No One Can Hear You When You’re Mean

by | Commentary

by Cristina Howell with thanks to Kandace Knudson, PhD for her input

My name is Cristina but I am also called Crissi, Cris, Mom, Cricket, and quite possibly other names I am content to remain uninformed of. I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, doula, wellness and childbirth educator, Young Living member and natural medicine enthusiast.

Doulas are childbirth professionals. Labor doulas like me are not medical care providers but offer physical, mental, emotional and informational support to our clients during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period. We do not give medical advice or push any particular agenda. Rather, we present information and options to our clients and encourage them to make informed decisions, which we then support them in. I’ve found many similarities in my Young Living business, as I am still not a medical professional nor expert but an advocate of informed consumers, offering information and options of a different sort for families to consider alongside the medical care providers of their choice.

In all of this I have become a strong advocate of the individual’s and the family’s right and responsibility to develop their own educated opinions—of thoughtfully and critically considering various viewpoints from sources that actually hold those perspectives. I also see profound value in getting as close to original informational sources as possible. For example, reading Robert Tisserand’s books rather than relying on the interpretations of either those who reference or those who dismiss his work is the most expedient way to achieve an accurate understanding of his positions so that they can be intelligently contemplated.


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Processing information
I have encountered “movements” in the essential oil community which reference Mr. Tisserand’s name in support of stances that are notably more conservative than those expressed in his work. Because these misinterpretations are passed along in other circles as well, some with more liberal preferences—such as those who think there is a place for the careful ingestion of essential oils—are given the impression that his work isn’t relevant to them. I’ve also noticed that still others disregard his work in favor of exclusively consulting and referencing the viewpoints officially associated with their preferred essential oil companies or various other organizations. Misinterpretations and misrepresentations of various works abound. This sort of thing occurs all the time, with different people and in different ways, when we essentially “play telephone” with science and other information.

If we make a habit out of critically considering various informational resources, we may find that we don’t agree with any one person or source 100%, and that is okay! There are so many variables out there to consider, so much complexity involved with converting available evidence into practical application, and then there is the reality that all information is filtered and applied by each person involved with every step of the process—from scientists conducting research, to authors of reference materials, to the individuals reading about a given recommendation. And then there are the strengths and limitations of different types of evidence, such as scientific, anecdotal and historical. As new information becomes available, ideas and opinions evolve, and we may find it necessary to revise our positions. The recommendations and practices of healthcare professionals also adapt, progressing and even sometimes returning to previously discarded systems in response to new and rediscovered knowledge. There is no shame in this and it is accepted practice and considered intellectually honest. The process of functioning as an informed consumer, like the process of science, is a complex and continuous practice that requires effort but one that becomes natural in time.

Ugliness and hostility
In my efforts to learn about various viewpoints in the world of essential oils for myself and to share with others, I have observed some troubling attitudes, atmospheres, and practices amongst virtually every major group or camp of “oilers,” though by no means from every individual. I have frequently found myself disheartened by ugliness, hostility, aggressiveness, dismissiveness, arrogance, and defensiveness coming from all directions. It’s become increasingly common to witness things such as one mother harshly criticizing another for applying diluted peppermint to her baby’s chest rather than graciously explaining the risks and suggesting some gentle alternatives that the mom can research. The most conservative essential oil users are treated condescendingly by some more liberal consumers and even deleted from their Facebook communities, rather than encouraged to do whatever they deem best for their own families. Members of network marketing companies are coldly accused of being deceitful and money hungry as default criticisms of virtually any real or perceived misconduct on the part of one who participates in the MLM business model.

I see personal and professional online posts touting headlines and conclusions that, whether deliberately or innocently, quickly incite the kind of fear or anger that suppresses intellect in readers as they make rare adverse reactions to essential oils seem commonplace. For instance, a blog post title boldly and broadly claiming that essential oils can cause seizures in children stirred readers’ emotions, leading to a lot of knee-jerk reactions rather than thoughtful responses. Sometimes the science used to leverage widely publicized conclusions related to the risks of essential oils is supportive; but oftentimes, upon closer examination, it does not seem to justify the sensationalism. For example, the assertion that lavender and tea tree essential oils are estrogenic and can cause breast growth in boys is unsubstantiated and yet widely circulated. Misrepresentations of the views of others is common, both of experts and laypeople alike, as well as all sorts of misunderstandings that diligent research and unpretentious inquiry could do so much to reconcile. If I am honest, I must also admit that I have not always acted and responded to every situation with abundant empathy and kindness. So any helpful exhortation I hope to offer here has been born through the patience of those who have extended grace to me in my own imperfections.

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“Important Principles for Informed Consumers”
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More bridges, fewer walls
Life is complex and so are the issues pertaining to essential oil use. Shouldn’t we be occupied enough sorting through the copious variables and processes needed to make our own personal decisions that we don’t feel the need to make choices for others as well? Why not simply share relevant resources and encourage others to seek support from the professionals they trust and make up their own minds rather than pre-digesting information and/or aggressively imposing our conclusions on them?

Oftentimes the truth is more complicated than we understand, and without going directly to the source, information is often misunderstood. Ultimately, we are unique and have the right and responsibility to make our own informed decisions. Perhaps most pertinent to the current EO climate is this truth: It doesn’t matter how right you are or how verifiably true your words; no one can hear you when you’re mean. A snarky tone, ugliness, dismissiveness and arrogance ignite defensiveness in those who encounter words infused with those tones. These attitudes foster environments in which people don’t feel safe to be or to learn, and they feed anger and hostility rather than cultivate receptive minds and hearts.

We do not have to agree 100% with someone to be nice. Again, critically thinking people are unlikely to agree completely with ANYONE all the time. But as essential oil users we probably have more in common than we realize, simply because we embrace a holistic view of health. And we never know what we might learn from one another when we interact peaceably in environments where we all feel respected as human beings!

I plead with all who read my words from every camp, company, preference, method, profession, school of thought, business model or otherwise—examine your hearts. Your words cannot be contrived into being more gracious than you really are. Unless your heart is humble and those words are communicated in genuine kindness and respect, your true motivations and attitudes will show through and will hurt rather than enlighten. They will be automatically rejected instead of being carefully and earnestly considered. They’ll alienate rather than unite. Please, more bridges and fewer walls. Less anger, fear, strife and pride. More LOVE.


  1. Well said Crissi!!!!! Thank you. I hope all in the EO community take your words to heart and live them out. I am so blessed to use these wonderful oils for so many things. I agree that we all need to go to the source and weigh the info for our personal lives. What works for me may not work for anyone else. I love to have all the information I can and then filter through and decide how it applies to me physically, spiritually and emotionally. God has designed us all to be unique individuals and that is definitely reflected in the chemistry of our bodies. There are so many great alternatives within the oils if we don’t like a scent, a route of administration or a response by our bodies. Sharing more safety info actually may expand our exposure to more oils as alternatives for individuals in our families and areas of influence. I can have one set of oils for me, another for a child and yet another for my dog. Let’s encourage each other along this path to health.

  2. I feel like I am breathing a massive sigh of relief, Cristina. You are a woman entirely after my own heart. I am so tired of the mudslinging and humiliation we see, on facebook in particular. People seem to make sweeping generalisations about groups and are rude to them regardless. These are such exciting times for aromatherapy. Every day there is more proof for both mind-body-spirit medicine and the effectiveness of our oils and yet…the excitement is drowned out by the same arguments over and over again. The ugliness looms like a great big cloud.

    You and I share a common thought that nastiness will never educate. The second you upset someone they go into defence mode. Their thoughts are no longer about the oils, rather how to score points or get the next swipe in. No-one learns. Everyone suffers.

    This post is extraordinary. I hope it arrives on many, many pages. I for one shall be copy and posting the link many, many times. It took took guts and a lot of hard work to write such an eloquent post. I want to thank you for being brave enough to deliver it. Congratulations. You have a new fan xxx

  3. Bravo! Very well said. I am so right where you are in your thinking and rationale. Thank you for your clarity.

  4. Your article is so valuable and well said. Thank you for taking the time to put into words what so many feel and have experienced. EVERYONE suffers when this continues and the mission we each should be trying to bring to light the availability of these oils, herbs etc which CAN do so much for healing and natural health are not heard or lost forever. We need to work together, Thank you again I will be sharing. Another new fan

  5. I couldn’t agree more with what Cristina Howell has so eloquently expressed! Perspective and emotions expressed play a far bigger role in understanding why anyone responds like they do, than any role an essential oil will ever play. It is the sole responsibility of each of us to understand whatever decision we make, we always do so in good faith and trust in that moment.

  6. Thank you for this awesome post. I’m actually involved in doterra, and am an RN. I find your approach similar to mine. I’m disheartened by the negativity, competition and mudslinging by people coming from all areas. I’m currently involved in a program to help educate the everyday oil user, and to help bridge that gap between the professional clinical aromatherapists and the general oils user. It’s funny because I was interviewed this morning for a magazine and used the term that I was trying to be a bridge. Nastiness never accomplishes anything. I’ve left most FB groups now, as I desire to study for myself, learn from the clinical experts, and agree to disagree when my research and opinion differs from those I am learning from.

  7. Hello Cristina, your viewpoint is so well explained and reflects a very unbiased and intelligent approach we should all take towards information we consider for our well being. I would like your permission to provide a link to your article for our CFA members (Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists) on your Facebook Thank you

  8. As a member of Young Living and a future Clinical Aromatherapist this made my heart flutter when I read it. Thoughts I’ve been thinking over and over you so perfectly stated. I pray that we can build bridges and truly come together as a community, we are all in this together after all.

  9. Thank you for your wonderful post Cristina. Your thoughtful point of view is shared by many, but perhaps more eloquent. There is so much divisiveness in the aromatherapy community; not only between users and sellers, but between organizations and within various organizations. I think part of the problem is that many MLM sellers of oils do not have a formal education and have not learned how to locate, critically interpret and relay research information. Another problem is that, mean or not, many MLM sellers of oils truly believe they possess all the knowledge necessary to use and advise others on the use of essential oils and reject any attempt, well intended and kind, to educate them on proper use. When asked about using essential oils in a way that one would deem inappropriate, rather than condemn, we should be more inquiring about their choices and use the opportunity to educate.

  10. Thank you for a beautiful flow of words from your heart to mine! I have seen so much nastiness lately that it makes me want to throw my essential oils in the hazmat dumpster and forget it! But that would solve nothing so I will continue to research and learn as much as possible on my own and share the good news when I feel I know something that is true and helpful.
    We must be a united community or we will fall into shambles. Let us all pledge to show kindness and a gentle spirit when we put our fingers on the keyboard. Do unto others goes a long way. Blessings to all!

  11. Well said Cristina. You’re correct in saying nastiness achieves nothing. I often feel like leaving some Facebook groups because of the fights. I get very disheartened as aromatherapy is my passion. The only reason I stay is because there is some interesting and valuable information on the groups (like this post) But I stop reading a thread as soon as people begin to attack each other because I don’t feel they have much to teach me at that point! Thank you for this. I hope it goes a very long way.

  12. Outstanding! I’m a doTerra Wellness Advocate of like mind. It’s inevitable that anyone wanting to pursue self-education will run into antagonists who seem not to have a civil bone in their body. We all need to remember to “do unto others…” Thanks for the reminder and all the best in sharing the wonders of Essential Oils with others.

  13. Thank you for this article!
    I am a relative newbie to EO’s and I was a Wellness Advocate for doterra but I have left because I feel like I do not know enough to be able to share with others. I think if you do something like that you should actually know what you are talking about. Something I find lacking with the mlm companies. It is important to get to the truth about oils, rather than blindly accept information spoon-fed to you. That is why I am on this website, to get to the truth. Thank you??

  14. Beautifully and kindly said, Christina… thank you.

  15. Stated so beautifully, and applicable to all areas of life, not just essential oils! 🙂 Thank you so much!

  16. Doula Sister – thank you!


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