Are you being 'Concern Trolled?'
Ever felt like you’ve had do defend yourself when talking about something you love? Finding it tricky to get your friends and family cool with the idea of building your own business? You might be getting concern trolled.
WHAT’S ‘CONCERN TROLLING’?
A very clever friend of mine articulated this social phenomenon — the act of being judged, under the pretence of ‘concern’.
Here’s an example.
A funny thing happens when I tell people I work for myself.
Some are genuinely interested. They ask questions, want to know more, learn about what it means to me, what inspires me and what I get out of the different schedule each week.
Others are a little less comfortable with the idea. They’ll ask questions … but the questions are phrased in a way that feels like I have to defend myself.
I used to feel pretty weird about these interactions. Until realised … I was being ‘concern trolled’. I was being judged, passively aggressively, under the pretence of concern.
WHAT DOES CONCERN TROLLING LOOK LIKE?
If a sentence starts with any of the following, you’re getting concern trolled:
- Faux curiosity or a back handed compliments: ‘I’m just curious … why would you do that?’
- Any sentence that stars with ‘don’t you …’ ain’t good. ‘Don’t you you worry about money / getting clients?’
- ‘I could never do that’ [my personal fave — I can!]
- ‘It’s just that…’ [Well it’s just that you’re probably not going to say anything very nice.]
In action, this looks like (and these are all real life examples):
- ‘How was your morning?’
- ‘Great! I did a CrossFit class.’
- ‘Oh I could never do CrossFit.’
- ‘Well, it’s not for everyone, so…’
- ‘Don’t you worry about getting injured?’
That’s concern trolling.
- ‘I’m good thanks.’
- ‘Sure I can’t get you something to drink?’
- ‘Sure — mineral water?’
- ‘Don’t you drink? I don’t drink that much. I’m giving up drinking next week.’
That’s plain old defensiveness.
- ‘So what do you do?’
- ‘I deliver workshops. How about you?’
- ‘Oh I could never work for myself. Isn’t it really hard?’
That, my darlings, is classic projection.
WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING
People who know you expect certain types of behaviour from you, based on their previous experience and impressions of you, your reputation and the consistency of your interactions with them.
If people have an expectation of you, and you change your behaviour or context, well, it can take a while for them to adjust.
This happens when you do something people don’t expect of you. It can take a little while to sink in. If you want to keep the friends — you’ve got to call people out on it.
If you’re doing something different to your social group, trying out a new fitness gig, up-skilling, or doing anything that’s a little different to what your friends or family are familiar with — understand that people might take a little while to get used to it at first. You’ve been mulling it over in your mind for quite some time — they haven’t.
BUT … FEAR.
There are lots of people out there who would love to be launching their own business, venturing into freelancing, lifting heavy things or doing something that isn't completely boring. And the thing that stops them? Fear.
Fear stops people from doing amazing things: starting that blog; taking time out to figure out what they actually enjoy; creating more and scanning Facebook less. Fears about money, their reputation, what ‘people might think’ (fears we all have, right?). This can make it a little hard to swallow then one of their friends ventures out to start something new. And that’s when they act super weird.
TAMING THE TROLL
If you want to keep your friends, you gotta call them out on it. Here are some quick wins to deal with concern trolls:
- Don’t kill my vibe
If you’re feeling judged — tell them! Honestly, they’ll not even realise they’re doing it. Let them know they’re bumming you out — good friends are not cool with that. 'Are you judging me?' is a good start.
- Quantify the question
This works well with the ‘don’t you…’ questions. Turn the question around on them. When they ask you ‘don’t you worry about …’ — ask them — what they mean by that. Do they worry about that stuff? What are they really asking you? You can quantify it by asking ‘how do you mean, exactly?’ It’ll force them to reflect on what exactly they’re trying to say.
- Put it back on them
Eugh. Sometimes you can't rustle enough fucks to give to school someone on why you're into something you're into.
If they go down the negative — let them — be better than that and stick with your own think. Don’t feed the convo. Shrug (literally). You doing you is much more contagious. You just gotta find your people who you can geek out about your new thing (they are out there, trust me!). The old friends will come around. They might just not really... get it - at first.
MY ADVICE TO YOU IS THIS.
Be that example. Be that friend who follows their ambitions and does something remotely interesting. You never know who you might be inspiring to follow their gut, get off their ass and do something new, too. Because if you can do it, anyone can, right?