How to Respond to Stupid Suggestions

Leaders won’t seek input if they don’t know how to gracefully reject irrelevant or stupid suggestions.

Don’t insult people when they offer ideas, or they’ll take their ideas to competitors.


5 types of “stupid” suggestions:

  1. Suggestions based on inadequate information.
  2. Ideas that might be relevant at a future time.
  3. Input that reflects a personal agenda.
  4. Recommendations that arrive too late to help.
  5. Contributions that are difficult or costly to implement.

The etiquette of suggestions:

Good manners and wisdom prevent you from saying, “That’s stupid.”

#1. Suggestions impose social obligations. You need to consider and respond.

#2. People believe their stupid suggestions are smart.

We believe our suggestions are helpful. That’s why we offered them.

#3. It stings when suggestions are dismissed without consideration or respect.

Smart people don’t enjoy feeling stupid.

A brilliant response to a stupid suggestion:

I recently sent a suggestion via text to a corporate leader. Maybe it wasn’t stupid, but it didn’t apply. His response was a lesson on responding to “stupid” suggestions.

“Thanks Dan. I like this idea. I believe this would work best after this upcoming offsite. We are essentially rebooting … .” (The text message continues with an explanation of their current focus.)

  1. Appreciation.
  2. Personal address, “Dan.”
  3. Approval of the idea. “I like this idea.”
  4. Respectful rejection. “I believe this would work best after this upcoming offsite.”
  5. Clarification of the current focus.

Good suggestions are withheld from leaders who make people feel stupid.

4 tips:

  1. Don’t say, “This is a good idea, BUT ….”
  2. Don’t say, “That’s not our current focus.” Instead, explain your current focus.
  3. Say, “Your suggestion might work when…”
  4. Say, “That’s an interesting suggestion. Right now, we’re focused on ….”

Build a culture where:

  1. Best ideas win, regardless of their source.
  2. Multiple ideas are explored.
  3. You avoid yes or no choices based on one option.

What are the worst ways to respond to stupid suggestions?

What are the best ways to respond to stupid suggestions?

Bonus material:

The Bacon Solution: How to (Nicely) Handle a Bad Idea (Forbes)

5 Ways to Politely Decline Unsolicited Advice (Inc)


dan askes the best questions of anyone I know