Do you ask others for their advice, be it friends, family, or other business owners? Do you then twist yourself in knots trying to work out how to make their advice fit what you want to do because – well for any reason? Sounds as if you could be letting other people’s opinion control your business. And you’re not alone, I’ve been there too.
How letting other people’s opinions control us starts out
Firstly, I want to say that this isn’t the domain of the new business owner. Even as a seasoned business owner, I have fallen down this rabbit hole. What I have seen, over the years, is patterns where I’ve seen business owners let other people’s opinion control their business decisions.
I understand crowdsourcing and market research, they have their place. The problem comes about when a business owner defers decision making to others who do not understand their business, their values, and their vision. Too often in large business Facebook groups, I see business owners letting other people’s opinions on design, logos, colours, how to respond to something, which direction to take control their direction. The problem comes when they:
– ask a group who isn’t their ideal client
– ignore their gut for the popular opinion
– take on the fear of others as their own.
I’ve written about the first two before, but I really want to tackle this last point a little more.
Behind the fears others use to control our business
When we ask the opinions of others we forget that we are asking for their perspective based on their drivers and their experience as it applies to our business. (Can you see why I think that it’s often an odd thing for business owners to do?) Anyway, what they come back to us with is often actually not in our best interests for a number of different reasons.
Some people offer advice based on their need and comfort with us being where we are, if we were to make the change we are asking advice on that can impact on them through us improving or changing. They give their advice based on their need for us to “stay” where we are and for their life not to change. Some may do it intentionally and with malice, others may not know that what they advising is actually going to hurt us in the long run. When we hear these stories from people we admire we can adopt them as our own framing how we respond and interact with the world. A good example is how I became afraid of public speaking, despite my experience, because I adopted the fear of others. (Incidentally, this is also why I tell my kids off for trash-talking wealth/bougie)
“I would never do that”, “I could never do that”. Ever heard those sentences and wondered if that person couldn’t or wouldn’t then perhaps you shouldn’t either? Each of us come with our own stories, our own fears, our own beliefs and our own values. If someone says they would or could never do something, that’s their limit and not yours. You don’t have to take that on.
Do you ever look around and think that if someone else is doing it that it must be a good idea and that you should too? Yep, I’ve been there. I’ve should’ed my way through a stack of cash and tools only to realise that it didn’t meet my needs and didn’t help me get closer to where I wanted to be. Comparison is a sneaky beast but should is its bestie and walks hand in hand with comparison.
So what we do instead is to forego our own understanding about our business and our own experience for the experience, and sometimes pleasing, of the other person. Our perspective-taking on what the other person is saying excludes their fears and motives.
What we can do to avoid letting other people control our businesses
Whenever we ask for advice, there are some key things we can do so that we don’t let another person’s opinion control our business decisions. We can:
-Remember it’s advice, we don’t actually have to adopt their suggestion in whole or in part
– Do they have the whole picture? Quietly ask ourselves if the other person has a full grasp on the direction and obstacles we and our business is facing.
– Look for what’s not said, repeatedly said, or said off the cuff/in jest. These are key indicators of their fears and/or their boundaries for us.
– Are they in the Arena with you? Does the person have your back and are they trying to grow themselves, business, or career against similar obstacles? If not, do they really get it and have the best intention for you?
– What are your core values and does their advice align with them? Behaving in line with our core values, personal and business, is what keeps us moving forward, keeps us feeling like we’re on track, keeps us happy, keeps us authentic. So if what they recommend isn’t in alignment with our core values then we feel out of whack, what psychologists call dissonance.
-Is there something else you can learn from what they’ve said? I’m not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater and I try to look for something I can learn, perhaps it’s that they don’t have my best interest at heart and I can’t go to them for advice.
What I hope you remember is that unfortunately, knowingly or not, not everyone you go to for advice has your best interest at heart. It’s a good reminder to always consider ‘what’s in it for them’ when you’re talking to anyone.