Not everyone around you will be supportive of your momentous decision to go it alone in business. Here's how to deal with the negative people.
I told everyone I met that I had quit my job. It had been coming for a while and most people knew about it, but when I actually did it some of their reactions surprised me.
The reactions varied from shock and expressions of worry to disappointment and even anger. They weren't being nasty. They just didn't think it was a good decision.
It's no big deal when people you don't know very well aren't very supportive of your big decision. Very often, though, the real problems come from those closest to you.
Why People Are Not Supportive
I was disappointed with the lack of encouragement from those closest to me; family, friends, work colleagues. So it took me a while to come to terms with people's lack of faith in me. I had opted for a life of insecurity, endless learning and sleepless nights. This would replace my regular, generous paycheck and good career prospects. It was enough to deal with without my nearest and dearest becoming the kind of negative people that can be lethal when you take a big step like starting your own business.
It's important to realise that most people are not deliberately vindictive. Of those closest to me, I can think of several reasons why they wouldn't be head over heels with my decision.
Genuine fear is the biggest reason for lack of support among those who love you. If you're the first in your circle to go it alone as an entrepreneur it can be very difficult for them to understand your decision, let alone rejoice in it.
A steady job with a steady income and gradual progression until reaping the deserved pension at the end of it all is good enough for most people. Surely that's good enough for you too?
There are endless stories of how starting a business can mess things up for everyone involved. Like this one, this one and this one. Your friends and family have heard these stories and they're scared. These stories scare them because they care about you.
That fear doesn't end for them on the day you get started in your new venture. They will frequently ask "how's it going?" You probably won't be able to answer "it's terrific" or "it's really easy. Everyone should do it!", so these fears for your future will resurface.
A Word Of Warning
In his excellent book "The Ultimate Sales Machine", Chet Holmes advises that you need to have PHD: Pig Headed Discipline to advance in business. This is true. But you have to temper that advice with plain old common sense. Some of your detractors genuinely worry about you. You should first of all LISTEN to their concerns and their advice. Then make a sensible decision. They might not simply be negative people; they may be right after all!
"Confidence in what you do is crucial, but that does not mean being delusional. You must always face the truth and then combat the obstacles as they appear."
Diane von Furstenberg
Simple jealousy is another one I've encountered.
Many people are not happy with their current life choices, not happy in their current job or not happy with life in general. Seeing you take the path less travelled makes this discontent very real. It reminds them that you aren't going to settle for what everyone else has. You are looking to forge a better path for yourself, a better future that you're in control of. They are reminded of their lack of courage to do this for themselves and that puts people on the defensive.
I'm not trying to sound more righteous with my life choices. I'm certainly not saying that everyone who opts for the safe path is wrong and cowardly. Of course I'm not; many people are content with that life. But if there's a niggle of discontent beneath it all then I believe you have a duty to explore that for yourself.
We are in awe of larger than life personalities like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson. It's inevitable that people will compare your journey to theirs. They see only the huge success of these people today.
It's easy to forget that they got where they are through huge sacrifices, total dedication and even obsession. They've taken massive risks and they've had lots of failures along the way.
It's also easy to forget that these people are the exception, the one in a million who achieve massive success. If news of your progress is less than stellar, your family's doubts in your ability to succeed can resurface. This is very real and can turn them into negative people bringing you down instead of the support you so desperately need at this time.
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How This Is Manifested
The ways people express the above reasons are many and varied but come down to a handful of common ones. You need to be careful to recognise them for what they are and to brace yourself to deal with them.
1. Expressions Of Doubt
The most common (and probably the most innocent) comments you'll hear are statements of doubt. "But what if it doesn't work?", "what happens when the money runs out?" and "how will you get back into the job market?"
If you're like most people, doubt - both yours and that of those around you - will be a huge and recurring obstacle on your journey.
2. Not Helping When They Could
Most people don't realise that they can help you, let alone how. If you find it difficult to ask for help, most people will not offer it. You never know who can help in unexpected ways, so ask for help from everyone you know!
3. Trying to block you/bring you down
Unfortunately, there are genuinely negative people. There are genuinely people who simply don't want to see you succeed, even if that desire is subconscious in them. These people are rare but they can really shake your faith in human nature.
Their inaction will surprise you. They won't pass on important information or refer people who could help.
Their malicious actions will also surprise you. They'll try to derail your plans by misdirection or planting seeds of doubt in you. Worse, they will bad mouth you to others.
Believe me, it happens.
4. I told you so
We love letting everyone know that we were right. And it's sometimes hard to resist reminding someone that you saw the obstacles coming.
Most people who say "I told you so" are not very mindful. Some are just negative people. A few are downright vindictive.
How It Can Affect You
If you haven't yet learned to be thick skinned about them, these reactions can make life pretty lonely. At any time in your journey, doubts can creep in. Motivation can slip away and it's easy to feel like you're just proving all these people right.
I cared so much of what other people thought that every time I heard less than helpful remarks about my business I took it personally. I believe doubt is the biggest killer of dreams.
James Altucher says that "running a business is stressful, agonizing, and often leads to thoughts of suicide." James is probably more prone to those thoughts than most.
Don't let other people's fear cause you to falter.
Everyone knows what it's like to lose motivation. Failed new year resolutions, failed diet plans, failed lifestyle changes; we all have them from time to time.
The hardest part is getting started again where you left off. In business - which is nothing short of you investing yourself in your entire future - it's crucial to recover quickly. It can be lethal if you don't. Always keep your big reasons why in mind.
I've gotten angry more than once at a remark about my work that I took personally. It can cause you to get defensive towards your detractors and to sound less than convincing in an argument.
Mindfulness can help curb the anger.
In my first year I heard so many doubts from others that it made me grit my teeth and get even more determined to succeed. So I wanted it to work now. I knuckled down and tried to make progress even faster.
This isn't such a bad thing. But when I rush into proving everyone wrong I just don't a great job. When I take my time, take step after deliberate step and learn carefully along the way things go more slowly but much more surely.
Patience is a virtue.
How To Deflect The Negativity from Negative people
I've found a few way to deal with detractors in the long run.
1. Listen & Explain
Tell them everything you're doing in your business. Without boring the pants off them. Explain what you're learning, what you've tried, what works and what doesn't. Most people will appreciate your honesty.
2. Make Them Care
If you get people on your side then they are more likely to be supportive. Maybe you can show them your value by helping them through your business. Maybe you can refer someone in your network to help them. Remember, people respond very positively when they know you care.
3. Sooth Their Worries
Just sit down with your loved ones and really explain to them why you are doing what you do. Often they just won't have realised how big a deal this is for you.
4. Share Your Wins
Don't be too modest to mention when things go well. Sharing your achievements - especially with people who will enjoy them - can have a powerful boosting effect on your motivation. Just remember to be somewhat humble. No-one likes a showoff.
5. Share Your Plans
Being honest about your hopes and dreams plans can show people that you're serious about this journey. Earn their respect by being professional.
6. Become thick-skinned
This may be the most important tactic.
You can never be sure of the outcome of any of the above efforts. The only thing you can really control is yourself; your thoughts and your reactions.
Learn to develop this control:
All easier said than done, certainly, but they can all be practiced and developed. Mindfulness can work wonders with all of the above.
One of the mantra's I live by comes from Jim Rohn:
"Don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom."
So important I have it on my office mug ...
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If You Can't Convince Them
Of course, the above won't always work and not everyone will jump to your support. What then?
1. Seek support elsewhere
Sadly, this is a very real and necessary step for a lot of people. There are acquaintances I met occasionally who never ask about my business. They clearly aren't very interested so I never bring it up in conversation.
You're better off going elsewhere for support. Surround yourself as much as you can with people who will support you. Start doing this in your current network; don't underestimate the support and help you can get from people you already know. Positive people are positive people, no matter where you find them and what field they're in.
2. FaceBook groups, LinkedIn groups
Social networks are full of groups of people doing what you're doing. It doesn't have to be in the same industry but you'll more than likely find people somewhere doing the same things you are. Get in there and give help. There are a lot of genuinely helpful people in there. You can surprise yourself with the relationships you can strike up.
3. Join A Paid Program
You've heard of the need to get a mentor. I can't add much to that. A good paid program can give you some of the best returns for your investment. Ever.
4. Don't Be Hard On Yourself
Give yourself a break and remember there will be not so good days and not so good people. It's vital to remind yourself that those days will pass.
5. Do It For You
Finally, don't waste time proving yourself to others, showing that it's all going well. Use your time and energy to build your business.
Whether this is the most epic undertaking of your life or it's just a little side hobby for you, it's important to stay upbeat.
No, they won't all understand. No, they won't all support you, encourage you every step of the way and go out of their way to help you. Some will and some won't.
Every day remind yourself of your big why and take some time to review the big picture. You will get there if you never stop.
"If you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to help build theirs."
What do you think? Do any of these ring true for you? Want to share some obstacles you've overcome from those close to you? Be brave and share in the comments below!
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