Friends and family are not our best business advisers. They know us too well. They often take us for granted. Sometimes, in their minds, we are trapped in the cliched pigeon hole they created for us when we were all much younger, when you were still a child in the case of your family, at school or Uni in the case of your friends. Are you still that person? No. Neither am I.
They also get us in their lives for free and they are never going to become our paying customers or clients. Mostly we don’t even want that, or seek it.
Everyone’s an expert when it comes to giving their opinion. Doing? Not so much.
Only take advice from doers, preferably those who have done what you want to do and don’t insist you do it their way either.
Examine the beliefs you were brought up with and abandon those that don’t help.
If your friends and family do not understand what it is you do in your business, or they’ve only ever had a day job, or they are frightened for you, or they are fearful of social media and they want to keep you safe, then they risk cramping your style. And those are not the only ways in which they can do that either. The ill-timed, ill thought out or accidental comment or opinion can cut to the quick.
I have one very supportive friend. And only one. She’s been coached in her career and understands what a coach does, saw that I would be ace at it, encouraged me and supported me at every turn from the very first moment I mentioned it, way back.
I have another friend who’s been a coach and she’s the only person I can talk to about the day to day work with clients. She’s a peer.
And I have a third friend from whom I take zero advice but who keeps me grounded and stops me believing my own publicity. She makes me laugh about myself, but in a good way.
That’s my support team. My family have been supportive in other ways. (Mostly) unconditional love, matched by my own. And money when needed, as it has been two or three times. And I am eternally grateful for that sort of support too.
My concern in this article is not so much the support you have or don’t have from friends and family, but the damage they can do to your plans and dreams and self-esteem either accidentally or on purpose. I have often been damned by a surprised laugh or even just a raised eyebrow! See how subtle this is?
One wrong word from someone you love and who loves you too can cut very deep. The wrong sort of help can do more harm than good, however well intentioned. It is very hard for our friends and family to be “clean”, to have no agenda. It’s all polluted by feelings, theirs and ours.
There are exceptions. When my clients are talking about their friends and family occasionally I spot an ally. Someone who has total unswerving faith in you. Someone who only ever shows up with help and keeps any and all doubts to themselves and doesn’t let it leak, if they even feel doubts which many don’t. And what about those doubters who show up with their support anyway – whether it be somewhere to live, a driver when you need it, a loan when funds are low and just an all-round cheering-up sesh should it be required. Hold them close, those ones.
But all too often I am teaching my clients how a prophet is not recognised in her own town (thank you Marion for that one), how your friends and family do not know your commercial worth because they will never have to pay for it and why your qualifications for your business are none of their business. Opinions freely given are simply that – opinions.
There are useful strategies you can adopt with friends and family, even with strangers who venture to advise.
You can listen and smile. And ignore.
You can thank them for their opinion so they know they’ve been heard. Then move on ahead with your own plans anyway.
You can learn to spot your real ally and listen, smile, thank them and pay attention, but still filter it through your own wisdom. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed unless you choose to be, unless their idea is better than yours when weighed up against other options.
You can find a community of people just like you who are subject to the same gratuitous advice and laugh about it together.
You can feel empowered by it and allow it to make you strong – “I’ll show ’em” being one of the biggest drivers for us, the self-employed. Even R. Branson Esq. confesses to that one.
You can let their words fall off your back effortlessly, appearing to pay attention but staying strong internally. That’s quite a delicious one to acquire actually.
You’ve got good filters for everything else in your life, so trust them here too. You know what you like to eat, and what you don’t. You know what information and entertainment you like to consume, and what you don’t. This is no different. It is information and advice masquerading as love which you can choose to take on board, or not. You have a choice. Their stuff is their stuff, not necessarily useful, or truthful (for you), or beautiful.
Beware especially of those who want to keep you small for their own reasons, some or all of which they may not even be aware of themselves unless they are thoughtful and wise people. They worry you might not have time for them once you are A Big Success. Or you’ll move beyond them, outgrowing them. Or any other nonsense they’ve hallucinated.
If you are going to pick a business adviser, choose carefully and beware those who foist themselves on you for free, whether you like it or not.
Once you’ve made up your mind and you want to stop the one-way flow of unhelpful comment, the next step is to ask them kindly and assertively to think before they speak because you find it difficult or hurtful or disabling. And, if it’s really bad, ask them to stop doing it altogether, explaining that you prefer to keep your personal and business relationships completely separate.
Speak your mind, cleanly and clearly, on this one last occasion in which you ever discuss your business with them in this context. Then they’ll know. Do it lovingly. After all we want to keep them as friends and family, we just don’t want them advising us about something they are ill-qualified to do.
Try to avoid the giving and receiving of such advice in any family party or event-like situation, especially those involving alcohol. Oh dearie me, the potential for this being even worse is just amplified then. You have been warned. Parties can be quite thorny for this sort of thing, but a bit of forethought can prepare you for ways to deal with the amateur adviser and what to say in ways which feel good for all.