Almost all of us care what others think. In fact, there is an entire field of psychology dedicated to “social influence theory” (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2003). So, whether or not we “should” care, we do. The reasons that we care what other people think are the subject of considerable speculation. (Is it – as this article in Psychology Today suggests – that our early survival depended on our not being left behind by the group?) In the end, the reasons don’t really matter. What matters is that you care what your social circle thinks, and it is making you hesitate to pursue your professional dream.
Why do the people who love us not support us?
You would most likely receive a negative response upon the announcement that you were going to start any new business. Aspiring entrepreneurs tell us that when they tell their friends and family that they are planning to start a business, they are shocked at the negativity. As we discussed in our post A Recession is Coming. Is Now a Bad Time to Start a Business?, naysayers abound. Friends tell aspiring entrepreneurs not to do it, that it won’t work, that they shouldn’t take the risk.
Why do we get this negative reaction? In some cases, loved ones mean well. They fear our potential failure and disappointment, so their advice is meant to be protective. In other cases, the naysayer is someone who feels insecure – watching someone else reach for an entrepreneurial dream makes them feel threatened, and they respond with negativity. And, in many cases, it’s a simple reaction against change. When you begin to make a big change in your life, there may be people around you who mourn the status quo.
Present your decision with conviction
Assuming that you want to pursue your dream, be careful not to bring it up as a request for advice or feedback. Instead, present your decision with conviction. This is a sales technique called the “Presumptive Close.” Also called the “Assumptive Close,” in this technique, the salesperson behaves as if the deal is done and begins the process of closing the deal proactively. Convince yourself that your friends and family will support your decision – believe it in your heart – and tell them what you are planning on doing as if it’s a done deal. This will help them move more quickly to acceptance, where they will stop trying to convince you not to start your business. You should still expect some resistance, but it should disappear more quickly.
What do I do if they laugh?
You obviously can’t control what other people do, but you can control how you respond. It helps to have your responses figured out in advance, so you won’t have an emotional response that you could regret later. Here are a few possible approaches:
Explain Your Business in Terms that They Will Understand
Think about some analogous activities to a psychic reading business that your friends will understand. For example, do they engage in coaching or therapy or spiritual advice? All of these are activities in which a provider engages with a client who is looking for guidance. The style and language used in the sessions is different, and the beliefs of the people involved may differ, but they share similar goals. If you can relate your activity to one with which your social circle is familiar, that may help them better understand what you are doing.
Ask Them for Their Support
When you tell your friends about your new business, ask them directly for their support. Tell them that this is important to you, and you would really appreciate their positive thoughts. Depending on the friend, this may be a very effective way of building support.
Focus Your Time on People Who Build You Up
When you make a major change in your life, it can often mean a shift in your social circle. This can happen with divorces, and it is a common part of the conversation in addiction recovery circles, as well. Some people are so invested in who you are to them that they cannot adjust when you make a change. We’re not suggesting that these people shouldn’t remain an important part of your life – just that you will spend more time and energy with the people who are positive about who you are today.
Some pundits recommend that you stop caring about what other people think, suggesting that true freedom is following yourself and not others. A popular quotation apocryphally attributed to Lao Tzu goes, “Care about what other people think, and you will always be their prisoner.” Mert Damlapinar quotes Meryl Streep as having said, “The minute you start caring about what other people think, is the minute you stop being yourself.” If you are able to stop caring about the opinions of others, it could free you from worrying altogether.