(Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
Dear Ask Erin,
I'm in a small circle of close-knit moms whose kids were in the same class at school a few years ago. Some of the kids have moved to different schools now, but the moms get along so well that we all agreed to keep in touch and we still regularly meet up for mom's night out and various activities.
One of the moms is also involved in a multi-level marketing company and is way too frequently trying to sell her products to all of us.
It gets annoying, but she's honestly such a lovely and sweet person most of the time that we just grumble about it in whispers to one another. Every single mom in the group has complained about this behavior privately.
The thing that really bothers me is that her selling is shrouded in friendship-like banter. She'll ask about a project of mine or something that's important to me and casually include a link to her new product line. It makes me feel like she's not genuinely interested in what's going on with me, rather she's looking for *any* excuse to push her merchandise.
I'm beginning to wonder, does she see me as a friend or her potential downstream seller?
I haven't wanted to say anything to her for fear of offending or upsetting her. I know this is how she earns her living. But this morning, I got the same type of "sales/friendship" text at 6:30 am!!!
I don't think I can take it anymore and the other moms aren't willing to let her know how they feel, but I feel like something has to give!
Please help! How can I get her to stop without hurting her or the friendship I think we have?
— Sick of MLM
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Dear Sick of MLM,
You are not alone. There are SO many of us that can relate to your plight.
The root of the problem here is boundaries.
And while you and your other mutual friends have been wanting to be polite or not hurt her feelings, you are doing yourselves and her a disservice by not setting the boundary and being honest.
So how do you break it to her gently? Set aside a time to speak with her about the privately. You can do this in person or by phone. Make an appointment or date with her for a chat.
And say something like this: “Hey, I wanted to touch base with you about something. I am 100% supportive of your business and want you to succeed, but I need to ask you not to try to sell to me when we are hanging out. It interrupts the time we have together — which I cherish. If you’d ever like to speak to me about something related to business, let’s plan that ahead of time, so the two don’t get mixed up.”
If your friend is trying to recruit you into the MLM, be clear that you are not interested in getting involved in the business.
If she is selling a product you would never buy, you can amend the above statement to include something that indicates that you support her business, but it is not a product that interests you, that you’re not her target audience.
If, after setting the boundary, she slips in the sales pitch during friend time, say something at the moment: “Hey, I appreciate that you’re trying to grow your business, but remember what I said before? I don’t want to feel like our time together is about selling me something. I care about our friendship, and that’s what I want to focus on.”
As hard as it can feel to set that boundary, it’s imperative if you are going to keep this person as a friend in your life.
I would encourage your other mutual friends to do the same. You can do so with kindness, and the kinder thing to do is to be straightforward with her, rather than complain about her behind her back.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Dioptase, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo