This On Purpose episode discusses dealing with negative and toxic people.
This topic has come up frequently in Jay Shetty’s conversations. Therefore, he laid out eight strategies for the listeners to apply when dealing with a toxic individual.
You May Know Toxic People
We’ve all encountered someone who has said something hurtful, created an awkward situation, criticized our ideas, or even mocked us. These unhealthy traits can take many forms. It could be someone gossiping about you, acting superior, being passive-aggressive, making you feel guilty or ashamed, or someone who changes their behavior based on who they are with.
Jay Shetty assures the listeners that they are not alone in these experiences. People often assume others’ lives are perfect based on their social media presence, leading them to expect the same from their own lives. This projection often results in disappointment, as real life rarely mirrors this idealized perfection.
According to a study quoted in Forbes, 84% of women and 75% of men in the United States reported having at least one toxic friendship1. Furthermore, one in three U.S. adults, including their closest friends, expressed dissatisfaction with their current connections. Yet, many feel lonely despite advanced technology meant to keep people more connected.
The United States Surgeon General has even spoken about a loneliness epidemic2. This statement highlights the importance of our connections and their quality; they directly impact our life’s satisfaction and the degree to which we feel seen, heard, and understood.
There is no doubt of the impact of toxic relationships on our day-to-day life, family, friends, work, and partner relationships. Therefore, Jay Shetty offers actionable advice for navigating these challenging relationships.
A Plenitude of Toxic Environments
Jay Shetty shares that 30 million U.S. workers believe their workplaces to be toxic3. According to Business Insider, three main factors contribute to toxic environments: toxic social norms, toxic leadership, and poorly designed jobs.
Toxic social norms are pervasive in many organizations. Often, people are treated the way their predecessors were treated, perpetuating a cycle of toxicity. Jay reminds the listeners that they can be the ones to break these cycles, as toxicity never fosters loyalty or long-term relationships.
The second factor, toxic leadership, directly correlates with workplace stress. Sloan Management Review indicates that toxic work cultures drive great resignation4. A Korn Ferry study supports this, showing 35% of employees view their boss as their most significant source of stress5. Leaders who haven’t been led well find it challenging to lead others effectively.
Sharing his personal experience, Jay Shetty often felt like his ideas were not taken seriously. He believes empowering team members and focusing on their strengths can drastically improve work culture. Moreover, he advocates for designing roles that align with people’s strengths, passions, and areas of curiosity, enabling personal growth and challenge.
The third factor of a toxic work environment mentioned by Business Insider is poorly designed jobs. Such roles can make people feel limited and prevent the growth of ideas.
However, toxicity isn’t confined to workplaces. According to the Journal of Violence and Victims, 48.4% of women and 48.8% of men have experienced psychological aggression from a partner6.
Jay Shetty brings attention to loneliness, not from a lack of social engagement but genuine support. He urges listeners to appreciate those in their lives who genuinely want the best for them and validate and acknowledge these individuals.
Toxicity is a spectrum, not a binary. We all have experienced or demonstrated toxic traits due to small-t or big-T traumas.
In dealing with toxic people, the first strategy Jay Shetty shares is the importance of setting boundaries. He had personal experiences with individuals who displayed unhealthy traits, such as demanding immediate assistance but disappearing once their needs were met.
Jay noticed he often neglected his needs and priorities to accommodate these individuals, leaving him frustrated and disappointed in himself. He emphasizes that it’s not about refusing help but managing his time and respecting his boundaries.
The solution Jay Shetty proposes is setting parameters and constraints. For example, if someone demands immediate attention, he might respond by explaining he only has five minutes available and suggesting a future time to discuss the issue in-depth. Often, this approach results in the individual resolving the problem independently or seeking help elsewhere.
Jay argues that such constraints protect one’s time and mental well-being while gently educating others about respecting boundaries. These parameters help convey personal priorities, reassuring the individual is valued and cared for without committing to constant availability.
The 75-25 Rule
Jay Shetty explained the 75-25 rule to manage toxic relationships. He recognizes that avoiding toxic individuals entirely may not be feasible, especially when they are colleagues or family members. Cutting them out entirely isn’t a practical solution.
Therefore, Jay recommends the 75-25 rule to navigate such unavoidable relationships. This rule suggests spending 75% of your time, energy, and focus on people who uplift you and with whom you share mutual respect and positive interactions. These could be your peers, partners, or those you collaborate or create with. Simultaneously, 25% can be allotted to those who exhibit toxic traits or negativity.
This strategy means being surrounded by a substantial amount of positivity, which can help cope with the 25% of unavoidable interactions with harmful or toxic individuals. It’s not about eliminating these people from your life but managing your exposure to them.
Not Yours to Fix
Jay Shetty underscores that you are not obligated to ‘fix’ others. Often, we exert significant energy trying to resolve issues with toxic individuals, which can detract from productive, positive endeavors. Jay advises against this self-imposed responsibility.
Jay emphasizes that investing time in trying to solve an issue beyond your control only drains your energy. Instead, if a resolution is needed, he recommends establishing a system. Systems can circumvent emotional baggage within teams, organizations, and personal relationships. They serve as a more efficient method of dealing with toxicity.
Jay highlights the importance of systems in resolving issues that can be challenging to handle emotionally. While having mature conversations with toxic individuals might be hard, implementing an organized approach can significantly ease these interactions.
Create a System
Jay Shetty’s fourth strategy stresses the power of setting up systems and maintaining schedules as practical defensive measures. He advises employing phrases such as “Let me confirm with my team” or “Let me check back at home,” which can act as shields, preventing instant commitments that could lead to regrets later on. This method creates a buffer zone, allowing for thoughtful and strategic communication.
A defining trait of toxic personalities is the false sense of urgency they frequently instill. Everything demands an immediate response or decision. Jay Shetty suggests combating this by creating space and taking time to think before responding. Instead of reacting on impulse, pause, assess, and respond in a way that aligns with your true feelings and priorities. This approach relieves pressure and fosters more desirable outcomes. Moreover, it minimizes the influence and impact of toxic individuals in your life.
Create a Policy
Jay Shetty’s fifth approach involves creating personal policies. Just as governments and businesses establish regulations, he encourages crafting rules or agreements with oneself to manage interactions with negative influences.
The policy creation hinges on the If-This-Then-That principle. Identify the situations and locations where the toxic person seems most disruptive, for instance, at a work presentation or holiday party. By recognizing these triggers, you can prepare in advance for these moments.
A client of Jay’s found their ideas consistently shut down by a colleague. Rather than presenting ideas directly to the whole team, they began discussing their thoughts individually with team members ahead of time. This strategy enabled the development of a robust notion backed by multiple colleagues, hence neutralizing the negative influence.
This approach involves thoughtful, mindful strategies addressing the issue’s root rather than focusing on the negative person derailing the situation. It’s about building support networks and strategic policies to shield oneself from toxicity.
Everyone Has Baggage
You need to understand others’ behavior roots. Jay Shetty suggests examining the background of toxic individuals to comprehend where their negativity stems from. Often, those who limit your potential have had their potential restricted. Being conscious of this can help you to separate the person’s negative actions from your self-worth. This perspective emphasizes that the toxic person’s actions aren’t personal but a reflection of their hardships.
A typical error we make is internalizing the negativity from toxic individuals. We take on guilt and shame and mistakenly believe we need to change. However, understanding that the toxic individual’s actions are an outward manifestation of their pain allows us to distance ourselves from that pain. Thereby we can protect ourselves from the emotional harm they could inflict.
Look in the Mirror
Jay Shetty suggests a challenging technique, which he learned as a monk. It involves noticing if the trait you dislike in someone else is one you might also possess.
For instance, if you are bothered by someone who doesn’t show enough care, you should reflect upon your behavior to see if you might be doing the same in your relationships. Jay explains that we often expect awareness from others about their negative traits. Still, we may be oblivious to ours.
Identifying the disliked trait within ourselves promotes understanding and compassion for the complexities of human nature. This understanding allows us to extend grace toward ourselves when we slip up and exhibit these negative traits. It also extends grace toward the toxic individual, recognizing that they may be battling their own complex issues. It is crucial to be self-aware and empathetic when dealing with difficult individuals.
Change Focus Toward Positivity
Jay Shetty’s final strategy involves shifting our focus away from toxic individuals and toward those who help us unlock our potential. He emphasizes that we often give too much attention to people causing pain while neglecting those who inspire and guide us.
Jay encourages the listeners to seek mentors and engage with communities that foster positive relationships. These connections have enduring value, unlike the temporary toxicity from negative individuals.
Jay Shetty’s eight strategies for dealing with toxic people encourage creating a positive environment, focusing on personal growth and protection, and cultivating meaningful relationships. This holistic approach to dealing with toxic people allows you to survive such relationships and thrive despite them.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “8 Strategies to Deal With Toxic or Negative People in Your Life, Work, And Relationships” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.
1Beheshti, Naz. “Toxic Influence: An Average Of 80% Of Americans Have Experienced Emotional Abuse.” Web log. Forbes (blog), May 15, 2020. https://www.forbes.com/sites/nazbeheshti/2020/05/15/an-average-of-80-of-americans-have-experienced-emotional-abuse/.
2“New Surgeon General Advisory Raises Alarm about the Devastating Impact of the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the United States.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, May 3, 2023. Office of the Surgeon General. https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/05/03/new-surgeon-general-advisory-raises-alarm-about-devastating-impact-epidemic-loneliness-isolation-united-states.html.
3Nolan, Beatrice. “30 Million US Workers Think Their Workplace Is Toxic. Here Are the 3 Main Factors Causing Toxic Work Cultures, According to Research.” Business Insider (blog), October 9, 2022. https://www.businessinsider.com/toxic-workplaces-culture-work-leadership-social-culture-2022-9?r=US&IR=T.
4Sull, Donald, Charles Sull, and Ben Zweig. “Toxic Culture Is Driving the Great Resignation.” MIT Sloan Management Review (blog), January 11, 2022. https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/toxic-culture-is-driving-the-great-resignation/.
5“Worried Workers: Korn Ferry Survey Finds Professionals Are More Stressed Out at Work Today Than 5 Years Ago.” Korn Ferry, November 8, 2018. https://www.kornferry.com/about-us/press/worried-workers-korn-ferry-survey-finds-professionals-are-more-stressed-out-at-work-today-than-5-years-ago.
6Karakurt G, Silver KE. Emotional abuse in intimate relationships: the role of gender and age. Violence Vict. 2013;28(5):804-21. doi: 10.1891/0886-6708.vv-d-12-00041. PMID: 24364124; PMCID: PMC3876290.