IC E-lesson: When the Ones You Love Hate What You Do
Sure, you can always get positive feedback on your efforts and successes by going to your REIA group, or masterminding with other like-minded entrepreneurs, or by giving yourself a big pat on the back, but when the message at home is, “You can’t do this” or “I don’t want you to do this” or “You doing this is scaring me/making me uncomfortable/putting our family’s security at risk”, it’s REALLY hard. Whether it’s coming from a spouse, a parent, a close friend, or someone else whose opinion you value and rely on, hearing these things makes it extremely difficult to be confident about your decision and your actions.
In fact, it’s sometimes hard not to become downright depressed about the fact that someone you love doesn’t love what you’re doing. And it’s certainly tough to work your way through the REST of the fears, anxieties, and difficulties of the business when someone else’s voice is in your head saying, “Give up, stop scaring me, I don’t approve”.
So, what do you do when faced with people in your life who don’t support your real estate business? I won’t say that I have a definitive solution, but I can share some things that have worked for some of my students.
First and foremost, find out what the real “problem” is. Hopefully, the nature of your relationship with the Negative Nelly in question is such that you can have a complete and honest conversation with him or her and suss out what’s really behind their disapproval of your real estate goals. You must approach this conversation as a fact-finding mission, NOT as an attempt to defend yourself or convince your loved one that you’re right. And you have to be open-minded about what the true answer might be: when you’ve known someone for years, it’s easy to think that you KNOW what the real motivations behind their negativity are (“She’s just a negative person” or “He just gets nervous about anything about money” or “They just don’t believe in me, at all, ever”).
This conversation must be approached with great care by you. If your loved one thinks that this is just another attempt to convince them to get on board, you’ll just end up rehashing every conversation you’ve ever had on the topic. Your goals are to truly uncover what’s scaring your counterpart about what you’re doing, where that fear is coming from, and what, if anything, would ever make them comfortable. If the topic has already become so volatile that you don’t think you can discuss it without ending up in a battle, or if the nature of your relationship is such that you don’t believe that your partner will really open up about his or her real motivations and fears, don’t hesitate to have the discussion in front of a 3rd party counseling professions, such as a pastor or psychologist.
And trust me, no matter how angry or aggressive or despairing your partner has been acting, his or her basic objection to your real estate business IS fear-based. Most commonly—and again, please don’t use this list to identify what’s going on with YOUR loved one, ‘cause it might be something completely different—the fears that significant others of various sorts have are:
- Fear of losing financial security. The fact is, some people—you—are entrepreneurial, and some people—your Negative Nelly—are job people. Entrepreneurs think, “I could be so much MORE secure if my income were based on my own business, where I couldn’t be fired and could make as much money as my skills and ambitions allowed”. Job people think, “The most important thing is a predictable paycheck that someone else writes that comes in every single week”. Job people literally believe, down to their cores, that the only way that you can be financially “safe” is to work for someone else for a salary. Since your job person loves you (and since his or her own financial status is closely tied to yours if we’re talking about your spouse), he or she obviously wants you to be safe—and no amount of arguing that you’d be safer if you were making MORE money working your own business makes any sense to them.
- Fear of risk. Perhaps you’re not even contemplating quitting your job at the moment, but you ARE talking about buying a rental, or a deal to retail, or whatever. You may find that your partner’s main fear is that you will lose money, and that this fear is overriding any thought of potential gain in your partner’s mind.
A completely logical thought process about this might say, “Look, we’ve run all the numbers, we’ve examined all the variables, and everything we can see points to a $25,000 profit. Yes, there’s a small chance that we’ve missed something, and if we have, we could lose $40,000, but the fact is that although this would set us back, it wouldn’t ruin our lives, and the chances of losing our ENTIRE investment, even if EVERYTHING goes wrong, is pretty miniscule.”
But people who are very risk-averse can’t really weigh the .1% chance of the loss of $40,000 and the 5% chance that you might break even or lose a few thousand dollars against the 95% chance that you’ll make a whole bunch of money. All they can see is the chance of loss, and that chance—any chance at all—is too much for them to tolerate.
- Fear of the unknown. It’s sometimes hard to see that the language and strategies that become second nature to you, once you’ve attended enough seminars and association meetings, make no sense at all to people in your life who don’t have your frame of reference. You may find that your partner’s basic problem is that he or she simply doesn’t understand what you intend to do, or why, or why it’s a good thing, because he doesn’t understand what you’re doing at. All.
Yeah, I know, you’ve gone on and on about it, shared every detail of every meeting you’ve ever attended, talked about it endlessly, etc. But think about it: what were the chances that your “other” was actually listening to and absorbing all of that? How many times have you had a conversation that went, “Remember, we’re having dinner with the Johnson’s tonight”. “What? Since when?” “Geez, we talked about this for 10 minutes 2 weeks ago. We were standing in the kitchen. You were wearing your Ohio State sweatshirt. I was making pork chops. You asked if Sarah got that job. You said that you didn’t want to eat at the fish place. How can you not remember this?” Assume exactly the same level of attention is being paid to everything you ever said about real estate, right up until the time you actually want to put a property under contract and your significant other says, “You want to do WHAT? Since when???”
- Fear of losing your time and attention. As you’re talking about all the marketing you’re going to do, all the sellers you want to talk to, all the rehabs you’re planning, all the private lenders you want to get, and other super-exciting things you’re planning, be aware that your partner might be hearing, “Yeah, I’m going to be a lot less available to spend time with you, support you, help you out around the house, help you parent our children, and, basically, love and be there for you.”
- Fear of being left in the dust. It’s not pretty, and it’s not an admirable trait, but the fact is that part of many people’s self-image and self-worth has to do with comparing their own success with that of the people they’re close to.
If the dynamic in your family has always been that your brother, the M.D., is the “successful one” and you’re the “funny one”, and it looks as if your real estate business may make you more money than your brother, he may have a hard time dealing with even the thought of that. And if your spouse has always been the breadwinner, and sees that as his role in the family (yes it’s usually him, though I’ve dealt with situations where it was her, too), how do you expect him to feel when you bring home half as much as he makes in an entire year in one deal?
In a perfect world, those we love would always WANT us to be happy and successful, but the reality is that, if it threatens their self-image or sense of place or worth in the world, we may not find that we get the support we’d hope we’d give if the situation were reversed.