“I don’t get no respect” is Rodney Dangerfield’s famous tag line that always gets a laugh. What I’ve personally experienced is entrepreneurs sometimes don’t get no respect either.
You may have experienced this at Thanksgiving, or you may experience it as you interact with people over whatever holiday you celebrate in December.
The really hurtful remarks seem to come from close friends and family. (Or, maybe those are the times you notice because you care what those people think.)
The most stinging barbs and comments that have embedded themselves in my psyche for days/months/years have come from relatives and BFFs – people who should have understood how important my business is to me.
If you are not currently rolling in cash, friends, family, former colleagues, and strangers may not (probably will not) understand why you are pushing that heavy boulder of entrepreneurship or freelancer work up the hill again.
FYI, that’s what it looks like to an outsider as you implement a new revenue model or execute a business pivot.
They may say, completely unhelpfully, “Why don’t you just get a job?”
Or, in my case, the infinitely more stinging version: If you’re so good at helping other people get jobs, why don’t you get yourself one?
As you may know, being an entrepreneur and growing a business is rarely a straight road to riches.
More likely, it’s a road with steep inclines, potholes, and sinkholes.
It’s not just me who has experienced struggles and dark nights of the soul – I know all of you have, too.
So, here are some strategies if you suspect you might have some tricky conversations in your future.
If you will be interacting with people who have only had corporate or professional jobs, they probably won’t get what you’re doing and you should expect that.
It’s fine. You can talk about other things.
Prepare for it
Prepare answers for the basic open-ended questions about what you’re doing and how it’s going. Have a short sound-bite version and a longer more detailed version prepared and in your back pocket.
Even if things are going crappy at the moment, I recommend minimizing the detail and focusing on whatever you will be trying or doing in the future.
In truth, the person asking may not really care, and probably won’t have much to contribute that would be helpful.
If you really don’t want to talk about your business, say it’s going pretty well and immediately ask the other person a question about what they are working on, or how their significant other or pet is doing.
People love talking about themselves and you may not have to answer another question all evening.
If someone says something hurtful out of malice or ignorance, try not to fixate on it.
And yes, I know how hard that can be.
However, you can think of the image of water flowing over a rock and try to let it go, instead of letting it stick to you like white dog hair on black velvet pants. That way, you’ll have more energy to focus on your business.
Seriously, obsessive thinking about someone’s dumb remark is a waste of your time. It’s worth some preparation to try to avoid getting verbally hijacked.