Last Updated on August 28, 2022 by Allen Stafford

The Rejection-Free Phrase to Communicate Your Ideas to Your Boss and Others

Listen to the Audio Version — 5:42

Speaking up or sharing your thoughts and ideas at work, especially to upper management or your direct supervisor, can be nerve-racking. According to research presented in a Harvard Business Review article, self preservation motivates employees’ reluctance to speak up at work, even if their ideas benefit the company.

The concept of sharing ideas transcends workplace conversations between employee and supervisors to sales professionals too. Some sales professionals are — as well — reluctant to introduce their products or services to prospects. Again, because of fear of rejection.

Why We Fear Rejection?

According to Psychology Today, rejection is one of our deepest fears. As humans, we crave belonging and acceptance. We fear being judged critically. The depth to which we fear varies from person to person, yet there are common elements we all share.

Cognitively, we may be afraid that rejection confirms our worst fear — perhaps we have little worth or fear that our supervisors or prospects do not take us seriously when we communicate our ideas, products, or services.

By softening our communication and eliminating pressure for the listener, we can reduce the impact of our communication while eliminating the fear of rejection.

The Rejection-Free Phrase, “I’m Not Sure if it’s for you, But…”

“I’m not sure if it’s for you, but…” is the perfect rejection-free statement to use with just about anyone and at just about anytime to introduce your ideas or make a request. The statement is effective because it signals to the receiver that, “hey, there is no pressure with this request.” By suggesting that the person receiving the communication may not be interested in something naturally gets their interest in learning more about what you have to say. Thus, you gain their attention right away.

A second reason this statement works to reduce rejection is that the soft approach for asking for something reducers any pressure on the listener. That is, they do not feel any pressure, but know a decision needs to be made. However, there is one word in the statement that is the heavy lifter. A word that discounts anything that is said prior to it, including the part, “I’m not sure if this is for you….” I’m referring to the conjunction, “but.”

You have probably had a someone give you feedback, or a compliment followed by the conjunction, “but” and then they expressed a negative comment after their compliment. For example, “We really like how you designed the newsletter, but you really need to proofread it next time.” What do you typically remember from this statement? Chances are, you remember everything after the “but” and nothing before it. This is because we focus on the details after the word “but.” It’s a signal to the listener that they may want to pay close attention to what’s following because it might be important.

It goes back to the idea that when we receive a compliment, followed by the criticism, we tend to give less importance to the compliment, everything before the “but” and believe that the real meaning is what the communicator said after the conjunction. Thus, when we use the rejection-free phrase, “I’m not sure if this is for you, but…,” it immediately triggers attention in the listener’s mind, prompting them to want to listen and gather more information.

Final Thoughts

Being confident is part of becoming an effective communicator. However, it is understandable that people have a fear of sharing their ideas or making requests of others based on their past communication encounters and feelings of rejection. It can take time and practice to build your communication confidence back up. However, tapping into people’s natural curiosity while reducing any pressure for them to decide, can help you get your ideas across in a rejection-free manner, if you phrase your statement by using, “I’m not sure if this is for you, but….”

Communication Activity: Make A Request

Using the phrase, “I’m not sure if it’s for you, but….” approach a supervisor or sales prospect and make a request using the statement. Make a note of the listener’s expression and body language. Do they appear to be more accepting and curious about your proposal?