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Ep #75: Toxic People

Many folks out there get negatively affected by how certain other people behave and what they do. They believe that these people’s energies and actions are somehow toxic to them or everyone around them. Well, I’m going to tell you a little secret (and sorry to burst your bubble here)… There is no such thing as “toxic people.”

Join us on this episode of The Life Coach School podcast to discover the reasons why certain people get under our skin and what we can do about it. Listen in as we discuss the importance of realizing that everyone is allowed to do whatever they want and that we don’t have any control over them.  Click “play” below and get ready for some eye-opening ideas and advice that is sure to help you with your “Toxic Person” problem!

Grab your copy of our new Wisdom From The Life Coach School Podcast book. It covers a decade worth of research, on life-changing topics from the podcast, distilled into only 200 pages. It's the truest shortcut to self-development we have ever created!

Listen to the show

What You will discover

  • Whether toxic people exist.
  • The truth about toxic people.
  • The importance of realizing that people are allowed to do whatever they want.
  • Why they are not responsible for how we feel.
  • Tips for dealing with “toxic people.”

Featured on the show

Get the Full Episode Transcript:

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Episode Transcript:

Hey, everybody. It's Brooke Castillo. Before we get started with today's podcast, I wanted to give you a heads up. When I recorded this podcast, my microphone was disconnected, so all of the audio that was picked up from me delivering the podcast was picked up from my computer. It is not the quality that you're used to. It is the quality of just talking at my computer, so I want to apologize ahead of time. If you really can't stand the sound of it, I totally get it. You might want to skip this one, and you can always go to the lifecoachschool.com and go to the podcast and get the transcript of the podcast if you'd rather read through the material. Next week, we will be back to high quality. Otherwise, enjoy. Have a good one. Bye bye.

Welcome to the Life Coach School Podcast, where it's all about real clients, real problems, and real coaching. Now, your host, Master Coast Instructor, Brooke Castillo.

Episode 75, y'all. What the what? Oh, my God. That's so awesome. So awesome. Every once in a while, I give myself a pat on the back. Right now is one of those times. Good for me. If you've listened to every single one of these podcasts, and I know there are a lot of you that have, I just want to say rock it out. Good for you. I'm so, so honored to have you as a student, and I'm so glad that you've stuck in there with me. Some of you said that you listened to me on one and a half times. You speed up, which makes me laugh because I already feel like I talk so fast. So, rock it out, man. Listen to me fast, even faster than I already talk. Some of you might even need to slow me down. It's all good.

Today, we are talking about toxic people. What a lovely topic. Actually, after I just spent the weekend with some people, it made me think about this topic because I have so many questions that I get from you all about toxic people and how to handle them. So, that's what we're talking about today. Firstly, going to burst your bubble. There's no such thing as a toxic person. If you think about what the word toxic means. It means it's poisonous, like you breathe it in and you die or you ingest it and you die. Unless you're literally breathing in another person, or ingesting them, which I highly hope that you aren't, but many of you do, there's no such thing as a toxic person. This is such fantastic news.
No matter what energy someone is giving off, it's not toxic to you. I know that a lot people believe this. They tell me, "Haven't you ever been around someone and afterwards, you feel like they got on you? You feel like their energy seeped into you or you feel like ..." I say, "No, I don't feel that way, and I don't ever want to feel that way or believe that that's true because it gives that person so much power to believe that, to believe that they're energy can somehow get on me.

Does not feel good to me in any way. So, I choose, and know that it's true, that there's no such thing as a toxic person. People are not toxic. They're not poisonous, and even if they are, it wouldn't affect us it's just like being around a poisonous spider. Until it gets inside of you, until it injects something inside of you physically, it does not hurt you. I can be with a poisonous spider, hold it in my hand, and until it gets inside of my blood, which it would do by literally biting me and poisoning me, I'm going to be fine.

I want you guys to remember that when you're thinking about any person in your life, people are not toxic. They do not have any power over you unless there is literally some poison in their body and they inject it inside of you, which does not happen. It doesn't happen. You're just in the presence of someone. Just because you're in the presence of a poisonous spider doesn't mean that you are poisoned. Thinking about someone as toxic, as poisonous is not useful. It does not help you. In fact, it's scary to think about someone that way. It gives them a power. It's like if you breath around that person that you will somehow be poisoned, and there is no one that powerful. I think that's fantastic news.

Here's what is true. If there's no such thing as a toxic person, what is there? There are people with whom you get triggered because of your own thinking. They trigger thinking in your brain. There are people who act in ways that trigger you to think, feel, and act in certain ways. There are people who you believe bring out the worst in you by how you think when you're around them. There are people who cross your boundaries, but if you have good boundaries, and you follow through on your boundaries, that doesn't have to be a problem. There are people who you think hurt your feelings, but people do not have the ability to hurt your feelings without your permission, without the way that you think. There are people who don't like you. In a couple of episodes, I'm going to be doing a podcast called people who hate you, when someone hates you, and I'm going to talk a lot more about.

There are people that don't like you, and that's okay. They don't have to affect you in any way, no matter what they say or do around you. You can make room for those people in your life. When people feel like someone is toxic, they ultimately feel like they have to remove that person from their life which makes complete sense. If something is toxic, I do not want it in my home. If someone is toxic, I do not want them in my life. But, if I've convinced you that there's no such thing as a toxic person, then what will you do with these people? These people who trigger you? These people who trigger negative thoughts in you? These people who cross your boundaries? These people who you are challenged when you are around them?

First and foremost, I want to remind you of 2 things. First, people are allowed to behave the way they want to behave. When you say you're going to let someone behave a certain way, you are confused. People are allowed to behave the way they want to. I know that this is challenging for so many of you. People do not have to follow the rules. Let me give you an example of this. I walk my dogs. I have 2 Boston Terriers. They are fantastic. I walk them all the time without their leashes on. The rule is you need to have leashes on. That's the rule. I don't follow that rule and let my dogs walk without leashes on. This makes some other people crazy. They do not like that I walk my dogs without their leashes. They do not like that I don't follow the rules. They get very angry towards me about it because I don't follow the rules.

I'm allowed to do whatever I want to do. I'm allowed. It doesn't mean that there won't be consequences and I may get in trouble by someone, but I'm allowed to do what I want to do. That's true for everyone. People are allowed to be rude. People are allowed to be violent. People are allowed to be angry. There' nothing we can do to control other people's behavior. Doesn't mean there won't be consequences, but they're allowed to do what they want to do. They're allowed to cheat. They're allowed to lie. They're allowed to steal. They're human beings. They have free will. They're allowed to do what they want. The sooner you understand that and remember that, the happier you will be. What matters is how you respond to other people behaving the way that they're allowed to behave. That's up to you.

That's the first thing. People are allowed to behave the way the want to behave. The second thing is, you get to choose who you want to spend time with. You get to decide. You are always in charge of who you spend time with. You do not have to spend time with anyone you don't want to spend time with, but you need to like your reason for not spending time with them. It's not because they're toxic. It's not because you can't spend time with them. It's because you're choosing not to. I want to make sure that you like your reason for not spending time with them. You don't have to spend time with anyone you don't want to, whether it's your mother, your father, your kid, anyone. You do not have to spend time with anyone. If you are spending time with someone, it's because you are choosing to.

If you feel yourself arguing with me on that, I just want to back you up. You're allowed to do what you want. You do not have to spend time with your mother, ever. You do not have to spend time with your father, ever. You have free will. You can do whatever you want. You can move to Mexico and never come back. You have free will, so if you're spending time with someone, it's because you're choosing to spend time with someone. If you're not spending time with someone, it's because you're choosing not to spend time with them. That is your choice.

Remember, number one is people are allowed to behave the way they want to behave, period. There's nothing you can do about it. Number two, you get to choose who you spend time with. The other thing I want you to take full responsibility for is ... You don't have to take responsibility for how other people behave or for their feelings ... That is not your job ... but you do, I highly recommend, take responsibility for how you behave. I notice that it is harder for me to behave around certain people. I have this ideal for who I want to be. When I'm around certain people, I sometimes find myself not being kind. I find myself not being respectful. I find myself raising my voice and blaming the other person for how I'm behaving. It is never their fault for how I'm behaving.
They are allowed to behave how they want to behave. I am responsible for my behavior, so if someone is rude to me, it is not their fault if I am rude back to them. That's on me. If someone raises their voice to me, I can't take responsibility for that, but if I raise my voice back, then I do need to take responsibility for that. I need to take responsibility for how I behave. If somebody comes at me and is disrespectful, and then I'm disrespectful back, I have to take responsibility for my behavior. It is never their responsibility for how I behave. I try to explain this to my children when I'm teaching them. They'll say, "Well, he hit me first. That's why I hit him." I said, "You can't take responsibility for his behavior, but you can take responsibility for yours. If you hit him, I'm going to hold you accountable for you hitting him. I'm not going to hold you accountable for him hitting you, and all that goes along with that, but I will hold you accountable for your behavior. That's all you can control."

That's what I want you guys to remember when it comes to you. If you call someone toxic, and you think their behavior is unacceptable, and then you behave in an unacceptable way and justify it because of the way they're acting, then you have convinced yourself that they're more powerful than you and that they can control how you behave. That is never the case. Here's the thing. If, when you are with someone, you notice that you're behaving in a way that you don't like, it's time for you to do work on yourself. The solution is not to remove that person from your life because that's an opportunity for you to work on yourself.

For example, if, when you hang out with someone, you feel resentful and frustrated, my guess is you probably don't have very clear boundaries if, when you're around someone, you're constantly feeling agitated. It's probably because you're not managing your own mind. If you don't like the way someone's behaving, and you're trying to control their behavior, you're going to feel agitated a lot of the time, so please, notice, are you taking responsibility in trying to control someone else's behavior? And, are you then turning it on yourself and behaving in a way that you don't respect and then blaming the other person?

Here's my suggestion. You decide whether you want to spend time with someone, you own that choice, and you make sure you like your reason for not spending time with them. Notice, if the reason is "they're toxic," you're saying, "They're too powerful. I can't behave myself when I'm around them. I can't control my emotions when I'm around them. I feel awful when I'm around them." Notice, they are not responsible for how you feel, so you can't give them credit for causing your feelings. If you want to say, "It's too much work to be around them," "It's hard for me to feel good around them," "I don't like how much thought work I have to do around them. That's why I'm choosing not to be around them," then that's another thing.

Let me give you an example. I was just coaching someone today. She was telling me she doesn't like being around her stepfather. She was saying, "He's very mean, and I don't like being around him." What the problem was is that her stepfather is always around her mom, and she likes to be around her mom, so she was limiting her amount of time that she was getting to spend with her mom because of the step father. She had all these reasons about the step-father and who he was and how he was mean to her and how he treated her. What I showed her was that how she thinks around her step-father is going to determine how she thinks and feels. She was taking it all very personally and blaming him.

One of the examples I used was what if every time you're around your mom, your mom had a dog that was very mean to you, growled at you, barked at you, and tried to keep you away from your mom, would that prevent you from being around your mom? It depends on what you would make it mean, what you would mean about the dog, what you would make it mean about the mom having the dog, whatever. Her impression was, "No, I would not let that bother me at all. I would not take it personally. I would know that that's just about the dog. I'm not saying at all that her stepfather is a dog. What I'm saying is, dogs behave the way they do, people behave the way they do, everybody's allowed to behave the way they want to behave. We can't control it, but we also don't have to take it personally, and we certainly don't have to use it as a reason to prevent ourselves from seeing someone we do want to see.

So, it's worth doing the work on the person that you're giving so much power to. She didn't even realize how much power she was giving to the step-father to control how she was going to behave in her life. It was really helpful for her to see that she wanted to take her power back. She wanted to be in charge of how she felt when she was around anybody, and she wanted to be in charge of how she acted and not be blaming someone else. That was really powerful because the reason why she wasn't spending time with her step-father is because she was making him responsible for her feelings. She didn't like that reason.

Now, she may decide not to spend as much time around him because it does require her to do a lot of work on her mind and she has to do a lot of management on her emotions. She may like that reason. That may be a good enough reason for her, but you want to make sure that if you're eliminating someone from your life that you're not doing it because you're making that person so powerful or you're not doing it because you're trying to control their behavior. You get to decide what you want to think, feel, and do when you're around anyone in your life. I have a lot of people in my life that used to really get "under my skin" which is impossible, of course, that now don't bother me at all because I've done my mind work on them. I've taken all my power back, and I believe that there is no one in my life that can create an emotion for me that I'm not fully creating for myself.

People can try and be rude to me. People can flip me off. People can be angry. People can say that I'm stupid and they don't like my work. They don't like what I do. They don't like the way that I parent. It doesn't affect me at all. There are other people that I really have to work hard on having that not affect me, but I always know that it's my reaction in my brain that's creating that effect, and not that other person.

When I'm going to spend time with someone who I know might trigger me to have negative thoughts, I first own that it's my thoughts that are creating it and not the other person. I do my work before, during, and after that I spend time with them, and I think that's time well-spent because I think it makes me stronger and better as a person to separate out my feelings from somebody else. I remind myself that I cannot control how they behave. I can only control how I think, feel, and behave. I remind myself that they're allowed to behave however they want and that it is my choice to spend time with them or not and it's my choice how I will feel about spending time with them or not. Other people are not toxic. I am in control of how I think, feel, and behave around anyone in my life. Nobody is powerful enough to create a feeling within me. I create my feelings by how I think. There is no more powerful, loving place to be when it comes to other people.

When I think that someone's toxic, I feel bad. When I think that someone is wounded or injured or just yapping like a barking dog because they're scared or they're upset or they think they're tough, I like to think about that like little dogs that are barking all the time. I'm so amused by them because they think they're so big and they're so tough. They're really just scared. They're really just scared little puppies. I think there's a lot of people in our lives that are like that, including us sometimes. So, I want to invite you to change the way you look at other people. Nobody is that powerful. People are allowed to behave the way they want, and you can choose whether you want to spend time with them or not. Just make sure you like your reason. Make sure your reason empowers you and doesn't make them so powerful because there may come a time where you do need to spend time with them, and you want to make sure that you are in the position of full empowerment in your own life.

All right, everyone. I hope that helps with anyone who thinks they're dealing with a toxic person. I'd love to hear your questions and your comments. Go over to the LifeCoachSchool.com/75, and let's touch base. Let me hear how you guys are doing, how you're working with different people in your life, and how you're empowering yourself. Have an amazing, wonderful week, and I'll talk to you guys next week. Take care. Bye bye.

Thank you for listening to the Life Coach School podcast. It would be incredibly awesome if you would take a moment to write a quick review on iTunes. For any questions, comments, or coaching issues you would like to hear on the show, please visit us at www.thelifecoachschool.com.

22 Comments

  1. Hi Brooke, love your postcards and all of work you have done. I hope see you soon in your trainee. My question is how to response when the boundaries when it isn’t respected and you cannot just leave. For example, I don’t like when someone raises their voice to me. I have being in a lot trouble with my husband, who I love so much. He is trying help me to teach me how to drive, but he mad at me when I make some mistake and he talks about it over and over again while I am trying to drive, consequently he raises his voice, what make me sad, incable, and angry with him and myself, as a result I cried and we argue and argue. This experience has been so hard to me and it is blocking each day, I think all my life dependes of it. I really want to get my drive’s license, driving safe, but I don’t want argue with my husband. I already told him about this boundary, but I cannot get out of the car when he starts yelling at me or talking over and over. It annoy me so much. Please let me know your thoughts. Thank you very much for spend time reading it.

    1. I really enjoyed this podcast about “toxic people” – My future mother in law is a very controlling individual – may come with her background of being an old European woman(aka – her upbringing) . However, hearing in your podcast that the way people behave is okay — meant a lot to me. My future mother in law has disrespected myself as a person (ie: created lies about my family and myself; shunned my family and myself; tried to break up my finance and myself – by lying about things I did not do) However, listening to your podcast, made me realize that I’m allowing or letting my future mother in law have so much control over me.
      I am fairly new with your podcasts; I really hope there are more podcasts talking about how to deal with “toxic family members” as this is a HUGE issue I am working on in life.
      Thank you for listening.
      Respectfully,

      Mally

      1. Hello Mally! Thank you for the feedback. Brooke appreciates it. Glad to hear her podcast has been helping you during this time in your life. –Lori

  2. Thank you so much for all of your podcast, videos, books and all your generosity! It means so much to so many! I have learned so much and even though I have never met you, I feel like you are a mentor to me. Have a wonderful day!

  3. It’s so important to be reminded how it’s always our reactions that we have control over — that we don’t have any control of others. I like that so much because then I get to work on myself and grow instead of being a victim of the situation.

      1. Hi! I just want to let you know that using The model helped me to get my Drive’s License. I got it more than a month ago! I am pretty happy. Today when I am driving with so much more confidence, calm… It is awesome. I just wanted to share that it really works. Now let’s go to the next goal. Thank you so much Brooke!

  4. Dear Brooke,

    I have been listening to your podcast since April of last year, and it has really helped me gain some perspective on my emotions and how I handle myself in difficult situations. Based on your recommendation, I have also really immersed myself in The Work of Byron Katie, and combined with your model, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection and enquiry on my thoughts, in the main, regarding work and my boss.

    He is very up and down with his moods. About 5 years ago, he went to see a therapist, and he was then recommended to a psychiatrist. He was told he was bipolar and needed medication. He basically ran out of the building and didn’t take the advice. So, since then, we have been working through it together – rowing through the good days and bad days.

    The bad days can be really difficult. I have been working for him for over a decade, and I care deeply for him. It makes me really upset to see him when he is down. I know that it is not his fault, and he doesn’t enjoy being in that space.

    But, there also comes a point where I think: I have to look out for myself, and for the business / my colleagues etc., and say that his behaviour has to be moderated or there will be serious consequences. But, then the bad day passes, and the good day comes around, and so the cycle begins.

    A lot of my personal work has been around realising that I cannot change him and the only thing I am in control over is how I think about him and react to him.

    My question is really about the bigger picture – how do I cope with his ups and downs (I am not a qualified therapist or psychiatrist, and I don’t really know how to ‘manage’ his moods sometimes) but, more importantly, how would you suggest I deal with my colleagues? They haven’t gone down my same journey of self-reflection, and many are on the verge of quitting, which would be really sad and, in some cases, detrimental to the firm’s success. Due to my role, they often come to me for advice on how to deal with him. Sometimes, it sounds like I am just making excuses for him all of the time.

    Part of me hears you saying that there is nothing I can do to change him and we have to set boundaries etc, but the consequences are really negative, and I would like to try and avoid them if possible.

    Thank you for your time,

    Kate

    1. Hi Kate,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your story. Great question – Brooke will answer it in an upcoming Questions and Answers podcast so stay tuned!

      Carina

  5. Just listened to podcast re. Toxic People. I have a question… How does one deal with that person who is consistently trying to disempower you? There is somebody in my life who frequently misrepresents me and my intentions to others who appear to take her words as sacrosanct. My belief is that she is trying to thwart my opportunity for positive relationships. I and a few others can literally see her gloat when bad things happen to me. She seems to want to keep me down and doesn’t like to see me succeed in any way. She actively seeks ways to disrupt either my own positive personal path or, if she feels she cannot get to me directly, present me as somebody who is unsuccessful in various different ways to others. I know I cannot control her nor can I control how others interpret her. I have learnt not to care about the things I cannot control and I am and have always been a forgiving type. However, my relationships with those others are less than what they might have been and for this I feel sadness and some degree of loneliness as I see the flourishing inter-family relationships of everyone else; for me, several of my familial relationships haven’t progressed in the normal way. I don’t think she is toxic but she is powerful, unfortunately, because many of the people she talks to blindly listen and choose to believe without seeking the real me. We cannot always have perfect lives and I am exhausted trying to portray absolute positivity around folk in the hope that this might question what they hear. What do you think?

  6. I loved this pod cast. I’m going through a divorce. I have been hurt and deceived. My husband had an affair and is still with this women. He blames everything on me.
    He doesn’t care what he’s done because he was unhappy he says in our marriage. So he had the affair to get out.
    I now feel around him that he and his new love are toxic. I can’t not be around them because we have kids together. How do I change my feelings towards this situation?

  7. Hello! I absolutely love your podcast. It has helped me so much. I learned about it through a friend and have been listening every day since then. I started at the beginning and this is the episode I just finished. So here’s my question : is it ever acceptable to cut someone out of your life? I have a friend who I stopped talking to because I said she was toxic. She always has a negative victim mentality. I felt like it was on me to make her happy and get better. She completely shut me out of her life for a couple months for no reason. She recently sent me a message reaching out to me. I haven’t responded because I thought that she was too toxic for me to be friends with her, but now I’ve listened to this podcast and I’m second guessing myself. I feel guilty for not responding but I’m afraid if I do, I’m giving her the control she had before. Is it wrong for me to ignore her? Or should I forgive her and try again? If you’ve read this all so far, thank you. I hope what I said makes sense and that you can give me some perspective here. Thanks for all you do. I’m off to go listen to your next podcast!

    1. Hi Ashley,

      Thank you for the feedback and for your question. Brooke will address this for you in an upcoming Questions & Answers episode. Please stay tuned!

      Carina

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Everyone has at least one area in their life that they really struggle with and this is mine. For years it was like an enormous elephant in the room that I ignored {by overeating and planning a brighter future that I didn’t get round to implementing because I was too busy stewing}. I have a number of “toxic people” in my life and I believed that their behaviour, because they were my in-laws, was destroying my marriage, my financial future and my sanity. I suffered from depression which was exasperated by not being able to get over their past behaviour and anxiety about what they would do next. Now I am {quite unbelievably} in a space of love and compassion for them after listening to these podcasts {I have a playlist on other people with includes this one, the manual, boundaries, acceptance and unconditional love}. I now feel strong and hopeful for the future. I know that I can handle whatever they do {because they don’t hurt my feelings, I do} and it is my hope that I will respond to whatever they do in a respectful, calm, non defensive and hopefully loving way. I also have worked out clear boundaries and am willing to do whatever I say I will do if they don’t respect those boundaries. This is giant step for me because in the past I have felt the need to defend myself or better still run, cut off all contact and stew about their behaviour. I can not describe how much freedom I feel. To make sure I don’t slip back into old habits I am doing daily thought downloads and models. So thank you Dear Darling Brooke, you have changed my life and I really think your work could change the world {I live on a cattle property in rural Australia} for the better. X

    1. Hi Jude,

      Thank you so much for sharing how you have implemented what you’ve learned from Brooke’s podcast…and more importantly, how it’s turned things around for you!

      Carina

  9. G’Day from Australia Brooke & team. I’m so glad I found your podcast’s – you are awesome and I feel awesome when I listen to you! Xx

    I have two questions for you – the first one is about this podcast #75. What if you can’t choose not to be around your trigger person, because it is someone you work with 5 days a week? I love my job and don’t want to leave in order to not be around this person.

    The second question is: have you trained any Australian people to be Life Coaches? I’m interested in committing to doing the work on myself and would love to hire a Life Coach, but wonder how that would work if they weren’t in Australia – with the huge time difference between the USA & Australia? I am in Sydney’s western suburbs.

    Thank’s so much, you are so generous doing these podcasts for free – I really appreciate you xx

    1. Hi Linda, Glad you found Brooke’s podcast and are enjoying it! Thank you for your question. Brooke will be responding to questions in an upcoming Questions and Answers episode. Stay tuned! Brooke has trained many Life Coaches from Australia and all over the world. If you are interested in Brooke’s Self Coaching Scholars program, there are coaching calls at many different times to allow for different time zones. Here is the link to join: https://thelifecoachschool.com/join/ –Rebekah

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