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Shannon ended the phone call with her friend and breathed a sigh of relief. She’d spent the past hour on the phone and felt drained and weary after the conversation. Every time Shannon tried to share something positive or upbeat, her friend countered with a negative reaction. The whole exchange made Shannon wish she’d never answered the call.
Sometimes, Shannon would find her friend enjoyable to talk to. But most of the time, her friend was negative and wanted to argue. She was easily offended and constantly involved Shannon in her latest drama.
Toxic People Steal Your Joy
One day, Shannon looked up the definition of toxic people online. As she read articles on the topic, she discovered that her friend shared many of the traits that are commonly found in toxic people.
Shannon learned that toxic people are often thieves, but what they take aren’t your possessions. They take your energy and your time. Because toxic people are good at distraction, it can be months or years until you realize that a toxic person is negatively affecting you.
Toxic People Take Your Energy
It’s common for toxic people to have frequent catastrophes. When Shannon discovered this, she thought of her client, Bob. To him, everything was one big emergency. He called late at night, even when she was supposed to be off duty. He never gave her advanced warning about projects that were coming up so Shannon found herself routinely working on rush jobs into the wee hours of the morning.
Toxic People Swipe Your Time
When it comes to toxic clients, there is always a crisis looming. As a result, you feel like you have to be at their beck and call. You’re constantly shifting your schedule to accommodate their latest problem and you feel helpless to change anything.
Toxic people don’t respect your time and have no problem taking it when they want to. This might be the friend that shows up on your doorstep after you’ve told her you have to work on a big project. It could be the client that expects you to help her with her responsibilities, regardless of how much work you already have on your plate.
The same toxic people that want to take your time usually don’t have time to help you when you need it. They have no problem fiercely guarding their time because they think their time is valuable, which is the exact opposite of how they treat your time.
The important thing to remember when you’re dealing with toxic people is that they subtract things from your life. But in healthy personal and professional relationships, you feel like things are being added to your life – more hope, more energy, and most importantly, more joy.
Why Are Some People Toxic?
You have that one friend or client who you know is toxic. Occasionally, you might have a pleasant conversation, but those are few and far between. Your interactions are typically negative and you end the video chat or phone call feeling anxious, upset, and wiped out.
Dealing with this person makes you wonder why some people are toxic. While not every toxic person is the same, they do share three common motivations. If you start paying attention to your interactions, you can usually spot which one is driving your toxic friend or client.
Their Jealousy is Poisoning You
You have the business client or that friend that you just can’t share good news with. Whether your win was big or small, a toxic person always downplays it. If they do acknowledge how hard you worked, they may do so in the form of a backhanded compliment.
An example of a backhanded compliment would be the friend that upon hearing about the new business deal you just closed says, “I’m so happy your little business is finally profitable.” While this comment may sound innocent, the toxic person is clearly trying to downplay your success. These types of comments usually stem from jealousy and have nothing to do with you.
Fortunately, the solution to handling this type of situation is easy. Stop sharing good news with people that won’t rejoice with you. In a healthy personal or professional relationship, there’s plenty of room to celebrate wins (small or big) together.
Their Judgment Leaves You Doubting Yourself
Some toxic friends and clients might act judgmental or say judgmental things. This type of behavior can leave you feeling like you must earn approval from the toxic person in your life. You may find yourself censoring not just what you say but who you are. As a result, you feel like you can’t be authentic with this person.
Judgment is one of the chief ways that a toxic person stunts your growth. They don’t want you to better yourself or your business. They want to keep you on their level or even slightly below their level. An example of this might be the client that posts negative testimonials on your website or LinkedIn profile despite the fact that they love your work.
Don’t look to a toxic friend or client for support about a life or business change you’re making. Instead, only tell people that you know will be genuinely happy for you and encourage you.
Their Insecurity Steals Your Spot Light
A toxic person is often insecure. One of the ways that you’ll see this behavior is that they have difficulty sharing the spotlight. They want you to know that however great your life is, theirs is better. If you’re having a bad day, they’re having an even worse one.
Toxic friends or clients can turn everything into a competition. Even seemingly small things like the number of your social media followers or how much weight you lost can be a source of competition.
The worst thing you can do with this type of toxicity is trying to win. Instead, you should refuse to join in the competition. For example, a friend wants to compare the amount of money you both make. Instead of naming a dollar amount, say something simple like, “I have enough to pay my bills and I’m grateful for that.” This shuts down the toxic person and doesn’t give them a way to compare anything.
Understanding why toxic people behave the way they do can make it easier for you to navigate your personal or professional relationship. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can change a toxic person’s outlook. If someone is determined to live in negativity and fear with a poor mindset, there’s not much you can do to change them. Instead, concentrate on bettering yourself and if possible, limit your time with this toxic person.
Save Your Sanity: Tactics Toxic Clients and Friends Use
You have one friend or client that is toxic. You know this and you wonder why this person is still in your life. Why haven’t you ended the relationship? The reason isn’t that you’re weak or that you’re a bad person.
The real reason is that toxic people are very good at manipulating others. Often, they seek to control you and they do it so subtlety that it’s easy to miss the warning signs. That’s why it’s important that you know the tactics that toxic clients and friends use.
Tactic #1: Intimidation
A toxic friend or client often uses intimidation and fear to keep you in line. Sometimes, these tactics can be hard to recognize. It might be the veiled threat that a client will badmouth you in the industry or that a friend will “accidentally” slip up and share a secret about you with the rest of your community.
Sometimes, the threats aren’t veiled, such as the client that says he’ll leave a bad review of your services if you don’t give him a discount. The goal of intimidation is to get you to back down. Your best option is to act unaffected. If you show fear or concern, the toxic person may be more likely to follow through with their threat.
Tactic #2: Feigning Innocence
Your friend made an unkind remark about your weight over lunch. When you get offended, your friend acts innocent. She brushes off your hurt feelings and dismisses what she said as “only a joke”. Despite your friend’s denial, you still feel hurt.
Toxic people will feign innocence when they hurt you. They reject the idea that you could possibly be upset because no harm was intended—or at least, that’s what they’ll say. When it comes to this type of situation, listen to your intuition. If your intuition tells you that the remark was something more, then trust that feeling.
Tactic #3: Gaslighting
Toxic friends or clients can attempt to gaslight you. This is when a toxic friend or client tries to convince you that you’re wrong by making you question yourself. Instead of acknowledging they did anything wrong, they tell you that you didn’t see what you thought you saw or you didn’t hear what you thought you did.
A toxic friend or client will use everything they know about you to make you doubt yourself. For example, a toxic friend might tell you that you doubt their intentions because you had a bad childhood and don’t know what real love looks like. A client might tell you that he won’t offer you more lucrative projects because you just aren’t ready yet.
Don’t feel bad if you’ve missed some of the signs that your friend or client is a toxic person. Now that you know, you can confront the truth and decide what to do. Whatever your choice, you don’t have to apologize for it. You deserve good relationships in your business and in your life.
CTA: Reclaim your power and heal from a toxic friend or client when you download your free workbook.
How to Handle Toxic People in Your Life & Business
Toxic people can be found in any area of your life and business. But just because you’re collaborating with that toxic business partner or living with your toxic spouse doesn’t mean you have to accept their toxicity. You can learn how to handle these toxic people so that you limit the effects they have on your life and business.
Set firm boundaries.
Boundaries allow you to function at your best in both business and life. It can be hard to set them and even harder to stick with them, but boundaries are a necessity when you’re dealing with toxic people.
Maybe you have that client that wants to stay in constant communication with you—even during the wee hours of the morning. This is where setting boundaries can be helpful. Let your client know (in writing) what your office hours are and when he can expect a response from you.
Control the conversation.
You can’t always avoid toxic people. Sometimes, they’re a part of your life whether you want them to be or not. If you have to interact with a toxic person, try to stay in control of the conversation.
When the conversation takes a bad turn, redirect it. For example, if your friend always complains every time you have lunch together, then you don’t want to offer advice or a solution to the problem. Instead, validate her complaints by saying something supportive then redirect the conversation to another topic.
Don’t give anything away.
In some situations, a toxic person may say or do certain things to provoke a reaction from you. Toxic people rely on pushing your buttons to get the results they want. If you don’t give a reaction, they think the button is broken and eventually move on.
Once you start doing this, you must do it every time. If it takes a toxic person saying something obnoxious ten times to get a reaction from you, then next time they want that reaction they’ll push your button ten times in a row.
Toxic clients or friends will try to escalate common everyday situations. They’ll escalate the incident until it’s a drama so big it’s worthy of a theater audience. Doing this makes the toxic person feel validated and they may use this as their typical response to problems in your relationship.
Fortunately, you can prevent dramas like this by refusing to engage. If the toxic person in your life says or does something annoying, try a neutral response like, “Sounds interesting” or “I hear you”. Responses like this make it harder for the toxic person to cause a big scene.
Handling toxic people in your life and your business is tough. That’s why it can be helpful to roleplay a conversation or scene with a trusted friend. Let your trusted friend act like the toxic person while you practice keeping your cool and de-escalating the situation.
CTA: Want more sanity-saving tips for dealing with toxic people? Find them when you download your free workbook.
Reclaim Your Power: Healing from a Toxic Relationship
Toxic relationships come in many forms – a client that verbally abused you, a friend that always puts you down, or a significant other that habitually ignores your boundaries. These relationships, even if you recognize that they aren’t healthy, are difficult to let go of. But if you want to reclaim your power and truly heal from a toxic relationship, you have to be willing to ask yourself some tough questions.
What attracted me to this person?
It doesn’t matter if this person was a business partner, significant other, or close friend. You chose to allow this person into your life because you found something desirable about him or her. Maybe you liked the way that your boyfriend made all of the decisions because it made you feel safe and cared for. Maybe you worked with the business partner because you admired her work ethic and found her attention boosted your low self-confidence.
What warning signs did I miss?
Most toxic people don’t wake up one day and decide to be toxic toward you. The truth is they’ve usually been toxic to you since the very beginning. You just didn’t notice until six, twelve, or eighteen months down the road.
You have to understand this question is not about assigning self-blame. It’s not your fault that this toxic person was cruel to you. However, if you don’t examine the warning signs then you’ll have left this unhealthy relationship only to be at risk of entering into a relationship with another toxic person.
You can create a pattern where you choose friends, business partners, and lovers that are toxic unless you start learning from these experiences. Maybe the early warning sign was that your significant other was a bit too possessive and didn’t want you to have any male friends. Maybe the early warning sign was that a business partner always gave vague responses and never answered a question directly.
Why did I stay with this person?
Just as important as it is to recognize the early warning signs of a toxic person, it’s also important to understand why you continued in the relationship. Some people stay in toxic relationships because they don’t want to be alone. Others stay because they worry they aren’t strong enough to make it on their own.
Still, a few people worry about what a potential breakup might do to their reputation or how it will disappoint their loved ones. When you understand your whys, you can make more informed choices in the future.
How can I use this to grow?
Once you’ve analyzed your relationship, it’s time to learn from it. Keep in mind this isn’t about indulging in self-guilt or heaping shame on yourself. It’s about using this relationship to grow personally and professionally. Maybe you learned to trust your own instincts or to be your own best friend. Whatever you learned, carry that truth with you and don’t let anyone take it from you.
Healing from a toxic person is challenging, even on the best of days. Sometimes, it may feel like you take one step forward and two steps backward. That’s part of the healing process. Be patient with yourself during this time and reach out to a trusted coach if you feel you need support during your journey.
CTA: Dealing with a toxic person can be overwhelming. Get help when you download your free workbook.
Loving Life — The Reboot!