Are You a Toxic Person?

June 13th, 2011

by Bob Bernatz, Ph.D. -  Founder & CEO –

All of us to some extent have toxic people in our lives.  Unfortunately, many are some of our closest friends and family members.  To determine who is toxic and who is healthy is normally quite obvious but the following is a quick quiz to help you crystalize your perceptions.

Toxicity Quiz

1)  After talking with them, do you feel drained versus energized?

2)  Do they criticize first and ask clarifying questions later?

3)  Do they complain more than they exhibit gratitude?

4)  Do they expect special treatment that they may not deserve or require?

5)  Do they dominate the conversation by centering mostly on their own thoughts and ideas?

6)  Do they fail to ask you questions that show that they understand you and your thought process

7)  When you tell them a new idea, do they immediately focus on what can go wrong as opposed to what could go right?

8)  Do they state that something is impossible only because no one has yet to do it?

9)  Do they love to say “I told you so!” when you fail and take credit when you succeed?

10)  Finally, is life for them more like treading water as opposed to learning to live life competently?

Dealing With Toxic People

It is a tall order to give quick tips on dealing with toxic people since these folks are deeply entrenched in their behaviors but here’s a start:

1) Fine Whine - Toxic people are some of the most difficult people to deal with because they tend to whine ALOT but when you give them advice they either are insulted or denigrate your pearls of wisdom.  Either avoid giving advice or lower your expectations regarding their openness to accepting it.

2)  Cope-a-dope – It is difficult, if not downright hazardous, to call a spade a spade with many of these people.  Sometimes you simply have to learn coping techniques.  What is at the heart of their behaviors?  Usually a very deep fear such as losing control, being unwanted or alone, feeling overwhelmed, or feeling useless, hopeless, or helpless.  By understanding this you can empathize with them instead of being frustrated by them.

3)  Refocus Them – Try to short-circuit their negative mindset.  Do this by focusing on their strengths, their hobbies, loves and things about which you can genuinely compliment them and keep these as the focal point of the discussion.

4) “Half-Full” Thinking – Let them know up front that you want to focus on what will work, not on what won’t work in their life and relationships.

5)  Plan Ahead – Before you get together with a toxic person, consider setting an agenda addressing your own needs and questions.  If you can get some of your own needs met first, you will build up patience for them thus making them less able to drain your energy to zero.

6)  Dig Deeper - Ask them probing questions that reach to their feelings about things versus their thoughts about things.  Delve into their motivations, desires, and dreams to understand them at a deeper level.

7)  Behavior Mod – Catch them doing something right and compliment them.  Put them in situations where they will shine and keep them away from situations where they will cause problems.  Show them compassion and respect but be assertive.

8)  Guard Yourself – Respectfully limit your exposure to the chronically toxic.  Use phone calls, emails and letters.  Trust me, they will seek out some other person to drain. Understand that they won’t fall apart if you withdraw a bit.

9)  Make It a Game - By making it a game of how well you can anticipate the slights, you can chuckle to yourself at how accurate or inaccurate your guesses were.  This will lighten your attitude towards them and lessen the sting of their comments.

10)  You Are Not Alone – Most other people are seeing the same thing that you are.  Toxic people are missing something at a deep level.  Don’t try to change them.  That may really backfire on you.  Instead, invite them to your church, synagogue, a class or seminar, so that you can enlist the help of a “real professional” to reach them.

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What Are Your Blind Spots Costing You?

October 21st, 2009

by Bob Bernatz, Ph.D. -  Founder & CEO,

At VOXopolis, one of our central mission is to help our clients uncover the blind spots in their lives and, once understood, assist our clients in determining how to best address these blind spots.  This is done by either dealing with them head on through a variety of proven processes and techniques, or by simply learning to negate the impact of their blind spots on their personal and professional lives.

What are Blind Spots?

Blind spots come in just two varieties: prejudice or ignorance.

Blind spots stemming from prejudice are those that center on our values and beliefs as well as our formal and informal education.  Basically, these blind spots are created when you hold to a thought that simply is not true, true for some but not for others, or no longer true at all.

Examples include:

  • Because Karen had troubles in the past with her old staff, she thinks that she needs to micro-manage her new staff members if any work is going to get done.
  • Because a women grew up in a family where her father, uncles and brothers were all very dismissive of her, she now expects other men in her life to treat her the same way, often setting up a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Jim’s father told him that members of his family would always be poor since “you need money to make money in life.”  Jim never challenges this belief and thus never even thinks about applying to college or to seek a more lucrative job throughout his life.

Blind spots stemming from ignorance are those that center around a lack of awareness of your blind spots or, even if you are aware of them, an ignorance of the degree that your blind spots are affecting your performance or your relationship with others.  Some examples of these types of blind spots are:

  • Being oblivious that you nervously rap your fingers in meetings to allay your anxiety.
  • You regularly interrupt others in conversation thinking what you have to say is “obviously” more important.
  • You know that you drink a bit too much at business dinners and at office parties but you have no idea that it is beginning to turn off customers and jeopardize your job.

Blind spots can cause severe disruption in your personal and professional happiness and success.  Over the next couple of weeks, I will discuss how you can uncover your personal blind spots and what you can to do about them so that they don’t cause havoc in your relationships or your job.

By the way, as a teaser for next week, one technique to uncover some of your own blind spots is to simply ask others whom you trust what they perceive to be some of your more significant blind spots.  Asking others is the quickest way to begin the process of dealing with your own blind spots.  We ALL have blind spots.  What we don’t all have is the openness and courage to ask others what they may be.

Quick Tips on Getting the Best Feedback!

October 21st, 2009

by Bob Bernatz, Ph.D. -  Founder & CEO –

The Best Feedback Technique

Since getting quality feedback is one of the basics of a successful and happy life, InsightGlobal specializes in getting the most meaningful and applicable feedback possible for our clients so that they may gain far greater clarity and insight into their actions and behaviors.  We believe that without meaningful and applicable feedback, an individual or organization will fail in their pursuit of their goals.

Today’s OMW deals with the quickest and easiest feedback technique that we know.  It was created by Jack Canfield, author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”  I call it the “The Rule of 10″ technique.  I call it that because only a “10″ will do, so the “10’s” rule!  Here’s how it works:

The Rule of “10″

Ask anyone in your life (mate, client, co-worker, friend, etc.) the following two simple questions:

In what areas am I a “10″ in my interactions with you?

In the areas that I am not, how can I make them a “10″?

That’s it!  It sounds too simplistic yet it is extremely powerful.  Who among us wouldn’t appreciate sincerely phrased questions such as these.  The only drawback is that many people are conditioned to “be nice” to you thus negating the whole process.  But be insistent and genuine and then act quickly on their feedback to show them your sincerity and commitment to be a better mate, boss, or friend.