Sometimes one of the biggest challenges to starting a new business is responding friends and family who don’t share the enthusiasm you have to be an entrepreneur, and the more they go out of their way to discourage you, the worse it is. Do you listen to them or trust your own judgment, and if your gut tells you to go for it, how can you get these people to back off without straining your relationships with them?
The Entrepreneur Survival Guide to Non-Supportive Loved Ones
It can be downright deflating to excitedly explain your business idea to the people you love and trust and then watch that them roll their eyes or hear all their arguments for why you shouldn’t pursue it. It’s happened to me several times, and it took awhile before I learned how to properly deal with the criticism.
So, if you find yourself in such a place, don’t get discouraged. Follow the steps below, and you’ll be able to overcome all the negativity and have the strength to pursue your idea:
1. Clarify your vision and goals. This is the very first step you need to take. It’s vital because it will keep you focused. The more grounded you are in your idea, the harder it will be for those on the outside to sway you from it. Make sure you are going through the process of determining if that idea of yours is good and that you have a solid plan of action for getting the ball rolling. This will help you to boost your confidence, which you are going to need in order to do the steps below.
As an important side note: You can easily become your biggest enemy. All the negative energy from loved ones can easily evolve into an internal self-doubt. The clearer you are from the beginning about what you want to do and where you are heading, the more assured you’ll feel on the inside. It’s something that your loved ones will pick up on, and it can really change the whole dynamic with them.
2. Try to understand where they’re coming from. You may be thinking that this should be the other way around: “shouldn’t I try to get my friends and family to understand me?” It’s a waste of energy as I’ll explain below. Instead, the more you can understand where your loved ones are coming from, the easier it will be for you to put their negative responses into perspective. Are your parents not supportive because they are afraid you’ll fail and have a hard time landing a “normal job” later on? Are your friends a bit jealous? No one is perfect. Perhaps they wish they could be big enough to take the leap you’re heading for. Does your idea really look risky or strange from the outside? Keep all of these things in mind.
3. Know how to respond. First things first: don’t argue! It’s not worth it, and chances are pretty good that it won’t help anyway. As I mentioned above, if you can understand where these people are coming from, they may have a point. It’s just that you may be seeing things that they don’t. Don’t try to convince them- especially at the beginning. It’s better to focus on the things that they can relate to, and keep your response as simple as possible. So, maybe you can focus on the fact that you don’t want to miss out on this opportunity, that you have to just give it a try. For others you can focus on the idea that you’re carefully testing things out along the way, in other words, you’re trying to minimize the risk. Whatever you choose, just keep repeating this idea, and until they get the hint.
4. Establish clear boundaries with family and friends. You want to set the tone right from the beginning. There’s two reasons for this: it puts you in control, and it will help you to keep the peace within your relationships. While you are busy building up your business, make sure you set aside time to be with friends and family. When you are with them, establish clear boundaries of acceptable communication. Make it understood that any discouragement about your business is not acceptable. If they cross that boundary, then calmly repeat the message in the previous step, and if they still don’t stop, then walk away. Though you may not be able to make your loved ones support you as an entrepreneur, you don’t have to let them discourage you, either.
5. Find people who do support you. While you are busy setting the tone with friends and family, it is vital that you surround yourself with other people who understand and support your entrepreneurial aspirations. This group can consist of other entrepreneurs, another family member or friend, or people who are already running (or have run) successful businesses.
6. Look for inspiration. My last piece of advice is to actively look for inspiration along the way. You’re not the only one who has faced such challenges. Find examples of those who succeeded under similar tests, and learn from them. These can be well-known examples. Steve Jobs famously faced a flood of criticism his whole life, and Gary Vaynerchuk, who spent $15,000 building his WineLibrary.com website in 1996, sold $812 dollars of wine in the first year, and had to face the disapproval of his father. You can also find inspiration from peers and mentors.
In short, just because your family and friends don’t understand your vision, it doesn’t mean you won’t be successful as an entrepreneur. In fact, if you know how to handle it properly, their opposition will only make you stronger.