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Cold Water Comments—What They Are And How to Manage Them!

by Kevin Eikenberry

When co-workers try their utmost to dampen your enthusiasm with negative comments especially designed to discredit and disparage your ideas and suggestions, here's how to fight back and ensure that their minds stay open.

Cold Water Comments are those comments, phrases and ideas that are meant to discourage, disparage, discredit and generally douse your ideas!

There are several things you can do to keep those comments in someone's bucket or warm them up once they've been tossed.

Planning For The Cold Water—With Towels In Each Hand!

Step 1 - Identify the Possible Cold Water

Make a list of all the comments you have heard in the past and might expect to hear now. Once you have identified the list, determine how you will respond to each of them. (Remember that at this stage you are trying to sell your idea, not start an argument!)

Step 2 - Determine the Source

Ask yourself, who carries that bucket of cold water with them most of the time? When you can envision not only the water, but the source of the water up front, you can be better prepared to respond.

Step 3 - Is it a Question?

If it's cold water disguised as a question, just answer the question! For example if you are asked, "Is there money to do that?", it may just be the question form of the popular cold water "It's not in the budget". If you get questions, consider yourself lucky and answer them...persuasively!

Step 4 - Who's Got the Authority?

The people manning the buckets, ready to douse you and your idea may have more authority than you...or they may have less. In other words, your boss may have the bucket, your peers may have the bucket, or those who work for you may be carrying it. It's important to recognize where the buckets are so you can sell your ideas appropriately.

Acknowledging The Cold Water—Taking A Team's Buckets Away

If you want to reduce the use of cold water comments, or perhaps make the water a bit warmer, you can use the suggestions below!

Talk About Cold Water Comments

Explain the concept of Cold Water Comments to those you work with. Once people hear the phrase, they will begin to notice the use of the cold water! Recognition of the tendency is the first step towards reducing its impact.

Bring Your Towel!

Help people get better at planning for encounters with Cold Water Comments by helping them learn how to use the planning steps above—what we like to call the Towel for the Cold Water.

Fight About It!

If you are planning a meeting where you want as little cold water present as possible, encourage people to fight back against the cold water! Provide everyone with some paper to make paper wads, some Koosh, or Nerf balls. Then encourage them to toss their 'ammo' at anyone using a cold water comment.

This activity will not only reduce the number of such comments, but the levity that the throwing brings will reduce the affect of the cold water that is splashed around.

Make 'Em Pay!

Establish a rule for a meeting (or for all meetings!) that people have to pay into the pot (a quarter?) every time they tip their cold water bucket. Come up with a plan for how you'll use the accumulating cash—coming up with that plan would be a good idea generation exercise in itself!

Make A List!

Have everyone in your group or organization brainstorm a list of the most popular and prevalent cold water comments around your organization. Put them all on a list and post them in places where people gather, like conference rooms, training rooms, etc.

Copyright © 2005, All Rights Reserved, Kevin Eikenberry.

Kevin Eikenberry is the President of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps its clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. Contact Kevin toll-free at: 888.LEARNER or e-mail to:


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