This week I shared in a Facebook group that I just started as an Arbonne Independent Consultant, and almost immediately I received criticism from two people, one of which made a public comment on the post laughing and calling it a "multi-level marketing scheme." I'm off to a good start!
I was surprised to receive negativity because I'd heard of Arbonne several times and not heard anything negative myself. I actually have a few friends who are also consultants, and I see them as intelligent women with good morals and values, who I know would never support a company driven by some kind of "scheme" as a business model.
Arbonne offers high quality, plant-based nutrition and beauty products and is transparent in that they're not perfect and are constantly working to improve (i.e. always seeking to use better and better ingredients). I feel much better supporting a company like that than the major corporations and big brands that supply our average everyday products.
Out of this digital confrontation (I'm noticing that more and more confrontations these days happen in the digital landscape), I took a certain approach, outlined in the 5 steps below as well as a key takeaway from the experience, which may be valuable to you next time you receive criticism:
1. Step away from it.
Our first instinct is usually to defend ourselves in situations like this, which can lead to saying regrettable things. If you're confronted on social media or via text, leave your device in another room for 15 minutes and distract yourself with something completely unrelated. If it's in person tell them you need a few minutes to process what they said and ask if you can call them back. Give yourself the time and space to cool down and think clearly.
2. Consult a friend.
I happened to be on the phone with a friend when I read the Facebook comment, and I laughed after I read it but physically I could feel myself becoming somewhat hot and agitated. She simply said, "Yeah, I think that's kind of what Arbonne is known for," which helped me feel calmer because if my close friend, who has no intention of taking a stab at myself or the company, has also heard this negative opinion, then clearly it's floating around out there somewhere and people simply aren't fully in the know. Just talking it out with a friend — one who is unrelated to the conflict — and receiving empathy and an outsider's perspective can be calming. It can also lead to...
3. Try to see it from the other person's point of view.
Separate yourself from the criticism and try to understand if what they're saying has legitimacy (at least to them) and what their motive is. I know the comment wasn't a direct attack on me, unless I chose to see it that way, and in this situation and its circumstances I can only assume that the person remembered seeing or hearing that Arbonne is a "multi-level marketing scheme" and saw my post as an opportunity to flaunt what he thought was superior knowledge. It could have been coming from an insecurity, a trait of competitiveness or something else I'm not aware of. So without knowing for sure what drove the comment, I didn't want to take it too personally.
4. Wait and see if your community steps in.
By the time I saw the comment about an hour had passed and someone else in the group had already replied to the criticism in a way that supported my side, all the while discouraging the quality of comment that the other person had made (considering it's a Facebook group for Entrepreneurs). I read this comment to my friend also and she said "your community already took care of it for you." In online situations like this, and sometimes in face-to-face encounters, there's almost always going to be someone who will back you up.
5. Choose to reply in a calm, tactful way, or choose not to reply at all.
I chose to reply to show appreciation for the other community member who stood up for me and also to reinforce, as she had hinted at, the purpose of the group: to support one another in their entrepreneurial ventures. I mentioned too that there's a kind and professional way of delivering criticism, rather than through mocking or belittling. I could have replied in a nasty way but instead aimed for a strong, stern and professional reply.
The key takeaway
The key takeaway from this experience for me was the confirmation that without criticism or confrontation we wouldn't recognize and appreciate support and praise. Life would also be a little more boring. Receiving criticism is a way to practice self-awareness, self-control, communication and empathy — all qualities that make us better leaders in all areas of our lives. So thank your Internet trolls... little do they know that in the long run they're doing you good!
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