How to Politely Decline MLM Offers from Acquaintances

Just say no thank you. That’s the short answer.

But the very nature of peer marketing makes this really difficult. So here is the long answer.

In an attempt to curate our consumptive habits, we are trying to only proactively bring things into our lives that we know will have direct and substantial benefit without doing unnecessary harm to the planet. However, we often look around and realize we own things we never meant to acquire.

Even if you’ve never heard of Network Marketing or Multi-Level-Marketing (MLM), you’ve probably gotten an invitation from an acquaintance to like a page on facebook or attend a no-pressure hang out where she (or he) just wants to share something new that has been making a big difference for them and/or their family.

On the one hand, it’s supposed to be no pressure, but on the other hand, MLM schemes train their sellers specifically on what to say and how to turn social interactions into sales. And personally, I can’t even walk past a street vendor with puppy dog eyes without wanting to rush back and buy everything they have to offer, much less casually say no thanks to a new friend who specifically mentions how they are trying to make some extra income for their family.

My way of dealing with this in the past with acquaintances (not with close friends) has been to shut down all future communications and avoid them. I’ve let my fear of confrontation get in the way of treating everyone with the respect they deserve and I really regret this. I have been trying to be more assertive in my adult life, and more graceful. It’s a tough pairing for someone who hates confrontation but I think it’s much healthier.

For the record, I don’t think people who are selling things to their peers are disingenuous. The companies definitely are, because they push research-backed and scripted ways to manipulate people into making purchases or signing up, among many other concerning practices that anyone selling this way should be aware of. But I respect that grown adults should make their own decisions and everyone I know who sells products directly genuinely enjoys their own products and wants others to as well. One summer in college I tried to sell expensive ads and coupons on behalf of a magazine that would go to the dorms – something I would personally use – but I was selling ad space to local businesses who were already suffering in the recession in 2008. It wasn’t exactly Mult-Level-Marketing, but it smelled a lot like it. I did my best that summer but each painful interaction with local business owners confirmed that sales was and is not for me. I didn’t feel comfortable using the pitches they wrote for me, and hated pushing people into decisions they weren’t sure about. It was so hard.
So I really respect people who are putting themselves out there and making it work.

People selling via MLM are trying to do their job well, which often means attempting follow-up steps that are proven effective by the sales company, so passive deflections like “I’m not free that night” will only keep you on the list of potential clients. Save your acquaintance and yourself time and frustration by explaining clearly that you’re not interested and will not be in the future.

I recommend creating a personal rule that you will not attend or purchase things through MLM and Network marketing. This clarifies and sets boundaries on both sides of the relationship. You don’t need to feel guilty about not spending your time or money on things you don’t want to and your relationship can progress beyond the previously lingering sales potential. Here’s an example:

Hey ___________, i’m glad you love your work and i hope it’s going really well! i started a general rule a while back where I don’t attend or buy anything from peer marketing stuff. It makes me uncomfortable, so i don’t make exceptions. thanks anyways and if i know of anyone who is interested in ____________ i’ll definitely send them your way.

This is how I explained my disinterest recently, and she reacted graciously. Now we can both move on and get to know each other better ♥

*image by Kaboom