But …Maybe You Should Button It?

May 1, 2008

Chasing Dreams
Image by Christy Scherrer.

If a friend wanted to start a business, would you tell them they’d be far better off working in a widget factory instead? If you were chatting to someone you didn’t know too well and they said they were planning to emigrate to the Caribbean, would you tell them they’d be better off staying put?

Unfortunately, these types of conversation happen every day. And they almost always start with “but”. The sad thing is, most of us, at some point, have probably been the one saying “but”.

Akemi Gaines recently had quite a few things to say about the folk who like to say “but”. And as she points out, often it’s not that they want to spoil your dreams - sometimes it’s simply because of their own fears.

Unwanted Advice

When people share a major life changing event they’re planning - eg. starting a business, emigrating, climbing Everest etc., chances are they’ve done a heap of research anyway. So, often they’re not seeking advice and they’re simply not going to appreciate it if someone opposes their plans.

People Are Different

What appeals to one person, might be another’s worst nightmare. And this is probably just as well, as it would be a boring world if we were all alike. The trouble is, when your plans seem outragous and even terrifying to others, their own fears will cause them to react negatively.

I recently wrote about my plans to emigrate to Australia in this post: Is This The Ultimate Entrepreneurial Dream? And since then, most people I’ve mentioned it to have tried to talk me out of it. And some of their reasons are not even important to me.

No More Sharing

Putting a dampner on other people’s dreams, causes them to stop sharing them with you. Few people want to have negative conversations, so they’ll often react by avoiding important subjects with particular people. In fact, sometimes they’ll avoid that person altogether. So, negativity, even if it is based on fear, can harm relationships.

And It Can Be Lose/Lose All The Way

Maybe if you and plenty of other people persuade your friend, or relative, that their plan to open a sushi bar, or take that job offer in Dubai isn’t so great, all that negativity will zap their confidence enough that they won’t go ahead. And while the fact that they haven’t taken some horrendous risk might make you happy; the chances are, it won’t make them happy.

Plus, if you keep coming up with enough reasons why others can’t do things, or shouldn’t do things - you’re training your subconscious to believe everything is impossible. So you’re unlikely to achieve your own dreams either.

It’s Not Your Life

We’re all given one life, so we should respect the fact that others are free to to do what they wish, just as we are.

Have you ever been guilty of saying the “but” word when a friend or family member was considering doing something that was beyond your comfort zone? Do you get tired of people trying to put a dampner on your own dreams? How do you deal with it?

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16 Responses to “But …Maybe You Should Button It?”

  1. Akemi - Yes to Me on May 1st, 2008 10:39 pm

    Hey, thank you for the link love, sweetheart.
    So have you decided which part of Australia you are heading?

    Akemi - Yes to Me’s last blog post..Dodging The Many Forms Of Psychological Manipulation

  2. Barbara Swafford on May 1st, 2008 10:52 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    In this situation, I think a person’s first thought is “what about me”, but if they can keep their mouth shut and listen to why the other person wants to do “whatever”, they will realize it’s a sound, well thought out decision.

    I might ask a question like “have you thought of …..?”, not to change a person’s mind, but to open their mind to all possibilities.

    I’ve learned to not share too early in the process of making a change, due to the negativity. If I believe in my decision, and have looked at all of the positives and negatives, I will usually wait and then just make an announcement.

    If a friend./relative decides to make a change, I’m supportive, even though I will miss them (if it’s a move) That’s what friendship is all about.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Blogging - Year One - Lesson Eleven

  3. John Hoff on May 2nd, 2008 12:20 am

    I can see you’ve been getting a lot of discouraging “buts” lately LOL.

    I’d say just keep in mind there’s a flip side to getting a lot of “buts.” A lot of times people speak from experience and there might be a little wisdom following that “but” word.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..How To Buy A House Like A Real Estate Investor: Part 3 - More On Dealing With Down Payments

  4. Mrs. Micah on May 2nd, 2008 1:57 am

    I agree. I’ve had people try to talk me out of almost everything, except perhaps marrying Micah. My mom and dad told me that I could always change my mind and they’d support me even at the last minute, but I think that was more worrying that I’d change my mind but feel trapped.

    And it almost always makes me feel defensive, worry about my dreams, not want to share them with others, and occasionally give up on them. Now I’m learning that “It’s my life. It’s my choice.” Many things affect Micah, but he’s always been supportive of my dreams and potential just as I try to support his dreams and potential. But otherwise, my decisions rarely have any real effect on others.

  5. Kathy on May 2nd, 2008 2:09 am

    About four years ago, I put into motion moving 1300 miles away from family, friends and everything I’d ever known.

    I was surprised, even HORRIFIED how passionate people were when they heard about my impending move. Many of these were people I knew on a first name basis only.

    “Geesh lady… I’m here to watch my kid play soccer! You asked WHY my son won’t be playing next year… I told you and now you’re screaming at me? ” (Yes, she was SCREAMING at me on the sidelines of a pee wee soccer game because I was moving to Florida.)

    For nearly a year I was “grilled” on my reasons… and in the end, after about the 5,000 “explanations” I felt compelled to offer to advice not asked for nor wanted….I realized that I was going to make this move because I HAD to make it.

    I moved to Florida between the 2nd and 3rd hurricanes to hit this area. Moving here three years ago has NOT been easy. It’s been a big transition… but I’m grateful for all the “grilling” I got from family, friends and even near strangers. All those “explanations” I offered set them in stone in my mind and gave me the fortitude to follow through.

    By the way, on a recent trip home… EVERYONE I saw went on and on about how my new life was “agreeing” with me. Gee, before I left those same people were telling me I was making the biggest mistake of my life.

    Sometimes you have to do what your heart is telling you to do no matter how many “buts” get stuck in your face.

    Kathy’s last blog post..Blogs are better than traditional static websites because?

  6. Monika Mundell on May 2nd, 2008 2:43 am

    I hate to discourage a person when they take the time to share their dreams with me. I also believe we have an obligation to encourage others whenever we can. The world is too full of negativity and naysayers anyway, so every bit we can add to make it a more positive place we should take.

    If however a close friend asks me for an honest opinion on something they consider doing, I try to weight up both options and if I’m familiar with the subject I am not afraid to “warn” them off something if need be.

    Monika Mundell’s last blog post..Writing Queries - Freelance Writing Guide

  7. Ian Denny on May 2nd, 2008 6:30 am

    What we fear rarely happens. And often we reflect our own fears in the advice we give.

    But envy rather than fear can come into advice. People who perhaps share that same hankering of a better life and weather, will find reasons for you not oto based upon their own lack of conviction or courage make such a move themselves.

    From the sage Ttommy Cooper:

    So I was getting into my car, and this bloke says to me “Can you give me a lift?”. I said “Sure, you look great, the world’s your oyster, go for it.’

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..Deliberately Displease People For Better Results

  8. Kelly@SHE-POWER on May 2nd, 2008 8:47 am

    I find this kind of thinking hard to understand as I tend to get very excited for people when they talk about making changes. I love change and am definitely an adventurous person. I wrote a post a while ago; What’s the Most Daring Thing You’ve Ever Done? and in it I talked about my own experience travelling solo to Mexico and Guatemala for 5 months without my husband.

    This was an eye opening time in my life for the same reason that Kathy talks about. I couldn’t believe how negative most people were about it, even close friends. And the things some people thought they had a right to say were downright shocking. There seemed to be a driving consensus that I was selfish and my husband was a saint. Even amongst people who knew I had tried for over a year to get my husband to come with me, but he kept fobbing me off because he didn’t want to go. I just couldn’t understand it - I had no mortgage or kids then, I’d worked and saved the money myself, my husband was a grown man who could look after himself, so why was I such a terrible person?

    Now I think that people want others to reinforce their own choices. It makes people feel safer, validated. When you rock the boat (which I like to do) people feel threatened and attack. Even when it is none of their concern.

    Nice post, Cath. And moving to Australia is a great idea if it’s what YOU want to do. Every time I’ve taken a risk in life it has always paid off. Just follow the gut I say.


    Kelly@SHE-POWER’s last blog post..Quote of the Week: Don’t Quit

  9. Cath Lawson on May 2nd, 2008 9:17 am

    @ Akemi - you’re welcome. I really liked how you showed that fear can often behind some people’s negativity.

    @ Barbara - That’s a good point. I wonder if people would say fewer negative things later in the decision making process? I don’t usually tell other people until I’ve made up my mind about something. It’s not so easy for people to try to talk you out of things that way.

    @ John - I’m sure there might be instances where wisdom is behind the “but”. I can think of times when people have said “but” to me and things did go wrong for me. However, I still think you’ve got to let people make their own mistakes.

    @ Mrs M - It is good that you’re now feeling more confident about making those decisions. It’s far better when you feel you can share your plans. And as you say - keeping them bottled up can sometimes make you ditch them altogether.

    @ Kathy - It’s great that things have worked out for you. Isn’t it annoying when you’re just answering the question of someone who is practically a stranger and they feel like they have the right to react negatively? I am lucky - nobody has screamed at me yet - but people I don’t know so well have given me some ridiculous reasons why I shouldn’t go - eg. there’s not much nightlife (anyone who knows me knows that I’m not so keen on clubs etc!)

    @ Monika - That is so true. And just a little bit of positivity can outweigh a whole lot of negatives. So we should always do our best to encourage others. If they are surrounded by negative people, we might be the only ones.

    @ Ian - That is a good point. And I guess that when they do that, they feel better if the manage to discourage you, as it help re-enforce their belief that they’re doing the right thing by playing safe.

    That quote is brilliant by the way.

    Cath Lawson’s last blog post..But …Maybe You Should Button It?

  10. cathlawson on May 2nd, 2008 9:30 am

    @ Kelly - I remember that post. And I wonder if a lot of those negative people were actually really regretting not doing something like that, before they’d had kids. I bet it was an absolutely amazing experience.

    I’m really excited about moving. The only thing I don’t like is the not knowing how long it will all take to sell the house and get the visa. My daughter is due to start secondary school in September. So ideally it would be nice if it could go through sometime between then and January (when the Australian school year begins).

    @ Akemi - Sorry I didn’t answer your question properly. So far, we’re really leaning towards Perth. But we’re going to keep an open mind until we arrive.

  11. Carl Zetterlund on May 2nd, 2008 11:11 am

    I’ve been on the receiving and giving end of this. For example, I tell one too many friends that they should become entrepreneurs instead of working in their job, which is often shortsighted, but I try not to impose too much after seeing the initial reaction.

    However, people don’t seem to stop me anymore. Quitting my job didn’t get me any resistance. Moving to India didn’t give me much either. I think it comes down to how confident you are. If you look unsure, people will consciously or unconsciously try to impose their views. But if you’re overly confident with a twinkle in your eyes, people usually don’t say anything against you.

    Just my 2 cents :)

  12. cathlawson on May 2nd, 2008 2:44 pm

    Hi Carl - That’s another interesting point. I suppose encouraging people to do something positive with their lives is also dangerous, if it’s not the right thing for them.

    Hey I didn’t know you moved to India, as you stopped blogging for a while. I hope it’s going well.

  13. Tim Brownson on May 2nd, 2008 4:26 pm

    When we moved over here we had an orderly queue forming night and day waiting to tell us why it was the wrong thing to do. It was too hot, too much crime, we’d never see family again, the place was crawling with creature with malevolent tendencies, health insurance was too expensive and they were a bunch of fascist bastards.

    Ok, so we did get burgled when I was out in the yard attending to my wife’s snakebite that only happened because she’d passed out with sunstroke after being chased around the garden by a Gator. And yes the hospital did refuse to treat her because our policy had something written in that revoked it if either of us had ever
    contemplated voting Lib Dem, but I’m sick of the sight of family, I wish they’d leave us alone in our misery.

    Tim Brownson’s last blog post..If You Think I’m Wrong, Tell Me I’m Wrong

  14. cathlawson on May 2nd, 2008 4:31 pm

    LOL Tim - you were mad to move to Florida. How can you not miss the beautiful rainy days we have here in England and the frostbite on a spring morning? And you have no idea how much Gordon Brown is doing for this country - we’ve never been better off. I could go on, but I don’t want to make you homesick.

  15. Robert Hill on May 3rd, 2008 7:57 am

    Cath, as you know, Kristi and I are delighted that we decided, three years ago, to leave our jobs, to sell everything we owned in the United States, and to move to Brisbane, Australia, so Kristi could begin work as a researcher in physical activity and health.

    We know lots of people now for whom that would not be a difficult decision. Australians, generally, are more open to living “abroad,” than the Americans we’ve known, In fact, about a million Australians are living and working in other countries at any given time, and the total population is only 21 million. And Kristi now has colleagues and students from the Netherlands, Belgium, England, Singapore and other countries.

    For us, though, it was a big, big decision and a lot of the negativity we had to deal with came from inside us. (What? Leave now? We just fixed up our house! ) The possibilities overwhelmed our fears, though, and we know now that we made the right decision. Being away from family members is tough, but modern communications systems have really and truly shrunk the world, experientially.

    So, good luck with your decision making process and the great adventures ahead of you, Cath. Thanks, too, for mentioning my blog. Writing it and my book has helped me deal with all the newness. It has also given me a new sense of myself as a writer, which is to say: one who writes.

  16. cathlawson on May 3rd, 2008 4:10 pm

    Hi Robert - Thank you and thanks for all the great help and advice you’ve given me so far.

    For me - the hardest part is the hurdles I’ve got to get over before getting there. I’ve already wound down much of the stuff I was doing here and I’m really just focusing on the things I’ll be doing once we move.

    Selling my house isn’t a big issue, as I was going to do so this year anyway. It’s more the worry of not selling , as the housing market is suffering right now. Oh - and of course, having to paint etc before putting it on the market is a real pain.

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