙂

From The 5 Minute Career Coach December 2014

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