Dealing with Family Meddling in Your Startup

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Meddling family members—this is the crux of every emotional turmoil people have about their families. We all have those kinds of family members—an aunt who can’t shut her mouth about our business failures, an uncle who keeps asking about our failing careers, and cousins who can’t stop talking about themselves whenever there’s a family occasion. Let’s not go far. Even in your own circle, you have had to deal with a few meddlesome problems, too. But the most annoying of all things is when everyone thinks they have a say on your business.

Yes, it’s nice to hear about business advice from someone who knows how to run one, but do you really need to hear about it every family event? If your public sector recruitment specialist of a cousin tells you how to run a business, would you believe him/her? Is it still healthy for you to attend family events if all they do is criticize the way you run the business? Sure, you aren’t as big as you want to be, but you’re getting there with dedication, commitment, and hard work.

Learn to Stand up for Yourself

You have to learn how to politely tell off your meddling relatives. If they start criticizing your business management style, tell them that your style is working since your business is still up and running. Ask them where they learned how to run their own business if they have always been an employee all their lives. Sometimes, you just need to stand your ground to stop them from trying to meddle into your business affairs.

Don’t Talk About Your Business

Talking about your business in front of your relatives is an invitation for them to comment on it. If you don’t want to hear their thoughts about how you’re running the business, don’t open an opportunity for them to give their two cents about it. The less they know about your life, the fewer opportunities they’ll have to comment about it.

Put Things in Writing

If a family member invested in your business, they have every right to talk to you about it. However, if it feels too stressful to hear their negative perceptions about your business style, put things into writing already. This means that there are limits to what they can meddle into. As a small investor in your business, they can ask you questions about your business decisions. But surely, making you feel bad every time they have a chance is not part of the deal?

Acknowledge Your Mistakes

The best way to shut up meddling relatives and family members are to admit your mistake. When they start judging your business decisions, admit that you made some mistakes in the past and that they are probably right with their assumptions. That might make them rethink commenting about your business again. If you are ready to admit your mistakes, what else can they comment about?

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Change the Subject

The moment they begin asking about your business, ask them one of your questions. Change the subject, so that they’ll forget why they approached you in the first place. Prove a point by answering their questions with your own question. Do it in all family events.

Make the Topics About Them

People who meddle into others’ affairs usually don’t want people meddling in their own. When they start to ask you questions about your business, throw them off by asking questions about their jobs and personal lives. Make the conversation about them. Give them a taste of their own medicine. Every time they try to approach you, ask them about their lives. That should send a message that you don’t want to talk about your personal and business life.

Tell Your Kids to Fend off Questions

Sometimes, meddling relatives will ask the kids instead to get more information about you and your business. If your kids are old enough, teach them how to fend off these questions. They might grill the kids with questions, believing that they’ll get the information they want. Teach your kids to tell these relatives to ask you instead. Of course, teach them to do this politely because you don’t want your kids to be rude, too.

The most important thing is to set boundaries. When you are trying to make a business work, you need all the advice you can get. But that doesn’t mean that you can take negative comments and assumptions sitting down. You have to stand up for yourself and your business, too. People will always question your position and business decisions but as long as you’re making the right choices for your customers and employees, then you’re on the right path.

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