8 Strategies to Deal with Unsupportive People (and How to Bring Them on Board!)
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Have you ever had that experience of taking a stand—having done the difficult and necessary work to stop living a life of mediocrity, taking the time to discover your passion, purpose, strengths and superpowers… or maybe you’ve created a blog or even a business on the side—only to realize that those around you don’t really approve or support you?
It can be seriously crushing. Whether it’s a friend, a family member, your parents, your kids, or perhaps even a partner—dealing with these kinds of naysayers can be much harder when they are so close to home.
Perhaps you’ve been told things like:
“But how on earth will you make money once you do find your passion? What about your family?”
“This ‘hobby’ of yours is great, but don’t let it distract you from what’s really important: a steady income, building your resume, and climbing the ranks.”
“What you’re doing is actually really selfish; we all have to grind it out—why should you get all this time to work on fun stuff just because you want to when here I am miserable day-in-day-out?”
For example, when Naz embarked on her own personal journey about four years ago, she was incredibly excited and energized for the first time in a long time. Except her husband and closest family members simply could not understand why she was turning her back on her existing life…
“I remember telling my husband and family that I was starting a ‘side hustle’ business with Leah and just getting these confused stares. ‘Why would you do that?’, ‘You don’t need other people to be happy; you already have everything you need!’.
It was crushing. And at every turn I heard from them why it wouldn’t work. I just kept saying yes that’s 10 reasons why you think it won’t work, but can you think of 10 reasons why it will?
I felt so unsupported and deflated but I just knew that this was the right path for me. Something inside me just knew I had to hang in there, and I believed that in time they would understand, even though I thought the chances were pretty slim!”
Or when a close friend of Leah’s said, when she shared with him about her passion to help others live their best lives:
“I think this whole ‘find and live off your passion’ thing is unrealistic and you are leading people down a path of heartache. I don’t think it’s the right thing to be doing.”
Whatever the conversation, if you currently have people in your life who don’t approve of your dreams, ideas or lifestyle, it makes it incredibly challenging. And it seriously impacts your ability to stay focused, energized, and committed to the long game (or even the short!).
So here are a few strategies to help you deal with people in your life when they don’t approve. Because it doesn’t have to just be a lost cause! There are things we can do to bring them along on the journey, instead of simply trying to walk the journey alone…
8 Strategies to Deal With Unsupportive People
While we could just sit here and tell you “Just live life on YOUR terms!”, “Forget about them! Just ignore them!” or “Cut them loose and move on!”—that is not particularly helpful when we are talking about people in your life that you might actually deeply care about!
And after all, it’s perfectly normal to want the approval of those close to you.
So here are our top 8 strategies and tips for how to deal with unsupportive people in your life and maybe even get them on board with what you’re doing!
1. Start and End with Compassion
As you are embarking on your own journey of personal discovery, it can be all-consuming—so when we perceive others as being unsupportive, it can bring up feelings of anger, frustration and resentment.
But remember that as you start to carve out a new or different path for yourself, it can naturally cause imbalance for others. After all, they are used to you being a certain way and doing certain things, so if you’re not doing the things that are expected of you, this means they might go through a period of major resistance to letting go of the “old” you—and some will have a tighter grip than others. It’s normal.
You see, there are 7.4 billion different perspectives in the world and everyone is entitled to have theirs. So remember to start and end with compassion for them. It’s rarely about what you’re doing—it’s almost always about the perceived impact it will have on their own life or the fear of losing the “old” version of you that they’ve come to love.
And the best way to show compassion? Listen. Hear them. And appreciate their perspective (which is different from arguing or agreeing!). You can say things like “I totally respect your perspective and can understand the impact this is having on you. I’m sorry you are feeling that way.”
Simple Strategy: When you encounter resistance, remind yourself of the following statements (perhaps even say them aloud to really integrate these beliefs in!):
- They are doing the best they can with the resources they have at this time.
- I do not know what they are going through. It is my job to support and love them no matter what, even if I don’t feel that from them right now!
- Fear causes all of us to do crazy things (myself included!). They simply don’t want to lose me, and I appreciate and respect that.
2. Open Up, Instead of Closing Down
The experience of feeling unsupported is never a nice one. And often, we shut down instead of opening up when we experience it. However, more often than not, the worst thing you can do is hide away what you’re doing, because it only separates you further from them!
Let them know that you are also scared (and excited!) and that you don’t have it all worked out. Share what you’re doing in order to keep the dialogue open. Do not let it become the “elephant in the room.” If you do, it will simply become a breeding ground for resentment on both sides.
And besides, what’s the point of attempting to do something you love if you can only show your love for it in certain areas of your life?! It simply doesn’t work long-term.
Simple Strategy: Be unapologetically you! When you catch up with friends and they ask you what you’ve been up to: tell them the truth! Tell them about your excitement and also your fears. The more they understand all sides of what you are going through, the more likely they are to feel for you. If your partner or family look at you quizzically when you tell them about your dreams, show them compassion (see above).
But whatever you do, don’t stop sharing. Stay open or else you risk stifling your dreams—and that is the only truly tragic thing that could happen.
Because as Naz says about her husband and family: “And over the period of 2 years, as they started to see successes, they saw the possibility and started to become raving fans.”
3. Include Them in Your “Why”
People who don’t support you and discourage your actions and dreams are not usually intentionally out there to crush your ambitions. More often than not, it’s just because you haven’t actually taken the time to share your “why” with them and so they truly don’t understand what it is you are doing. They don’t understand your intentions. They haven’t been informed of why you wanted to change yourself or your life in the first place—why it’s important to you—and so they voice their concerns (usually from a place of love). It makes total sense!
And it usually leads to them making up their own stories about why you are doing this—often they decide it’s because you’re not happy with your life, or that they are not enough for you, etc.…
Have you ever become really angry with someone’s behavior and actions, only to feel like a jerk once they share the real and true reason behind their actions? For example, felt more and more angry at someone for every minute they were late, only to realize that the reason they were late was because they stopped to get you your favorite treat on the way over?
Being ill-informed and making assumptions is simply a recipe for disaster, especially when it comes to relationships. So don’t allow those close to you to make up stories of their own about what you’re really doing and why.
If you can lead with compassion, hear them fully without defending, and then share your “why,” you have a much greater chance of disarming the situation and even inspiring them to start to see things from your perspective.
Now we’re not saying that once you share your “why” that they will suddenly be on board, but at least you have honored them with the time and care to open up and be honest. You simply can’t do more than that. The rest is up to them.
Simple Strategy: Create specific statements around why you want this that include them. Examples include:
- I really want to make this work so that we can spend more time together.
- I know it is hard to understand, but this dream of mine is only a dream because of what it will provide for our family. It will make me a better wife, mother, etc. and allow us the flexibility and freedom to do (insert dream) we have always talked about.
- I am pursuing this business because I dream of being able to wake up next to you every day without an alarm clock rushing me out of the house. That’s what all this is for!
4. Release Expectations
Usually we create disappointment in our lives because of an expectation we are holding on to.
Think life is supposed to be easy? You’ll be terribly bothered anytime something goes slightly amiss. Think life is an experiment, you’ll find yourself appreciating when things go right, and curious when things are “off.”
In our opinion, expectations are good for pretty much nothing! So ask yourself: what expectations are you holding in mind when it comes to your friends, family or partner? And how are those expectations serving you?
And the hilarious thing is: many of your friends and family are unsupportive because YOU didn’t meet some kind of expectation they had of you, so take the higher ground and drop expectations as often as you can.
Simple Strategy: Replace expectation with curiosity and commitment to your loved ones, yourself, and your deepest desire.
Instead of saying “I cannot believe they are acting this way!” Ask yourself the following:
- What else could this mean?
- Why might they be feeling this way? What’s the underlying cause/fear/frustration?
- What might I be able to do to better show/explain/understand where I am coming from?
- What more can I do?
- What is the lesson here?
5. Take Them to an Event, Show a Video or Send an Article
Often we are most scared of something simply because we don’t know what it is. Invite your friends, family, partner, etc. to an event or gathering that helps them to understand at a deeper level why it is you’re so passionate. Alternatively, show them an inspiring video that sparked you on your journey or share a book or article that had a profound impact on you.
But it is important to note, that you have to do this:
- Without expectation (see above point), meaning you cannot be upset if they decline!
- In a way that is simply saying “I want you on this journey with me.” instead of in a way that says “I think/need/want you to change, too.”
And then share with them how important it is to you that they are by your side, so that you can have this experience together.
Simple Strategy: All you have control over is how you show up, so graciously invite your loved ones to experience what you have experienced—and be fully supportive if they make the choice not to join.
Showing that you want and desire them to be a part of it with you often taps into what is likely a deep underlying fear. So show up as best as you can, let it be known that you want to walk this journey together should they choose to want the same.
6. Create Parameters
We fell into the trap of putting our passions and projects ahead of family time for a while there, and it’s simply not fair to anyone.
Create parameters around how much time and energy you will dedicate to this new venture. Sometimes it can be a simple case of jealousy that your attention is being directed elsewhere. Define boundaries, especially for partners and family so that they get your attention too. For example, only work on your passion project during the weeknight evenings, or give your blog or business 12 months to start gaining traction, or set aside weekends for couple time, family time or friends time.
Remember that what unsupportive people are saying on the surface is usually not a reflection of the real concern they have (i.e., they miss you, they are worried for you, they feel left behind, etc.).
Simple Strategy: Get specific!
What days, hours, times are you dedicating to this?
And equally important, what hours are off-limits?
For Chelsea, there was never any “work talk” with Scott at the dinner table because given that they both worked from home, it was too easy to blend work into all things. Mealtimes were their times to connect on all things outside of work.
7. Community, Community, Community
It almost goes without saying—but here at Live Your Legend we believe strongly in surrounding yourself with a community who “get” what you’re up to.
It’s crucial regardless of whether the people in your life are supportive or not. Because when you put inspired, passionate people together, all you have to do is just stand back and watch them get to work!
So, make sure you have people to lean on and share your challenges with, as we have no doubt there will be plenty of others who have experienced the exact same thing.
Simple Strategy: Find at least one person you can chat with freely about this topic. Even if one is where you have to start until others get on board.
We invite you to join us at the Action and Accountability Team, a virtual group created specifically for this purpose. But better yet, join an in-person meet-up near you. Nothing comes close to the impact that in-person connections create!
8. Create an Unreasonably Large Vision
Similar to creating a “why,” build out a vision much larger than you. We will give up on ourselves far earlier than we will give up on a greater cause—which is why this is the number one hack to maintaining momentum.
This way you can keep on going because you can’t let that vision down. It’s easy to let ourselves down and revert back to our old approval-seeking ways, but when you have something very large at stake, it will propel you forward in challenging times.
Simple Strategy: Tell everyone your why, not your what. When people ask what you are doing or the dreaded question “What do you do?”, tell them why you are doing it. It has to start here to last anyway!
Instead of saying, “I am trying to build an online business so I can have freedom in my work life,” go deeper. Who do you want to help with what you want to do? Why do you want freedom? So that you can share that extra time with your family? In what ways do you plan to give back? Don’t stop at the dream, dream bigger and think about what you want to do with that dream once it is achieved.
Repeating and deeply believing in your why (and remind yourself of it daily!) will integrate this into your body and mind in a way that you’ll refuse to let it go!
And if all else fails…
Remind yourself that it is not realistic to please everyone in every given moment. When you invest in making yourself better, everyone around you will benefit in the long run. All you can do is do the best you can—and treat the people around you with love and compassion. And hope that in doing so, they will join you along the journey.
Life is short. Your life is important. And so is your passion. And you simply can’t please everyone.
And leaders don’t do what everyone else is doing, leaders do what no one else is doing in a way that shows others what is possible. If you take the time, energy and effort to improve your own life and start living fully and passionately day in and day out, you will positively affect those around you—not in a forceful way but in a way that is nothing but natural.
It may take some time, but when others begin to see how truly alive you are, they will eventually not be able to not jump on board.
What others choose to do is up to them, so choose to be the leader of your own life—because, really, that is the best gift you can give to those you love anyway…
–Your Live Your Legend Ladies (Leah, Naz and Chelsea)
PS. Have you experienced unsupportive people along the way? How did you deal with them? Let us know what we might have missed in the comments below.