getting the negative out!

This is the final post in our series on building your support network as a small business owner or freelancer.  This time, however, instead of focusing on who to include, I’m going to focus on who to avoid.

Negativity is not something anybody needs to be exposed to on a regular basis.  And frankly, as an entrepreneur, it’s not an attitude you can afford to have.  It will hinder your ability to get things done and nobody will want to work with you – either as a client, partner, employee or vendor.

I’ve come across two different streams of negativity while we’ve been working to launch Fine Lime Designs and they’re quite different:

  • Unexpected Negativity: over the last few years, some of the people who were most negative or dismissive towards the idea of me starting a business were close friends. None of them are generally negative people so it was a shock. As you can imagine, it’s also very disheartening when the people you love, trust and respect don’t support you.
  • Always Negative: Unfortunately, I think we all know a few people who never have anything pleasant to say, who always see the worst in a situation, always have an excuse for why something can’t be done and can never be happy for somebody else. They can become an oppressive weight if you let them. Just as passion and a positive attitude can be infectious, so can negativity.

so, how do you deal with a negative attitude?

In the first case, it’s tricky. Ask yourself why your friends or family are being so negative about your plans. Is it their way of showing concern? Are they worrying out loud about your future? Keep in mind you are making a leap many others would love to make as well but can’t or won’t for a variety of reasons. Could they be envious? Watching somebody follow a dream can be hard if you feel you aren’t able to follow your own dream.

If it’s a matter of concern or worry, can you walk them through your plans and reassure them that you have thought your decision through? In some cases, that’s all I had to do. However, if this doesn’t work, and you suspect it may be a case of them resenting your decision, try stepping back. If the friendship is important to you, you may have to simply minimize that part of your life for a while around that person until they are able to accept it (and it has been my experience that they usually do come around!)

In the case of somebody who is always negative, my recommendation is to drop them. That sounds harsh but you don’t need to do it in one fell swoop and you don’t need to be rude or unprofessional. Gradually limit your exposure to them until contact is virtually zero, or at least minimal.

is it worth it?

There are times when you may be tempted to maintain the relationship. The person may be an expert in their field, or well connected in your industry and you feel they’re too valuable to lose. Ask yourself if the stress level and the distress they bring you is a worthwhile price for what you get in return. Remember… this is your support network we’re discussing. Maybe the price will be worth the return but I’m willing to bet that in most cases, it’s not.

Take whatever steps are necessary to limit the negativity in your network. It can be poisonous if you let it take root.

constructive doesn’t equal negative

*** As a side note, don’t mistake constructive criticism for negativity. Just because somebody disagrees with you or has a different view doesn’t mean they’re being negative. In fact, having somebody on your side who can play devil’s advocate can be a very good thing. You can learn a lot from somebody who challenges your ideas. It forces you to think about your decisions and ensure you have valid reasons and resources for the choices you are making and that you are able to defend them.

How do you build your network? Who do you look to for support and how do you limit contact with negativity?