When Your Friend Enters Direct Sales: The Five Stages of Grief

If you’ve been on Facebook any time in the last five years, you know…

If you’re a woman between the ages of 18-55, you know…

If you’ve ever worn makeup, tried to lose weight, done your nails, cleaned, or baked anything, you know…

You know someone who is a direct sales representative for a specialty brand of products, also known as *shudder* MLMs- multi-level marketing companies. While the general consensus surrounding direct sales often comes with a negative connotation that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, there is something to be said for the surge of profits seen in the last five years of reported data. According to the Direct Selling Association, 2010 saw $28 billion in revenue from direct sales companies. That number has shown a steady rise, with the annual revenue of 2015 reported at $36 billion. So when your friend inevitably starts representing a company after attending a party held by her sister’s roommate’s cousin, you know there is some sort of earning potential. There must be. But you also know it’s only a matter of time before you are cornered—er, approached—to “host a party.” The following should help you navigate the stages of grief that come along with your friend’s new business venture.

Stage 1: Denial

Just as in the Kübler-Ross model, the first stage you will move through is denial. You might find yourself rolling your eyes at your friend’s peppy, scripted Facebook posts with adorable graphics copied right off a Pinterest board. You’ll likely deny and doubt not only the authenticity of the product and its results, but also your friend’s sanity in her judgment in joining a pyramid scheme. There is a good chance you will end up looking at endless “before and after” pictures—whether the photographs are of someone 30 lbs. down after only two weeks, someone with previously practically invisible eyelashes that now look like lashes of a freaking supermodel, or maybe even a before shot of scarred and acne-prone skin that has transformed into skin that looks so healthy it could be airbrushed—and say, “Yeah. Right. That is totally photoshopped.” Deny, deny, deny.

Stage 2: Anger

The denial will quickly morph its way into anger, though the anger can manifest itself in many ways. The most common occurrence tends to boil to the surface after receiving a massive influx of Facebook event invitations from mere acquaintances. That, or being added to groups and automatically receiving notifications without your consent. “I don’t care if you saw amazing results after wrapping your stomach! I don’t want to wrap anything! Stop including me!” *Cue: leaving and unfollowing every group you see a notification from in the last three months, even if it was a group you joined voluntarily*

While outrage is common, the form of anger you need to look out for is the seething, silent kind. The one that nags at you from the back of your mind each time you see a post, a video, a message, or a gimmick that begs you to ask your friend about her product. You grit your teeth and repress the rage building inside, livid that your friendship feels like it’s being taken advantage of. This is the kind of anger that will spiral out of control and could damage your relationship if you’re not honest about your feelings. So how do you avoid that? Simply tell your friend you’re not interested. It’s probably difficult for her to approach you about it anyway. If you’re honest and kind about your lack of interest, it will likely bring a sense of relief to both of you.

Stage 3: Bargaining

While the Kübler-Ross model’s stage of bargaining typically involves a negotiation of a reformed lifestyle to return things to the status quo, it’s still applicable here. Avoiding the cause of grief is the hope afforded by the bargaining stage. And it will probably manifest itself in your offer to “host a party” where your friend can hawk her wares. If you agree to hold a pop-up boutique of clothing in your living room, if you host a cooking demonstration with treats in your kitchen, if you provide space for people to perform their own facials in your living room, or even if you hold a virtual party where your guests guess a movie based on the color and pattern of nail stickers, you’re willing to compromise your comfort in order to get your friend to come back to just being your friend.

Well, and occasionally you’ll earn free products.

Stage 4: Depression

The despair associated with direct sales, thankfully, is very different from actual clinical depression. The direct sales depression will often cycle you back through the first three stages, plus slap you with a bit of guilt for inviting other people to your party. You’ll start to question why you’ve agreed to host anything and you’ll become forlorn and hopeless as the day of the party nears and you’re desperately cleaning your house or mass-inviting people on social media. But again, unlike clinical depression, this stage can quickly be remedied when your direct sales representative friend brings you eye color samples or lets you try out a cleaning kit—and then it clicks. You realize your friend didn’t get into her new business and the role she is in to make money and recruit other people to sell. She did it because she did the same thing as you. She found a product that met her needs and exceeded her expectations. She found something that made her life easier, made her feel more confident about herself, or made her feel healthier.

Stage 5: Acceptance

You try the product. You love it. You no longer balk at the price tag that used to seem outrageous. You actually get excited about your party and the opportunity you have to share your new-found jewelry/clothes/makeup/skin care regimen/cleaning cloths/children’s books/nail art/kitchen tools/natural oils/nutrition/scrapbooking/candles obsession with your friends. There may still be some lingering guilt about inviting your friends (especially if they may not be in the best place financially), but once upon a time, your direct sales representative friend was invited to learn more about the product she now willingly sells. When you look back on your journey of grief and acceptance, you will more than likely be grateful for her persistence in getting you to host a party.

Just be sure you don’t blindly accept a position to join your friend’s sales team—not unless you really want to. Chances are you won’t make a ton of money. Then again, wholesale pricing on a product you love and can’t live without isn’t without merit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go store my treats in my Tupperware and clean up my kitchen with my Norwex after using all my Pampered Chef gadgets. Then I’ll probably turn on my DoTerra diffuser before heading upstairs to wash my face with my R+F that I keep stored in my 31 Bag with all of my Mary Kay and my LipSense before I rifle through my closet and put together the best LuLaRoe outfit and accessorize with some cute $5 Paparazzi jewelry.

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