Have you ever started a new career or business, and been disappointed when your friends – the ones you thought would be your biggest supporters – didn’t quite meet your expectations?
This came up during a recent discussion with a friend. One of her close friends launched a new business, and has approached her several times seeking her financial support. My friend isn’t in a position to support her friend’s business, but isn’t sure how to get her point across without hurting her feelings.
This is straining their friendship. Her friend was counting on her support. But should you feel obligated to buy something you don’t want or need to keep your friendship intact? How do you say no to a friend without hurting her feelings? Has this happened to you, and how do you handle it?
This comes up a lot in my circle because I’ve been mostly a stay-at-home mom for the past 20 years. Once the kids get older and are in school all day, lots of moms try to re-enter the workforce. The problem is many employers don’t want anything to do with us because they think we’ve been sitting home doing nothing all day. We have that dreaded hole in our resume, and nothing will make it go away.
Many of my friends are whip smart and left lucrative careers to raise their kids, but shift careers and trajectories to relaunch. We think (hope) that our friends will support our new endeavors, assuming they’re as eager for us to thrive as we are. When they don’t, it can lead to disappointment, rejection and anger.
This happened to me when I launched my own yoga business. Many friends and acquaintances assured me that they’d support me and attend my classes, but few did. They had no obligation to attend my classes. After all, they pointed out, there are so many exercise classes out there and so little time.
But it stung. A lot. I took it personally, and felt very let down. I had counted on a cadre of people – the ones who seemed so supportive when I was newly certified – to support me. What really hurt was when I’d see their yoga mat in the back of their cars. I knew they were going to class, just not mine.
Of course, it’s business, and some people are better at handling rejection than others. I realized I’m not cut out to teach yoga. I love going to classes, but teaching it? That’s a very different story and maybe the best lesson I took away from the whole experience.
Everyone has her own talents and gifts. Teaching yoga isn’t one of mine. I don’t know why we have such unrealistic expectations of our friends when it comes to business or jobs, but we do. When our friends don’t support us, we feel like they’ve abandoned us and want us to fail. Perhaps a little more understanding, grace and honesty on everyone’s part is needed. It certainly couldn’t hurt.
Carolyn Milazzo Murphy is CT-NOW blog editor.