So what do you do?
How to handle this, and other awkward business-related questions from friends and family
This blog post is for you if you have a tendency to freak out when someone asks about your business, and you’d like to equip yourself with some ideas so you can respond in a way that leaves you feeling good.
Some of my awkwardness and agonies may have been exaggerated for comic effect…..although I genuinely will overthink these questions for many hours after the conversations have ended.
As an enthusiastic over-thinker, even the most innocent question or observation can push me into a downward spiral of despair and self-flagellation.
The big three I most dread are any variations of:
- Tell me about your business
- How’s your business going?
- Is work busy?
Almost all of the time the would-be conversationalist is being polite or may even genuinely be interested in connecting and communicating with me.
But if I’m tired, depleted or lacking resilience in any way, what I tend to hear is:
‘Pftttt, apparently you have a little business to keep you occupied between housework chores, isn’t that sweet’.
And then because much of my brain power is now dedicated to second-guessing the motivation of the other person AND I’m also feeling the need to ‘make a good impression’, I can’t formulate a sensible response, and so I resort to mumbling something about ‘marketing’, which gets misinterpreted as ‘I build websites’ and then I have to just go along with this for the rest of the conversation because I’m too embarrassed to explain myself properly.
But the discomfort doesn’t stop when the conversation does.
I will then continue to feel like a bumbling numpty for around the next 3 months, as I lay awake every night rehashing my fumbled response and attempting to formulate a more impressive reply.
This is a completely wasted effort because the next time I get asked the exact same question, instead of trotting out the answers I’ve spent months rehearsing in my head, I once again mumble something about marketing, and the whole cycle starts again.
Any time I have an experience like this, where I feel a little (or a lot) inadequate as a business owner, my confidence drops just a little bit, which impacts on my energy and enthusiasm and self-belief.
So here’s my (new) strategy for dealing with ‘How’s Business’ type questions:
#1 Be realistic about how I want them to feel after I have answered their question/s. Yes, I want them to feel like they’ve had a little glimpse into my world and that they understand me a little better. I do not need to craft a pitch so effective that they start lobbying Sir Alan Sugar to recruit me as the next Apprentice.
#2 Be honest about how I want to feel after I have answered the question - ideally somewhere between totally hopeless self-deprecating loser, and totally bombastic loud-mouthed knobhead. Anywhere in the middle ground is good for me.
#3 Aim for an answer that is the perfect alignment of:
- What is true
- What they have the capacity/background/experience to understand
- What feels good to me
This is similar to what I teach in Explain Yourself a course I created to help with the horror of having to explain yourself and your business (hence the title)
I am not a fan of the Elevator Pitch because lobbing out some pre-prepared horn-tooting sales pitch any chance you get, regardless of who it’s directed at - well that’s not communication - and I prefer to build my business, and make sales, based on communication and relationship-building.
So I wrote a course to be a less wanky antidote to Elevator Pitches.
If you already own Explain Yourself, you can log in to the course dashboard here.
And if you don’t own it yet, here’s all the details about the Explain Yourself course.
And good luck with handling those anxiety-provoking ‘How’s business’ questions.