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How do you deal with unsupportive family members?

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In the ultimate human curiosity, the more and more you start doing well at something, the more and more people will try to cut you down.

Sometimes they don’t even realize they’re doing it. They’ll say things like, “Are you really sure that’s the right decision? What if something goes wrong? What if you don’t make enough money?” This is called being a concern troll.

It’s one thing if it’s your friend or co-worker. Just block them on FB, duh.

But what if it’s your brother? Your mom? Your dad? How are you supposed to handle family members that second-guess you…and make you feel bad about your choices?

I want to tap the wisdom of the IWT community to see how you’d deal with it.

(Btw, before I get to the question, I’m hiring a Marketing Manager for IWT. If you’re highly quantitative, have experience in direct marketing, and have managed teams of SEM/SEO/optimization, click here to learn more about this full-time position as a Marketing Manager).

Check out this questions I got from an IWT reader:

“I love [my family] and want them happy. They wallow in misery and blame me for it. I feel very tied to them although I should just let go. How do you let go of the living who have become a source of poison and sickness in your life when you are related to them and have known them your whole life?”
–[Name withheld]

I want to ask you TWO questions.

1. How has this happened to you? Specifically, if you’ve ever had a family member be unsupportive, what exactly did they say? (Did they come right out and say, “That’s a bad decision!” Or were they more subtle about it?)

2. How would you recommend this person deal with their unsupportive family? What exactly should they do?

(Btw, don’t just say “Cut them out of your life!” These are family members that they love and can’t turn their back on.)

Share your answer in the comments below.

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94 Comments

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  1. […] How do you deal with unsupportive family members? is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich. […]

    • Geez, I wish I can say we all went to therapy together! I’m currently 4 hours away. I’ve run the gamut, I’ve played into the role I was placed in, the screw ball roll, and acted that out, I’ve held it in, as it seemed there’s nothing else I can do, I’ve gotten angry and lashed out. All in all my move away has been my best idea yet, and I’m not supposed to say this! I’ve been healing, I’ve watched myself deal with setbacks and challenges, and remarkably i haven’t done one self destructive thing so far. I brought everyone great comfort, by being present to be called crazy, bad, helpless, wrong worthy of being left out. My love away is something hey called crazy, except I’m free now from hearing about it any more now. Healing has begun. Progress happening.

    • I have been working on this one for a long time. Negative Nellie’s are around me and I need to protect myself from their toxic influence. They love to jump on the bad news band wagon when therr is a possible tempestuous situation brewing. They also love to call and get things heated, because this is what fuels them
      and keeps them happy. Crazy, right. Here’s what I do: I don’t feed them ANYTHING. If something is off in my life, tell them nothing. When things are going great, they criticize and expect hand outs. Tell them NOTHING. I give zero information about what I do and how things are going in my life. All my good fortunes are kept to myself and I have been much happier. I work on self improvement every day and will not allow jealous, unsupportive people to sabotage my life. I keep phone calls short, sweet, and polite. Go into holidays and outings with a positive frame of mind and condition your thoughts to not allow negativity to affect you. You are too valuable and your future too important to be sucked into a dark place by people who don’t respect, support, or appreciate you.

  2. I know you said “don’t just say ‘Cut them out of your life!’ These are family members that they love and can’t turn their back on” but that’s exactly what I did. Family or not, if they are dragging you down – cut them loose.

    • I agree with you Jonathon. I had family that was tearing me down and preventing me from achieving the goals I wanted, enough was enough. My success was paramount to my well-being, and ultimately my health.

    • Hi I totally agree..

      I have a sister who is always
      been judgmental on the things
      that I do,
      eg , you need to get your music
      properly produced if you want to
      make it in the industry..
      Ohhhh if want to go live in Malta
      remember your gonna take whatever it is with you time and
      time again this was said..
      When I said your judging me, I don’t get in the habit of doing that to you she
      flew of the handle and started
      dredging up the past and got very defensive and a accused me
      of unloading my problems on her..

      She got borderline nasty, I stopped it right there and said please do not contact me anymore and
      she began getting nasty and was
      saying who are you, she said looks like your in pain body some
      new age psych shit she was trying to unload on me..
      Sometimes you have to just cut your losses with people even though they are family because they can
      hold you back severely..

    • That’s how I feel, and have felt for some time. They say they love you, but then are judgmental when you need to vent. Screw it.

  3. Oh, Ramit…

    You have no idea how badly this hits home on a lot of fronts. Coming from a very traditional (i.e. non-entrepreneurial family), and having moved back from Europe last year, I seriously wish I had an American dollar every time I’d heard or had this conversation with people. (That’s where my extra $1000 a month would come from.)

    I get this all the time from my parents. I moved my teaching business online before leaving Europe last year, and my parents (God love ’em) have been supportive…EXCEPT….except for hounding me about invoices that have not been paid (like I don’t know?) …EXCEPT….pointing out that I don’t have enough money to get a car (leaving aside that I’m set to clear $27,000 in my first year of business back in Canada), EXCEPT pointing out that, if I had a “normal” job, I might be making closer to $35,000 and have some level of job security (leaving aside the expenses involved in working away from home.)

    I don’t think people do that to be malicious. I really, honestly believe it comes from a vastly skewed perception of risk, and what looks like an insane idea to one person is totally rational and straightforward to someone else. Not everyone has the same stomach for risk that entrepreneurs have, either because of generational gaps or cultural ones (WIRED UK ran a brilliant article a couple of years ago about the difference in perceptions of risk between Americans and Europeans.)

    I think the most straightforward way of dealing with this (notice I didn’t say “easiest”!!!) is to talk with those people and ask them, flat out, where their concern comes from and to re-assure them it’s not as big an issue as they’re making it out to be: “You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’re concerned about cash flow. I appreciate your concern, but don’t forget that the business is diverse enough that cash comes from more than one area of this business.” Everyone has different fear triggers, and a lot of times, they don’t realize how much their fear triggers tend to dominate conversation.

    That said, a little aural filtering never hurts, either. I don’t want to say that the person should be ignored (nobody paid attention to Pandora, either, about that box) but just remember that it’s one voice among many. People are entitled to their opinions, and constructive feedback is welcome — but there’s a difference between constructive feedback and noise. Not everything has to be taken seriously if it’s freely offered. If someone gives me an eyeball-bustingly ugly sweater, I’ll thank them for the gesture, but I’m not going to wear it. The same could go for advice, especially advice that comes from a place of fear or a lack of information.

    Thanks again for opening up the debate. I think you’ll get a lot of good debate on this one.

    — Dawn

    • I agree about the “vastly skewed perception of risk.” For some people feeling secure is absolutely essential. For myself, what I want to accomplish is more important than feeling secure. For the people in my life who feel the need for security, my higher risk-taking level makes them nervous. They worry that something will happen to me, that I will get hurt or become homeless. As someone else mentioned in their comment, it is sometimes better to keep certain things to yourself.

      Also, if you have friends who are like family it is just as difficult to deal with these issues. Sometimes I have felt frustrated with my best friend’s lack of support and negativity, but thinking about ending 34 years of friendship is extremely difficult. I having learned to keep some things to myself.

    • Great comment. I wonder how a stock reply would work, something light like, “Hey, I’m still young! I can handle some risk. Worse come to worst, I’ll sign up for a ‘normal’ job before I’m 35.”

  4. For some people, there are tactics they can use with their parents or family members to change the subject. “Oh, you may be right. What’s up with Sports Team?” is a good starting point. If family members still want to dwell in the Misery Bucket, the individual could state directly that they don’t want to talk about money with them, but they’d love to talk about family/hometown/whatever.

    Your request that we not say “Cut them off!” is loaded with assumptions about our families, that they are good people at heart, and raised us to succeed and thrive in the world. Not all of us are lucky enough to have those kinds of families, and assumptions like those are a reflection of society’s expectations. Those of us with substandard families are pushed to reconcile, to keep the peace, to buckle under ridiculous expectations. I personally stopped talking to my family almost a year ago, and it’s been one of the best years of my life.

    I understand that’s not the point of this blog. I still wanted to point it out.

    • That is true sometimes we have to cut them off and see them ocassionally. They mind is the most powerful and precious thing in the body in my opinion. Being that stress can lead to anything a peace of mind is important. I am thankful for this article because, I see I am not the only one who has to be bold and couragous. I have spent a lot of years trying to please my mom. At the drop of the dime whe threatens to put me out and she has before. I knwo she needs my help financially. But I am starting to feel like I have to make some changes where i can provide my own shelter rather my grandmother thinks I should just forgive and toughen up. I can do this but it is stressful. I want my peace of mind back I have to make some changes.

    • Hi donna, I also
      Have no memory of my immediate family (mother or siblings) supporting me. And I believe when I was a teenager I knew this would be the outcome.

      Sometimes I ask myself did I make it a reality?! But oh well, probably I just was intuitive.

      As the years go by, I keep adding more years that go by when I don’t hear “How are you doing? How’s your medical practice going? Can I come visit you?”

      I started doing it more to them aroun 2007. I would take trips and say they should communicate with me on skype. I got married and say come spend the weekend helping and celebrating with me.

      The numbers just don’t make sense and I started adding things up to make this somewhat objective too!

      2 months away – one phone conversation on skype, every call after she missed I believe

      Her wedding, $1000 for me; I even brought my dad, and did her reception photos; my wedding she misses Friday night family gathering, arrived late to the rehearsal, reports no one told her about the speech she is to write, and says when I bring this up— “we all ready had fun, don’t cause any mor drama”

      Multiply that by 3 (two other siblings– in their own way they are like that too and 1 critical mother) and that’s my “bio-family!”

      I hear them say when I say ” sorry, I am not making it until You give me something to work with. I have relationships with people who understand balance and compromise. Her reply, ” ask
      yourself are you doing anything to compromise? ( well yes I have a good lot of the time ! )

      the second bio sibling is just a devil with two kids, so she looks like An angel in devil aura (steals, lies, causes unnecessary argument pointing finger at me – innocent!)

      The forth bio-daughter is a stonewaller and has a mean energy that is not emotional.

      So, I need to keep away, but I am
      Struggling which is why I am here.

  5. A mentor shared this with me:

    *Give-up goals, tell everyone.

    *Move-up goals, tell only your team or a select few that fully support you.

    For example, want to quit smoking? Tell everyone. The next time they see you smoke they’ll be like…

    Want to pitch potential investors for 1m financing for your trading fund? Tell someone who has either done it before and succeeded or someone who knows that once you put your mind to something, you can’t be stopped.

    • What a pearl of wisdom. Thank you.

    • I love it!!!

    • Rivka Link to this comment Great comment. I wonder how a stock reply would work, something light like, “Hey, I’m still young! I can handle some risk. Worse come to worst, I’ll sign up for a ‘normal’ job before I’m 35.”
      This helped me too

  6. My parents are openly supportive but secretly unsupportive.

    My mother loves bragging about me to her friends and co-workers (I’m 20 and running a sweet little part-time business that pays for my university degree) but when the time comes for me to ask her questions about business, or go to the next step… she always stops me and tells me that I’m fine where I am, why grow when I’m good here, etc. It’s definitely disheartening! I know she’s proud of me, but her fear keeps me back a lot.

    For me, I’ve started being more firm about my business and stopped telling my mother, lol. Although she’s an accountant with a huge company and has a business degree, I’ve made steps towards finding other mentors who can push me to bigger goals. I still share with her, love on her, and we talk about lots of things… just not what my near-future goals are. If I get to my goal, I tell her and she’s happy. If I don’t get there, she never has to know.

  7. I get a combination of both subtle and direct criticism daily from my husband to my mother–from leaving the light on, to taking too long to write my dissertation, to how much I spent on a new pair of underwear, to why I am or am not taking or quitting this or that job/responsibility. I’ve determined nothing I say or do will change their attitudes–unless I die of course and they feel guilty. Their attitudes are products of their own issues, not mine.

  8. To all the folks who did just “cut” family out of there lives- wow. That’s pretty harsh!! I had this happen to me and rather than cut important people out of my life, I did a few things. First, I looked at the person and their experience and found that often times, they just didn’t know better. That their behavior matched that of their parents, etc.. So I used that as leverage “Remember when Joe didn’t support you? Well it seems you are doing the same here- am I missing something”?. That helped people see their behavior, understand it and change it. And for those who didn’t change- that was OK. Because I knew that I could change my reaction to them. Instead of getting angry, hurt and upset- I stopped talking about those things with them. If they asked, I decided not to talk about it. When they asked why- I told them that I felt like they weren’t supporting my endeavor and gave examples- of course with the caveat that “it could just be me”. This kind of approach was non-offensive and gave ME control over the situation. When someone said something I didn’t want to hear- I changed my reaction- I didn’t try to change them. I did not put myself in stressful situations and not only did several people change their attitude towards me, those who didn’t- simply stopped commenting. Worked like a charm- no one was hurt or upset and no arguments. Been doing this for 6 years now and believe me- it works.

    • This is what I have done. Simple solution, which you have put very clearly.
      I have found asking questions as you have done, is better than answering them. By asking questions the party has to think for themselves what they are saying. It is one of the best ways to get through.

    • Sometimes in order to maintain your health and live a positive life, you must cut-out family members. Being family is not an excuse to accept ill treatment. As harsh as it may seem, sometimes it is essential

    • great to hear how this has become your way; this is the way I have been searching for. I just needed demonstrations and to perfect it.

      I am a little to direct for this approach where I would rather list what it is I see is wrong; and help them correct it.

      However, that also does not work, so, now I am just saying to them … ” sorry I won’t make it ” because I am trying to teach them that I have a great existence that I want them to be a part of. ”

      I am trying to include them in my life. They include me in theirs,
      but with no love and kindness – just impulsiveness, competition, and at times ignoring me and not replying to my requests! (A basic one like I am planning he family reunion, how would you like to help?), no balance either ( I don’t drive and they ask me to go see them, and when I did drive I said I am in town to visit — and during that day I visit visit first bio daughter drives out of town for some ridiculous thing ( going to get a back pack from the city I just left!)

      So, I hope I can apply this but I may just need to remove all ties, I
      Have done this in the past and it was beautiful!!

      maybe I can make this my wish to have great loving and supportive people around me!

  9. My buddy Adam recently wrote about this issue. Here’s a bit of what he would say:
    ——–
    Understanding why people sabotage us will make it a lot easier to deal with.

    With consistency comes results. Sadly, this is also when the saboteurs try to work their toxic magic.It can be very frustrating, even hurtful, when our coworkers, friends and even family members might try to sabotage our efforts.

    First, we have to understand human behavior – at its WORST.

    A study quoted in the book The Paradox of Choice gave participants hypothetical choices concerning status and asked for their preferences. For example, people were asked to choose between a) earning $50,000 a year with others earning $25,000 or b) earning twice as much, $100,000 a year but being surrounded by people earning $200,000.

    Which would you choose?

    Sadly (at least to me), more than half the respondents chose the option that gave them the better relative position. That means earning $50,000 to $100,000 because at $50,000 they were earning more than others, while at $100,000 they were earning less than others.

    (I think this is crazy! BUT, it doesn’t matter what I think. For many, this is how they feel. For some humans, this IS their nature.)

    Although we’re hard wired to compare, it’s who we compare ourselves to that can make or break our happiness. Ideally, we wouldn’t compare ourselves to anyone. Really! Besides, your status compared to other people isn’t how YOU’RE doing.

    Because we now know that many would prefer the better relative position, it’s easy to see why people would sabotage our efforts.

    Let’s go even deeper…

    Are you familiar with the term cognitive dissonance? This happens when we have two conflicting desires. It is well known that smoking cigarettes can cause lung cancer yet every person I’ve ever met wants to live a long, healthy and fit life.

    The uncomfortable tension caused by these two opposing ideas — wanting to smoke but also wanting to be healthy and fit — is known as dissonance. As humans, we look to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling. (This is known as dissonance reduction.)

    The only way to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling is by a) quitting smoking b) denying that people actually get sick from smoking or c) justifying and rationalizing.

    For example, a smoker could rationalize their behavior by believing that few people get sick from smoking, it only happens to people who smoke more than they do, if smoking doesn’t kill them something else will, they’ll quit next year, it’s too expensive to quit, or they only live once and they deserve to smoke.

    In essence, they either need to take action (quit smoking and get whatever help they need “Ugh, ‘so and so’ looks so good! I wish I could have the “discipline” it takes to look that good too!” They need to get rid of this uncomfortable feeling somehow though…

    Sadly, these people know deep down they’re not going to take any action THEMSELVES, and nothing is going to change on their end. So, if they can’t change their own body (most people don’t really want to change — they rather TALK about changing), they’ll try to bring down the people around them who are.

    This is how they get rid of the dissonance or uncomfortable feeling they’re experiencing. Again, as sad as it is – it’s human nature. Fighting human nature is silly.

    When we understand what’s going on around us, it makes it a lot easier to call it what it is and move on.

    WHAT IF: every time someone was trying to sabotage us, we flipped it, and said to ourselves, “Bring it! I must be looking good! Damn. This consistency stuff is working!” while smiling to ourselves?

    Sure it can be hurtful that our coworkers and friends are sabotaging us — even our loved ones! But, if we understand human behavior, and accept it, rather than fight it, we can at least understand why they’re doing it.

    And maybe, just maybe, look at it in a completely different way.

  10. The answer may seem simple but love yourself and be confident in your decisions. A person or even family member can bring you to a point of poison ONLY if you feel that that poison is in you too.

    Example – if you do not think you are fat and someone calls you fat – you don’t care.

    We look to family for approval and wish that they could support us in everything we do. But it isn’t that simple, generation gaps, different cultures, depending on where/when you grew up, all factor into a person’s or your family’s thought process.

    If you are truly doing what you want with your life (now here is the big question) – YOU ARE BEING TRUE TO YOURSELF, there is a huge chance that you will shine. Family will see that glow and either go to another member that they can influence/bring to their level or they may actually stop judging you. Because they can’t when you are smiling and happy.

    You must ask yourself why you feel the need for their approval as a grown adult that has achieved X, X and X? Yes, it hurts and sucks when they jab you. The main question is what do you do when you do not get the approval you seek from your family?

    Stop seeking it.

    If you are not seeing eye to eye with your family you may not want their approval because the person that you want to become doesn’t fit into their “approval” bucket. So leave it be.

    You cannot please everyone and you don’t have to, please realize that most people in that state of poison do not want to be pleased.

    Focus on yourself. Nothing can shake you if you are confident.

    I adopted my son as a single mom. Logical for me because I come from a poor country but as an Indian women it was a tsunami of a decision. Three years later, seeing my little family and how I glow, everyone has changed their views on me and my little guy.

*