I think we can all agree the effort to expose bullying in recent years is a good thing. By not putting up with a behavior that seeks to tear someone down, either in our schools or online, the community builds a strong positive message of value and worthiness.
I think we could stand to learn a few things about this very subject when it comes to owning a business and interacting with public reviews/opinions.
I ask you to take a step back and to think about a time you had an idea or a solution to a personal experience where you thought others could totally benefit from your epiphany. You began to work out the details of the idea in your head and sought confirmation about the validity within your sphere of influence. The more you spoke about it, the more you got excited about it, and the more you fed off seeing the light bulb turn on for others.
After some time, all that positive energy continued to lift your spirits and confirmed you found an answer to one of life’s questions.
Now, imagine you took the next step and decided to build a livelihood and turn it into something that could be profitable. By now you are invested emotionally, mentally, and financially, and every day you live and breathe this idea.
So you prepare to present your idea to someone, say a venture capitalist, who can really help launch your idea into the next phase. You are basically asking for their personal approval and for validation at the highest level of peer review. When your presentation is done, they don’t like it. Not only do they dismiss the vision you are casting, they just think it is a terrible idea and a waste of time and resources.
In one swift decision, they have just devalued your dreams to a pile of ashes. The blow was so quick you didn’t even have time to think about what just happened. All those hours of hard work and effort you invested to get you to this point came rushing into your head and they began to elicit an emotional response. Whether it was the VC’s intention to help or harm, you initially take it as being bullied.
Here is where their words can take you down two different paths, depending on how you value yourself and know who you are.
The one path leads you down a journey of emotions spinning out of control. You have put all your faith and hope into one person’s opinion and allowed their words to supersede everyone else’s encouragement and validation of just how good your idea really was. You then begin to question your decision-making and your self-worth and start to see yourself as a failure and not worth that much.
The other path just leads you to the next investor. Yep, you just keep pushing through the objection. You don’t let anyone tear you down. Your conviction is so deep that you let your passion for your idea feed you. All those previous words of affirmation build you up and act as fuel to get you to the next phase no matter how long it takes.
The point of this scenario is to illustrate that, as a business owner, if you know what you stand for—what you are trying to achieve and ultimately believe in who you are- you can stand strong when negative words or obstacles come your way. Be bold and be brave, and don’t let someone else direct your path.
People might not view negative comments about a business as bullying. They may not consider tearing down a business with online comments as bullying. They may even feel justified for a variety of reasons. But take yourself out of the situation. If it happened to you, would you think it was bullying?
My challenge is this: As we begin to reset our lives during this reflection of the new year, let us all take into account the times we have personally spoken negatively about a business. And let us think about what it might be like to put the shoe on the other foot, to be running a business and to be living out a dream of providing an answer to one of life’s questions.
Remember as you leave those business reviews, make sure your words are helping a business owner build a better experience for you and others. Who knows, they may just be starting out as a new business owner. Constructive suggestions could make a huge impact. It’s not the time to be a bully.
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