How could anyone say anything negative about someone as successful and helpful as FlyLady? Well, I can't, and I wouldn't even try. But, I can tell what concerns me, and why it may drive me away from her email list and site.
I'd be very sorry to go, because I love what she has done for homemakers, and I think she is a very fine and generous person. Not only that, but, like so many of Marla's subscribers, I feel like she's almost kin to me. In fact, I even wonder if she is, she looks so much like some of my relatives that she'd pass for my sister. I'll bet there is some Cherokee in her pedigree and generous amounts of British Isles derivation too, as there is in mine.
It started with the Brat Factor related email messages coming through her reminder list. Previously, I could pretty much tell, in the first sentence or two, whether one of Marla's own informational or inspirational messages or reader testimonials were ones I wanted to read. If so, I'd mark them to read later or read them immediately. The ones that didn't interest me were deleted, often as soon as I read the subject line.
Subscribers were encouraged to delete messages they didn't need or want to read, particularly the task reminders. Marla said we could tell by the subject line what we were to do after we'd been getting them for awhile. We were also to delete the ones we just hadn't gotten around to reading that day.
I noticed some time ago that Marla had, in her own generous way, added to her stable of advisers and experts, and was including some messages that provided their advice, some of which I thought good, some I thought questionable. But, not a problem, easy to identify the ones I wasn't interested in and delete them right away.
However, recently something new was added to more and more of Marla's messages, and also began to crop up regularly in testimonials from readers, and I found it impossible to tell which messages would be about it. Seems that Pam, of the Pam and Peggy Sidetracked Home Executives (FlyLady's organizational mentors) has a new product line and web site built around the idea that one has an "inner brat" who is responsible for tasks that don't get done and habits people find difficult to change.
Now, I'm very wary of telling people they have an inner brat, and for good reason. Pam says it's a "fun way to create change." It might be fun for some people, and even relatively harmless for some (though I even have doubts about that). But, for many, it's an exercise in self partitioning that takes them away from dealing ecologically with inner conflicts. Additionally, the immune system needs a clear message from the individual that all of who and what they are is to be inclusively respected, loved, and protected.
I found it irritating to have to read into so many messages unaware of their brat factor orientation and presuppositions on a list that had previously been so helpful and easy to scan. So, I thought I'd email FlyLady and request that brat factor messages be identified with a subject line prefix, as some of her message subject areas already were, so I could easily skip them. Here's what I wrote, hoping it would be clear that it was a simple request, not a complaint.
I adore you, admire you, and love, love, love what you do for all the SHE's in the world.
Please, if you can find it in your heart to do so, put some sort of prefix in the subject line of the Brat Factor related messages so I won't get into them thinking they are your regular messages and regular testimonials.
I don't mind if other people think they have an inner brat, though I think it's unfortunate that they do think that. I know it's one way people make sense of inner conflicts, but there are other ways that seem more healthy and self respecting to me.
So, I'm not interested in reading the inner brat related material. Not objecting to it being there, mind you, I'd just like to know which emails those are so I can skip them without having to read to the brat part to realize that it's not for me.
She responded with a curt no, and that a lot of people are being helped by it.
Wanting to make sure she understood what I was and was not requesting, I replied:
I'm glad it is, and I'm sure it is. I'm not requesting that you stop the brat factor messages, but that you ID them in some manner in the subject line for those who don't want to read them, that's all.
She replied to that message, telling me she would not title them any more than she would title the Body Clutter messages, and added, that maybe the reason I didn't want to read them had to do with my inner child.
I was afraid I'd get that second part in the response, a dismissal of what I'd said, attributing it to my own supposed inner brat. I was somewhat disappointed, because it seemed like such a reasonable request, a logical aid to reading the many messages that come through her list each day. But, wanting to believe it might be a hasty response with a bit of humor in it rather than pure dismissal, I replied:
That's fine. Just thought I'd ask.
No, my inner child has grown up, and she never was a brat :)
Since then, the brat factor messages have continued, seem to have even increased, cluttering up the messages I used to look forward to reading. It has had a curious effect: I look at the list of messages, see subject lines that interest me, dip into one or two, and finding a cuteish brat factor post, stop and avoid all the rest. Also, the FlyLady products I've bought that have the FlyLady logo on them don't seem so appealing anymore. It's like there are now fly specks on my FlyLady environment. Interesting how something that seems out of character for a store, relationship, or place can change one's experience of it.
Not wanting to just go away, unsubscribe and be silent, I wondered how I might learn something here. Eventually, I thought, why not blog about it? I think I can find useful things to share that would be worth considering.
Some of them, so far:
1. It's easy to move out of one's niche and not realize it as one's business/project expands and other people are included in it. FlyLady has added to her own offerings the products and services of other people whose material she thinks is helpful and useful. She has added links to their sites, and in some cases sells their products on her site.
2. Joint ventures, partnering with others online and off, can put one in an unfortunate position of not being able to monitor or affect quality control or direction in one's partners. They may add products or services, make claims, or promote beliefs and solutions one isn't well enough informed about to know aren't valid, or aren't in line with one's own standards.
3. Relationship marketing is effective, but risky. It takes much longer to build it than it does to tear it down.
4. Don't be testy with your customers.
5. Don't answer email when you are tired, unhappy, or distracted.
The biggest lesson, to me, is: don't extend a proprietary attitude or stance beyond the bounds of your own expertise.
Marla knows her own stuff. She knows from experience and observation that her methods for getting one's home and tasks organized works. She can afford to be emphatic and insistent about following her rules and processes to get the desired results.
But, refusing to provide a subject ID for the Body Clutter messages (about her particular system for weight loss) and the Brat Factor messages (based on someone else's questionable psychological theories) seems to me to indicate an unwillingness to allow readers to choose what they want to read. It presupposes that the reader doesn't know what's good for them, so best not to tell them what's in the message because those who need it might not read it.
How is this going to affect my future FlyLady experience and recommendation of FlyLady?
I'm a personal coach, and participate on several support type email discussion lists. I've unqualifiedly recommended FlyLady to many people. I'm also a multiple blog blogger, and was planning to add a graphic linking to FlyLady's site on the sidebar of some of my blogs. Now, unfortunately, I'm rethinking it. I don't want to send vulnerable clients or abuse victims to a site where they will be told they have an inner brat that they should give a name and consider her/him the one who causes many of their problems and frustrations.
I'll probably visit FlyLady's web site more, for the easily identified good things there, and read her FlyLady Mentors email list less, maybe unsubscribe from it. I don't want to unsubscribe, because it has been very helpful before the ratio of wheat to chaff changed. And, I want to keep on checking those email messages from time to time, hoping she she will eventually phase out the inner brat material.
My recommendation, for now, for some people but not all, will be to visit the FlyLady site and treat it like watermelon: eat the good parts, and spit out the seeds. I'm hoping future watermelon will have less seeds. Meanwhile, the FlyLady sticker over my sink that lets me know whether the dishes in the dishwasher are dirty or clean is getting a makeover.
I'm hoping this is not the beginning of a downward trend in what FlyLady has to offer. She is so very good at what she's good at, I hope she avoids allowing what she does well to be diluted or overshadowed by less excellent material than her own, or being diverted from her central purpose and expertise.