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How To Deal With Negative People And Criticism

How To Deal With Negative People And Criticism

Welcome to another edition of my Weekly Journal! I use this space to share a bit about jewelry, and a lot about my journey from lawyer to jewelry business owner. This week's journal entry is about the negative comments and criticism you are going to encounter if you decide to open your own business (or make a big career move, or make any huge, significant life change) and how to best deal with it. No matter how much you believe in your dream to own your own business or decision to make a big change, there are going to be a lot of people who won't. Heck, some might even laugh in your face. And some of these people might be close friends or family members (cue the tears and self-doubt). Starting a business or making a huge life change is scary and takes a lot of courage, so if you aren't prepared to encounter a few doubters, haters, and criticizers, you may quit before you know it. Instead, I want you to know ahead of time that this is completely normal and just part of the journey. And if you're opening your own business, I'd call it the first real test you're going to encounter as an entrepreneur. If you can move beyond the criticism of your friends and family, you'll be able to move beyond the criticism of clients, customers, or onlookers (because the bigger your business grows, the more criticism you'll encounter). 

Let me tell you a story about my first business - a brick and mortar jewelry store. I was 29 years old and had only been practicing law for about 3 years when I quit my job to open this store. The economy was crashing (it was 2010) but I didn't want to hear it. I was going to open this jewelry store no matter what - that's what my heart was telling me to do and, come hell or high water, I was going to make it happen. My mom wanted to just about strangle me. She did not have the opportunity to go to college and the idea that her daughter with a law degree would throw it all away after 3 years and give up a six figure job was too much for her to handle. She just couldn't understand and I don't blame her. We have two extremely different perspectives on career and, now that I think about it, money too. We argued and shouted about this a couple of times, but I proceeded to quit my lawyer job and open the store without getting 100% support from her. That was tough. But no one, and I mean no one, was going to stand in the way of the dream that was placed in my heart.

The point I'm trying to make here is this: you need to believe in your business dream or the decision to make a big life change so much that not even your closest family member can steer you off track. This requires a knowing intuition that this dream or decision is your life's path, your purpose, the reason you are here. You can't, for one second, imagine doing anything else. I don't like the word obsession, but it's kind of appropriate here. Anything less than full on obsession isn't going to be enough to get you through the hard, trying times and the nasty, ugly criticism.

Allow me to make a distinction among the negative comments you're going to encounter, especially as you begin to talk about your business idea (or big life decision) for the first time with others. There are negative comments worth ignoring, and there are negative comments worth listening to. I like to call the latter category "market research." Let me illustrate with an example. You're a millennial. You tell your millennial friends that you want to open a bookstore downtown that targets millennials. Each and every one of your millennial friends tells you they can't remember the last time they were inside a brick and mortar bookstore, and encourages you to abandon your business idea. You run away each time, questioning their friendship. Here's the deal: if someone you ordinarily respect responds with negativity that also contains some rationale or reasoning behind it (here, the fact that they can't remember the last time they saw the need to go to a bookstore), you'll want to file their rationale away as "market research" and consider it later after you've cooled down. In this particular case, you'd want to look into a few things if you hadn't already done so: (1) research the age of the average bookstore consumer, (2) identify whether or not your bookstore is going to offer something innovative and unique to draw millennials inside, and (3) research the profitability of brick and mortar bookstores in the Amazon Prime era we live in. Do you see the difference between negative comments, and comments that appear negative but have some value and should lead to market research? With this in mind, the next time a friend questions your business idea or big life change, rather than run away or get ticked off, just reply with "thanks for your concerns - I'll look into some of the things you suggested." 

Now, let me talk about the negative comments you're going to hear that have no value, reasoning, or rationale behind them. These are more difficult to handle in my opinion because they can't be researched or reasoned with, and are just plain hurtful. But my advice to you is this: remember that the people who reply in this manner are acting from a place of fear. For example, in my case, I knew my fellow lawyer "friends" who talked about me and my jewelry dreams behind my back were acting from a place of fear and dissatisfaction with their own career. The fact that I was moving on to an exciting entrepreneurial journey was threatening to them because they didn't have the guts to make a move and seeing someone else do it brought up some deep rooted emotions. But you know what? They're still complaining about how much work they have or how late they stayed up to finish an assignment, and I'm over here making pretty jewelry. I know this sounds kind of crazy, but every time you encounter people who hand you these negative comments, do two things: (1) silently wish them happiness and (2) say a word of gratitude that you were blessed with the courage to make a big change.

There's one more thing you should be prepared for and I already hinted at it. When you make a huge life change, oftentimes your friendships are going to change. Some friends will be incredibly supportive. Some will call you crazy. And it's very hard to predict which friends are going to do which (you'll be surprised here). Friends might distance themselves from you because they don't want to deal with the emotions your journey and your courage is stirring up inside of them. And that's ok. You can't take it personally and it's best to accept that your friendship was meant to last only for a season. On a related note, YOU are also going to want to make new friends - friends who are on a similar path as you.  If you're starting your own business, you're going to want entrepreneurial friends to bounce ideas off of, friends who understand your challenges as a business owner, and friends who have a similar schedule as you (adios 9 to 5! hello midday breaks with new friends!). I've said it before and I'll say it again - the entrepreneurial journey demands your own personal development and growth. You'll evolve so much as a person and - no matter whether your business fails or succeeds in the end - you'll walk away a stronger, wiser, more interesting person. 

Cheers to making big life changes that get you closer to the life you've always wanted to live!



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