Friends & Family(In-group)

When I talk to women about starting their own business a subject that crops up frequently is the difficulty they have in sharing their dream with friends and family. I know this feeling all too well. It’s bad enough having your own internal critic telling you you’ll never achieve your dream but start telling other people and before you know it you are surrounded by naysayers pointing out all the pitfalls of self-employment and asking why on earth you would want to leave your comfortable, secure, well-paid corporate job.

You are probably left believing that sharing your dreams, ideas and plans for starting your own business with others is a really bad idea and find yourself resenting friends and family for their lack of support.

So why do they react in this way and does this mean you should never share your business goals and dreams with others?

It’s all about being one of the ‘gang’

In the 1970s a psychologist called Henri Tajfel and his colleagues undertook a series of studies looking at whether simply being a member of a group would increase hostile and discriminatory behaviour. They divided a group of schoolboys randomly into groups, inventing ‘reasons’ for the group membership. They then set up a system where the boys could allocate points which would then be converted to cash rewards. Although the boys were fair when allocating points to boys who were in the same group they were not at all fair when allocating points to one boy in each group, always favouring their own group. What is remarkable is that the boys worked alone and never actually met the other boys in their group. Simply being in the same group was reason enough to favour someone in their own group.

Tajfel repeated the experiment, this time providing no reason for group membership. The boys were simply allocated on the toss of a coin. The effect still existed. The boys favoured members of their own group even though there was no practical purpose or reason for membership of the group. The finding was explained by Tajfel as the need to build social identities which requires us to feel a sense of belonging in a group that has a positive image and higher status than other groups.

What does this have to do with running your own business?

The reason that friends and family are not supportive may well be because of the ingroup/outgroup effect. They see you joining a new ‘group’ and feel left out. They then begin to treat you like a member of the outgroup i.e. less favourably. Think about it for a moment. You want to join the ‘entrepreneur’ group while they are still stuck in the ‘corporate slave’ group. Of course they don’t want you to leave their group.

However, if you share your dream with other people that are working towards a similar goal you can experience a sense of ‘belonging’. Your self-esteem will benefit and you will be motivated to achieve your dream. You will be less dependent on friends and family to cheer you on.

It is now quite easy to find like-minded people to share your dream with. Since little is required to satisfy the criteria for a ‘group’ you don’t need to go along in person, interact with loads of people and share your life story (great news for people that aren’t ‘joiners’).

Anyone can set up a group on Facebook or LinkedIn. If you do want to physically meet up with people you can look on sites like MeetUp, which allow people to arrange local meetups for people that share an interest.

The benefits of joining a group 

Tajfel’s boys shared nothing in common and there was no benefit to them of being in their group other than the feeling of belonging. However when you join a group of like-minded people there are multiple benefits:

1. Group members help each other out when they are stuck
3. Group members celebrate each other’s progress
4. Group members pick each other up when things aren’t going so well
5. Group members learn from other people in the group
6. You can leave the group any time you like

I hope you can see that sharing your business dreams and goals can be hugely beneficial. The trick is to share your dreams with like-minded people.

Find a group that shares your passion for starting or running your own business and reap all the ‘ingroup’ benefits from that relationship.

So are you a joiner? Do you prefer to keep your dream to yourself or have you joined a group?

Are your friends and family supportive or do you find support from other like-minded people?

Let me know in the comments field below.