The Road to Success: Don’t let Toxic People make you crash

by Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA

attachmentJust the term “Toxic People” conjures up visions of emotional vampires and mental terrorism. You can’t lead yourself to success if you let these people get in your way. And getting ticked off only gives these difficult people power over you.

The worst thing you can do when dealing with a toxic person is to become defensive or angry. This behavior gives them the power. If you start feeling upset, excuse yourself for a moment, count to 10, and return when you are feeling objective again. Train yourself to say “I’m not ready to address this right now. Let’s meet this afternoon (or choose an appropriate time) to resolve this situation.”  And what ever you do, don’t take it personally!

Think of mental terrorism as those little voices that are telling you can’t  handle a situation or a person. This thinking will not allow you to use the tools in your ‘tool kit.’

When you feel you can handle life’s challenges, you create a mental environment that breed’s success. This builds self-esteem. The external application of self-esteem spills over into self-confidence. What can you do to build this characteristic that is a “must have” for professional achievement?

Quick tips for building self-confidence:

  1. Maintain a strong belief in your own competencies to stop the thoughts of vulnerability. Take personal responsibility in building you and your tool kit. Those Backstabbers, Know-it-alls, Whine and Cheesers, Needy Weenies, Steamrollers and Zipper Lips will be managed easily with your new attitude.
  2. Review your talents and build from them. Check your weaknesses and if they are the problem, change them. Invest in learning resources on handling difficult people to add to the tools you already have.
  3. Cancel your membership in the whine and cheese club. “Oh, cheese, this is so hard – I’ll never be able to do this.” (You can hear the tone can’t you?)
  4. Keep your focus on being problem/solution-oriented rather than danger-oriented. Understand that there is a problem to be solved not a threat to your life or well being. This helps solutions appear quickly and you feel in control.
  5. Rise above it. Pretend you are in a hot air balloon and lift your thoughts over the issue to get a new view.
  6. Remember that a positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will tick off enough people to make it work the effort. (Not sure who said this, but worth mentioning!)


Become a better listener. We have all done it: someone says something we do not like, and we are instantly thinking about a rebuttal. That’s the wrong move. Most people have their ears open but they aren’t really listening. When you do that, you lose an opportunity. If you aren’t listening, you’re missing out. Before you respond to a statement, ask another question: “Can you tell me more about it?”

Find common ground. We have a tendency to focus on things we disagree on and that is counterproductive. If you think about it, there’s always a lot more we agree about than we disagree about. When you acknowledge commonality, you instantly diffuse the situation.

Give objective criticism. People will be more inclined to come to you with problems if they feel that they are appreciated and taken seriously. That said, praise the person when they come and talk to you about hard issues. Value the person, challenge the issues, and bring about change. Still dread conflict? Change is hard.  Most people are lazy and never change.  They find it easier and more comfortable to stay upset and let toxic people contaminate their environment. Their choice.

Invest in your people and yourself. Soft skills’ training is frequently deleted from organizations’ budgets without even a second thought.  This is a painful reality for exceptional leaders and employees because they know the positive outcomes derived from “soft skill” training. Create an internal library for your staff and schedule regular “lunch and learn” sessions.  Listen to fifteen minutes of a CD or DVD and have a conversation about the application in your team. Focus on improving communication skills on a regular basis.

Challenge: Developing relationships with everyone is what successful people do.  Are you ready to mend the bad ones and change your attitude about difficult people?

Email Marsha for your copy of  Responses to the Six Toxic People Types

Sign up for her monthly newsletter and receive an audio download on Toxic People on the website or chime in on the blog at

wpe7As a professional speaker and best selling author, Marsha Petrie Sue is the Muhammed Ali of communicators. She can dance and look pretty, and she uses the entire ring, but she knows how and when to land a knockout punch.  Get the smelling salts! Her presentations are charm school with live ammunition.

She has been featured in the New York Times, Investors Business Digest, Christian Science Monitor, Legal Management, WorkWise, Reuters and more.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *