I came home today from a Manchester Girl Geeks event on mental health. I spoke to a few people about this website, and my new coaching business, helping people who have mental health issues, or are neuro-atypical, or just tired.
Like so many other people I’ve started talking to, they said “That’s a really good idea,” or “That’s something that there’s a real need for”, or even “Oooh, I need that!”.
They agree with me that no-one else is really providing a service for people like us and a lot of business coaches, strategists and those providing business advice don’t account for someone’s anxiety, or inability to do something, or simply have to be off at 3 to pick the kids up from school.
So I was quite bouncy when I got home, as I’d felt it had been a positive day. I mentioned it to my husband and he said that people were just being nice to me. That the positive comments I’d received were just because people don’t want to tell me that Sparkle Class is a crap idea.
Fair enough, my friends probably don’t want to shoot down my new business (I haven’t told that many friends about it yet actually). But I pointed out to him that these people today, some of them were total strangers. And he said they were still just being nice. I was quite unhappy about his assessment and I don’t think it’s true. If this was a crap idea, people would say they didn’t understand what I am doing. But no-one has said that yet.
The thing is, I really value his opinion. That’s why I asked for his feedback when I first thought of Sparkle Class – the business and lifestyle site that you’re on now. He didn’t think it was a good idea because he couldn’t see a space for it in an over-crowded marketplace. I don’t mind disagreeing with him (we’ve disagreed on other people’s business ideas before) but I must admit I do feel a bit sad that he’s not onboard with this because it’s really important to me.
He doesn’t know about this site because I’ve never told him what it’s called. He said I “batmobiled” as soon as he shot down my idea. I love the expression “batmobiling” by the way – in case you haven’t seen the Batman films, when the Batmobile is under attack it magically covers itself in armour so the bullets just bounce off it. You can see it in this video:
Batmobiling is a common way to cope with criticism. A therapist will tell you that it’s not helpful but it’s a natural reaction for a lot of people.
I want to make it clear at this point that my husband didn’t diss my idea because he hates me. He is in fact a lovely man and acted with the best of intentions.
There are two reasons he was negative about my idea. The first is that he couldn’t see how to turn Sparkle Class into a profitable business, and he didn’t want to encourage me in an idea he didn’t think had any “legs” – ie, it wasn’t going to go anywhere. He feels it’s important to be honest, and I agree.
The second reason is a little less common. My husband is a creative, and as such, comes up with, and throws out, dozens of ideas every day. Whereas you and I come up with far fewer, so we tend to treat them as valuable – he is so used to trashing ideas that aren’t any good (or may be good but aren’t right for that particular project) that he sees it as second nature to throw them out without a second thought. This is actually one of the (many) reasons I like him – knowing that creativity is as much about what you chuck out as what you keep.
So anyway, the title of this post is “What to do when someone you love doesn’t believe in you” not “Me and the arguments I have with my husband.” But I have to admit it’s a tough one and what works for one person might not work for you.
Here are some ideas. Why don’t you try them out and let me know how you get on?
Explain your idea better
Often people criticise an idea because they don’t really understand it. See: any number of old people and any amount of modern technology the kids are using.
If someone whose opinion you value isn’t on board with your idea, could it be that you haven’t explained it to them fully? Is there an element of embarrassment even? It could be that there’s a part of you that isn’t fully confident with what you’re doing (in fact, I’d put money on that being the case) so you’re not explaining it that well because you’re not confident about what you’re doing, or you haven’t worked it out properly yourself.
That’s OK. Why don’t you start being clear with yourself about what you’re doing first, then going back to the person you love and trying to explain it again? Work on your “elevator pitch” – explaining what it is you do in 2 minutes and make it so clear that an idiot could understand it. I’m not saying that your other half is an idiot by the way…
Explain your motivation better
In coaching training, we learn that the “what” is only 20% of what you’re doing and the “why” is 80%.
Why are you doing what you’re doing? What is it all for? Once you understand this, you can explain it to the person you love. They might not really understand your job, or your project (anyone with a grandma will have experienced this) but they can understand that you’re doing it to help people, or you want to earn more money, or you want to provide a better future for your kids.
Even if they don’t really “get” your idea, or don’t think it’s a goer, if they understand why you’re doing it, they might even come up with some helpful suggestions of making it work.
Be aware that that they may have a point
The last thing you want is to be that girl on the X Factor whose mum has always told them she’s a great singer when she has a voice like a corncrake.
I’m not a fan of the whole “believe in yourself and you can do anything” school of thought. Self-belief is good but only where it’s partnered with some evidence that you’re onto a good thing. If the person you love has valid reasons for thinking your idea is not a good one, listen to those but weigh them up against the evidence you have.
In my case, my husband is saying he doesn’t see how this will work in a crowded marketplace. Well, him not seeing it is either me not explaining it properly or him not listening (it’s the latter, obvs). And the crowded marketplace is a concern – but I am carving out my niche in working with people who are not normal.
There are valid reasons against someone doing something but they don’t have to be the end of your idea. For example, if your dream is to make hand-knitted jumpers for a living, people will immediately point out to you that it’s hard to make money doing that. They are right – but that’s an indication that you need to find a way to make it profitable, not that you should chuck your wool in the bin and go and work in a bank.
This goes against a lot of advice which says “Don’t accept it! Stand up for yourself! Shout a lot!”
But you know, you can’t always make someone do something. You can try to make them understand, and you can try to make them listen but you can’t make someone care. And while they care about you, they might not care about your brand spanking new project if they can’t see any mileage in it. If they think it’s a waste of time.
So you can join me in batmobiling if you like. I’ve accepted that my husband doesn’t believe in this site, even though he believes in a lot else that I can do. And it does hurt, and that’s why I don’t talk about it.
But I believe in this. I believe in helping you and other people like you. I believe that this site can be successful. One of the things I’ve always been good at in my work (and life, for that matter) is spotting where things are going, and I’m pretty sure I’m right in seeing that we’re moving towards embracing neurodiverse people. This – and the strangers saying its a good idea, and the people coming to me for coaching, and my testimonials – is my evidence that my idea is a good one, and it’s something that can be a profitable and worthwhile business. You do need evidence by the way – impartial evidence. Your gut feeling (as outlined above) is a good place to start but it’s not enough.
If you have enough self- belief, then even though it hurts that someone you love doesn’t believe in you, it doesn’t have to be the end of your dreams. As long as you believe in what you’re doing and you have evidence to show that your idea is a good one – then get started! And when you’re a success, thank the person for not believing in you. Why? Because one of the biggest motivators is proving someone wrong.