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I'm going to leave as many details out as possible to keep this anonymous since they are in tech, but here we go:

I have some friends who are starting their own company. They have some small capital, and as a talented software engineer, my skills are useful to them.

Initially I was interested. This would be a short "test run" as a contractor, and if the product gets hold there would be more. Potentially employment, etc if things are good. Standard startup fare.

Right now I have a high paying job, no real worries, and pretty decent benefits. I have no threats to my current job and the work isn't really hard. The pay at the startup would be significantly lower, with significantly higher risk.

I had told them I had second thoughts and don't want to follow through even though I showed interest in commitment initially. This took them back, obvious, and they were mad. Here are some highlights of what I was told:

  1. My current job is worthless for progress and joining a startup allows me to be who I want
  2. Entrepreneurs do this, and if you don't do it you're not an entrepreneur
  3. The far lower pay is only temporary until the product takes off
  4. Being a contractor is far more lucrative
  5. It would suck to be the only person in our group of friends and who didn't "make it big" when the product takes off
  6. Being young I can do this and have plenty of time to save for my retirement later (I'm almost 30, eeesh it hurts just typing that).

The argument got a little heated and I dug my heels in. After deep introspection I've decided job security and steady income (at a higher-than-average salary for my area) is a smart thing to do.

My question really revolves around how to deal with those points above. I have made it clear I don't have much interest in the job and they persist. I feel like the bullet points above seemed manipulative and didn't consider my own interests. It really bothers me they're argumentative and downright condescending on my viewpoint. I feel like they're trying to weasel me here.

What can I do to remedy this situation without hurting our friendship? I enjoy hanging around these people and I feel like I'm dealing with people I dont even know.

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You've decided you don't want to work for them, so if they begin to argue why your job is worthless or how amazing your life could be with them, do not argue back. Respond with:

"That does sound awesome, but I've already decided the startup life isn't for me. I'll be cheering for you guys though!"

From the sounds of it, they'll ask you why you don't think their startup is for you. Remember that you owe them no explanation. This is a big life changing decision and it's yours to make for yourself and yours alone. If they ask "why?", reiterate:

"I've decided that I'm going to stay at my current job. I'd be more than happy to < insert helpful thing here... >"

Where "helpful thing" could be any of "bring snacks over while you guys are working," "help hold a company opening party," etc...

The key here is to stay firm on the fact that you're not interested in joining their company without getting pulled into arguments about your reasons. If you begin to discuss your reasons, they will see this as a negotiable point, which you've made it clear it's not. At the same time, you also want to be sure to show that you still value them as friends and you're willing to support them in this endeavor!

They're probably hurt that you've turned them down after you got their hopes up when you were interested. As such, it will take them time to get over this, but if you continue to be supportive of them and shut down conversations of you joining without getting pulled into arguments, they'll eventually realize that your role in their lives is as a supportive friend, and not a startup coworker.

Best of luck!

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