The bad idea of "that's not a bad idea"

We have some dog treats that Sadie doesn’t like; she seriously spits them out.

Standing in front of the refrigerator, I say to my husband, “should we just throw them away?”

“No, we’ll get rid of them little by little by throwing a few over the fence into the neighbors’ yards for their dogs,” Richard says with a sly grin on his face.

“That’s not a bad idea” I say.

This is not the first time I’ve used that phrase, and I’ve been catching myself using it more frequently with friends and family. Why do I say that’s not a bad idea rather than actually acknowledging a good idea, or dismissing a bad idea?

As per my nature, I took to the internet to see if I could find some clarity on the origin or psychology of “that’s not a bad idea” but instead I was barraged by headlines and copy that used the phrase:

I asked Richard why he thinks I do this and Richard thinks it’s because of my analytical nature. I am indicating it’s an idea worth further exploration but I can’t bring myself to declare it a “good idea” until I’ve fully analyzed the situation, consequences, or other factors related to this idea that’s not yet good, but also not yet bad.

Perhaps the authors of these articles are like me and cannot commit to declaring a good idea until doing their due diligence on the idea, researching and thinking through the consequences and looking at the idea from multiple perspectives.

Or maybe it’s a way to deflect -- if it turns out to be a good idea they can say they thought so first. If it turns out to be a bad idea, they can say they had doubts all along. Either way they win.

I can buy in to either of these theories, but I still want to eliminate this phrase from my thinking. And here’s why:

“That’s not a bad idea” focuses on the negative. It focuses on the word “bad.” It says that the first inclination I have is to move an idea into the “bad” bucket and this idea is just good enough not to be bad. What I’d rather focus my thought energy on is good ideas. I want ideas to have the potential to be good, not to be “not bad.”

By swapping out the negatively focused phrase “that’s not a bad idea” with a positively focused one “that might be a good idea,” I’m hoping to open the door to more opportunities by utilizing a philosophical tactic Dr. Wayne Dyer discusses. “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

In fact, it might be a good idea to check out this short YouTube video of Dr. Dyer explaining the philosophy himself.


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