How to Deal with Well-Intentioned Negativity


“Why don’t you just get a real job?”

If you’re an entrepreneur, or an aspiring entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard something like that quite a few times.

Friends and family generally mean well … but they can be surprisingly negative about your goals and aspirations.

Growing up, my choice of career didn’t really fit the norm. You see a normal brown kid is supposed to be a doctor or an engineer (not an internet entrepreneur), well at least that’s what we’re told.

Now this mentality isn’t limited just to Pakistanis or Indians. It’s actually quite common in other cultures as well.

While your parents, grandparents, significant others, and friends may only want what’s best for you, sometimes their words don’t necessarily show it.

This can be very disheartening and may even make you question what you’re doing (specially when you’re young).

Here’s how to deal with well-intentioned negativity.

1. Understand the Motivation Behind It

Negative comments can be really frustrating, and discouraging at times. Remind yourself that the person delivering them cares about you and wants the best for you.

If they’re older than you (parents, grandparents, even mentors), they grew up in a different world. Their knowledge and ideas may date from a couple of decades ago – and their comments reflect that.

Normally, people who say things like, “That sounds like far too much work,” or “It’s not a secure way to make a living,” are just worried about you. They might be worried about your stress levels, your health, your income, or even your social standing.

It’s always important to remind yourself that they don’t know what you know, but also be mindful that you don’t know what they know.

I try my best to listen to others’ opinion with an open-mind because there’s often wisdom there, but it’s important not to let the negativity bring you down.

2. Don’t Get into a Big Argument

When dad or grandpa tells you, yet again, that you should get a nice safe job as a doctor or engineer, you don’t need to go into a long rant detailing exactly why you hate those careers … and why you want to work for yourself. It’s unlikely that they will come around to your point of view right away.

Whatever the disagreement is about – try one of these phrases:

  • “Thanks for the suggestion.”
  • “That’s a good thought.”
  • “I’m going to give it a try for a few months. I can always change my mind.”

Sometimes, people just want to feel that they’ve been heard. A polite brush-off beats total silence, or arguing.

It never hurts to listen as sometimes there’s wisdom there. Ultimately, though, you don’t have to go along with anyone else’s advice: make sure you’re doing what’s right for you.

3. Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People

If everyone around you is negative about your goals, it makes it that much harder for you to stick with your plans.

To stay on track, look for like-minded people who can counter all that negativity with lots of positive, action-focused energy.

Some possible solutions are:

  • Join local clubs and groups that are a good fit for your goal. You can find a lot of them on If you don’t, then ask around online, or start up a new group.
  • Join online forums and communities where people have similar goals to yours. There are tons of awesome Facebook groups that I’m part of myself.
  • Read magazines, books, and blogs that encourage you on the path to your goal. Although simply reading isn’t a substitute for direct interaction with people, a good article or book can both encourage you and give you the practical knowledge you need to succeed.

You may want to start a mastermind group with a small number of people who are dedicated to similar goals to yours. This can be incredibly motivating and encouraging, plus it allows you to share hard-learned lessons so you don’t all make the same mistakes.

I’m part of several masterminds myself and they’re tremendously helpful. Most masterminds that I’m now part of are paid, and I feel that motivates everyone in attendance to show up and bring value to the group.

4. Get Buy-In from the People who Really Matter

Chances are, there are very few people who’s opinion makes a real difference to your life. For most of us, those are:

  • A spouse or live-in partner.
  • Parents (if living at home, or financially dependent on them)

If your spouse is deeply concerned about you, say, quitting your job to launch your business, then you need to have some tough conversations – and perhaps come up with a compromise.

For instance, you could:

  • Agree to a half-way plan, where you stick with your day job for 3 days per week and build your business in the remaining 2 days.
  • You could wake up early and run your business as a second job until it provides enough revenue to justify quitting your job.
  • Delay starting your business for a year, while you save up an emergency fund, so you’re covered for a few months if you do get off to a slow start.
  • Discuss changing your joint lifestyle to assist with your goal – figure out what you’re both willing to give up, and what you want to preserve. (Perhaps you’re happy to skip your annual pricy vacation, but you want a nice meal out once a month.)

If your goal directly impacts on your spouse, parents, or other significant people, accept that they may have reasonable concerns.

There’s no magic way to get people to “buy in” to your goal. Make sure you allow time for them to share their concerns. Think through what you’re willing to compromise, at least initially, so that they can be more fully supportive of your goals.

5. Watch What YOU Say

Sometimes, negativity can be a reflection of your own words and attitudes. This happens in a couple of ways:

  • You talk about your goals, but in negative terms. Instead of saying, “I’m looking forward to finishing this client project tonight,” you say, “Ugh, I have this client project that needs to be done tonight.” Understandably, the people around you may well end up saying, “Oh, it’s not good for your mental health – you should get a regular job.”
  • You’re negative and discouraging to other people. (This might be hard to admit to.) Perhaps your brother or sister has a goal that seems silly or meaningless to you. Even if it wouldn’t be your dream, it’s theirs, so be positive and encouraging.

Next time you say something negative, try to figure out why – and what you could have said differently. Then, try to watch out for times when you’re tempted to moan about your own goals, or put down other people’s, and say something positive instead.

Have you ever faced well-intentioned negativity? What did you do (or not do) to mitigate it? Share your experiences in the comments below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

7 thoughts on “How to Deal with Well-Intentioned Negativity

  1. These are wise and kind points. I especially like your suggested phrases to prevent getting into big arguments. True that: “Sometimes, people just want to feel that they’ve been heard.”

  2. There’s a lot of wisdom here, Syed.

    For many years, I took the “safe” route, working a full-time job (sometimes two), and at the time, that was probably the best decision. But at the end of that path, I realized that no job is secure, and even the most stable regular jobs can be tenuous.

    It was after leaving a career path I had for just shy of two decades that I started back at square one, and eventually worked myself into a stable position at another job. This time though, I recognized THAT job was also going to be temporary, as the company finances were in question. What I did was use the that time and temporary stability to start learning a new trade – web design and development.

    Today, I’m very happy I made that decision. I’m not sure what the fates were of most of my old co-workers from my previous life. Not that my path has been easy (is anything worth having?) But for the first time in my life, I actually know my destiny is in my hands, and my hands alone.

    I know that there have always been entrepreneurs (or even solopreneurs). They’ve always been with us.

    Perhaps I just notice them more now, but it seems like more people than I’ve ever seen before BELIEVE that they can build a career for themselves, if they are willing to put in the work to achieve it. Dealing with negativity from people near to you (friends, family) is usually well-meaning. Empathy for the people surrounding you and remaining focused on your long-term goals is required to avoid losing faith in your own decisions.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here John.

      Yeah the more you get involved, the more people you see pursuing their dreams. It’s awesome :)

  3. Hey Syed,

    any chances to write a post about different business models and monetization strategies (ads vs affiliates vs product)? Running sites like WPbeginner, List25 and even having a SaaS product gives you great insights on this topic. I’d really appreciate it! I asked about this some time ago in the comments section, so it’s just a small reminder :)

    Do you think that building a site based on ad revenue is still a reasonable idea?

    • I’m working on an eBook that compares all the different models. It wouldn’t do justice to do a small blog post.

      In short, it really depends on what you’re passionate about and what your skill sets are. If you don’t have any marketing knowledge and don’t have any dev chops, then you can’t build a software business like OptinMonster.

      You can definitely build businesses based on ad revenues. It depends on what kind of ads (CPC, CPM, CPA, CPL, CPI)… so many different types and revenue varies based on niche. So a lot goes in to the factor of whether X is better than Y.

      I’m doing my best to finish the eBook, but as you know I’ve quite a few projects going on. I do hope to launch the eBook soon (perhaps Nov or Dec).


  4. I really understand how feel it is.

    When I started running my bussiness (shoes online store) two years ago, the hardest part is talk to my mother about my choice. Because my two old brothers have a real job and my mother always support them totally. She also likes to compare us. It really make me down.

    But when the time comes, I know that my mother will ask me and I have to explain about this. So before it happen, I keep working on silence and preparing my sales report with list of all clients, revenues, cost of production, etc. At least, I targeted to deal with one or two big clients during the timeline.

    Then I give the report to my mother. What happen next is more than I can imagine. She “accepted” my report! Beside that, she gives me more tips for my bussiness strategy. After that moment, I finally realize that it is not so hard as I thought before. Yes, we only have to open mind to deal with what people think or say about us. Let’s other help us with their way.

    Now, my mother stopped asking me to get “a real job”. What she like to ask is: “How’s your bussiness?” then we share ideas in hours.

Comments are closed.