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I was having a conversation and decided that "I just though of this certain alternative option for your planning; I don't care which option you take, but know that you have this option." was just too much of a mouthful.

Is there a shorter way of introducing a suggestion, but precluding being offended if they don't take your option? It feels like a pretty frequent issue and I'd be pretty surprised if nobody's come up with a punchy way to say it.

I was mainly thinking about this for social contexts.

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Is this a business, arms-length social or personal transaction? I think it might affect the answer. –  bib Aug 13 '12 at 1:30
    
Good thought! I added that in to my post so people wont be confused. –  rsegal Aug 13 '12 at 4:22
    
This question seems extremely broad; is there any way you can narrow down what you're after? I'd be reluctant to give an answer like "Just so you know..." (though it would answer your question), especially after Jim's answer received a downvote. –  Amos M. Carpenter Aug 13 '12 at 5:15
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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You might begin by saying something like:

  • If we're allowed to brainstorm...
  • As long as we're in the brainstorming stages...
  • If you don't mind me brainstorming for a moment...

One of those (or something similar) might work particularly well with anyone who’s had a more formal introduction to brainstorming techniques. Notice how brainstorming is supposed to encourage the addition of new ideas, without any emotional attachment to, or quick judgment of, these ideas:

  1. Focus on quantity: Quantity breeds quality .. the greater the number of ideas generated, the greater the chance of producing a radical and effective solution.
  2. Withhold criticism: In brainstorming, criticism of ideas generated should be put 'on hold'. Instead, focus on extending or adding to ideas, reserving criticism for later. By suspending judgment, participants will feel free to generate unusual ideas.
  3. Welcome unusual ideas: To get a good and long list of ideas, unusual ideas are welcomed. They can be generated by looking from new perspectives and suspending assumptions. These new ways of thinking may provide better solutions.

(taken from Wikipedia)

If your audience may not have had such training, you can always begin with an introduction to your introduction:

I don't know how many of you have ever used brainstorming in the workplace before, but, when I was taught to do it, they emphasized that it works best when everyone just throws out ideas as they come to mind, without worrying too much about judgment and criticism. After all the ideas are on the table, everyone can go back and select from the best ones. So, if we could brainstorm this for a few minutes...

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Qualifying your suggestion is the easiest and clearest way to achieve your end. In conversation, a cue before the comment is effective.

I would suggest a few strains:

  • "Not the I'm personally invested..." sets the tone that you are just offering an idea. It qualifies the fact that you are making a suggestion at all.
  • "Now you can take this idea or leave it..." sets a tone that you are floating an idea the person's way. It qualifies the idea itself as something of a 'toe in the water' that isn't necessarily 'meant for prime time' but as a type of approach has merit.
  • "I see where you're going with this" sets a tone of offering something that you see as sympathetic to the author's own idea. It qualifies that you are looking at their suggestion objectively and that you are providing non-critical, constructive feedback.

Many of these phrases can be combined and used to qualify whatever you say into the ground. Following them with a 'but' will make them little passive-aggressive phrases. Be careful how you qualify yourself and your ideas and remain direct. In conversation if there is a foot hold for suggestion, the person probably won't be to critical receiving feedback and likelier will appreciate it.

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+1 for #2... I really like that one a lot. –  J.R. Aug 13 '12 at 12:15
    
I really like yours too - if only we could accept multiple answers! Thanks for the advice! –  rsegal Aug 13 '12 at 12:23
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Questions are inherently less insistent: "Have you considered X?" or "What about X? Do you think that might work?" or "Did you hear about X? Would that help?"

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You can simply say, "Another option you could consider is ..."

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@downvoter: Wow! please do explain why you think this is not a viable option for bringing a possible alternative to someone's attention without making them feel compelled to accept it. –  Jim Aug 13 '12 at 4:14
    
Simple, but answers the question. +1 to make up for the mysterious downvoter ;-) –  Amos M. Carpenter Aug 13 '12 at 5:16
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