toxic family's smear campaign to damage a start up businessQ I had a big fall out with my family a few years ago and don’t have anything to do with them now, even though I still live in the same town. I’ve recently started up my own business and have a salon in the town centre.

I’ve been told by a few friends that members of my family have been bad mouthing me and trying to put customers off from coming to see me. ‘Someone’ has also sprayed personal graffiti across my shop front window, and put rubbish through the letter box. They’ve always been nasty and that’s one of the main reasons I needed to distance myself from them…but I don’t get why they are trying to ruin my business. I have a child of my own and they’re affecting our income and livelihood.

A My first guess is envy…followed closely by ‘smearing’.

Envy that you are the one trying to make a better life for yourself and setting up your business (which takes strength of character).

Smearing refers to their attempt to destroy your credibility… whilst trying to appear that they’re telling people these lies for their own good – as if doing them a favour.

Smearers use lies and exaggeration, and they plant doubt and distrust. Their purpose is to hurt you.


Only they can answer that – but I very much doubt they’d have the self-awareness to be able to.

The usual reason is to make you look bad, and themselves look like the good guys. Perhaps they’ve done something similar to someone in the past too.

Your business is a reflection of you. You are the brand… the figurehead of your salon. Customers who have had a good experience (and not been put off by malicious lies) are the ones who will spread the goodwill by word of mouth… the very best form of marketing there is!

As for your ‘family’… if you have proof of verbal or written lies then you may have a case for prosecution (slander, libel or defamation of character). I suggest you do a search online to clarify where you stand, and get some free legal advice too.

If you don’t want to go down the legal route you have two options.

Either wait it out and hope they get tired of their nasty game.

Or tackle it head on and speak to them and ask that they stop it (assuming they admit it), and make clear the effects their behaviour might have on your future livelihood. Ask them instead to be proud of what you’re trying to achieve for you and your child…and maybe even offer them a free treatment/service/product.

Be warned…smearers are likely to minimilise their behaviour and make out that you’re imagining things, that you are overly sensitive or paranoid, or that you’re crazy for thinking they’d do something like that.

I admire your courage and tenacity in setting up your own business. Stick at it and don’t let other people’s shortcomings interfere with your success.

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy)

www.maxineharley.com – where you’ll find a page of FREE RESOURCES to help you on your road to self awareness, empowerment and growth