Toxic Stew in the Garden

What would you say about someone who buys you a birthday gift, tells you where to pick it up and then — without telling you — gets their money refunded.
When you go to pick up your gift, the merchant says: “Sorry.”

Here’s what one expert says are 7 Tale-Tell Signs of a Toxic Relationship
You’re in a toxic relationship when the other person:
  1. Twists circumstances and conversations to their benefit
  2. Chides or punishes you for a mistake rather than helping you correct it
  3. Reminds you constantly or publicly of a disappointing experience or unmet expectation
  4. Takes credit or withholds recognition for new ideas and extra effort
  5. Focuses solely on meeting their goals and does so at your expense
  6. Fails to respect your need for personal space, time and honesty
  7. Stifles your talent and limits your opportunities for advancement

4 Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries with Toxic People

Difficult relationships are far more than a nuisance; they can cause anxiety, burnout, clinical depression and even physical illness. Healthy relationships can propel you to great heights of achievement; dysfunctional or toxic ones will tether you to mediocrity. When we mismanage relationships, the fall-out affects productivity and quite possibly our ability to achieve.

Van Moody, author of the forthcoming book,“The People Factor,” says social and interpersonal success depends on the ability to set the kinds of boundaries that encourage mutual respect.

“Every relationship you have influences you,” Moody said. “There are no neutral relationships; each one lifts you up or weighs you down. They move you forward or hold you back. They help you or they hurt you.”

When you know how to handle relationships appropriately, he says, it will make the difference between a fulfilling life or one that is riddled with disappointment, failure and regret.

Setting Boundaries with Toxic People

One of the best ways to deal with unhealthy people is to set boundaries. Healthy boundaries keep frustration and confusion low. Boundaries remind people of what is acceptable to you and what is reasonable to expect from you. Boundaries prevent unhealthy people from taking up too much of your time, energy or resources – all precious commodities. Be warned, toxic people don’t like boundaries because they want to shift responsibilities according to their mood. They will not set the boundaries for you.
Here are 4 ways you can set boundaries:
  • Manage Your Time. Set a limit on the amount of time you spend beyond the hours needed to be around the toxic individual. 
  • Express Yourself. Reveal aspects of your personality that will reinforce your values. Sometimes it’s a matter of letting people in a little bit to help keep your boundaries intact.
  • Play Your Part. Everyone plays a role: the victim, the brown-noser, the star, the slacker, the go-to guy. Build your reputation, and do it carefully and consistently. It’s important that others know what you stand for and what to expect from you. Then, don’t waiver.
  • Change the Conversation. Hanging out or working in close quarters or for long periods of time sometimes blurs the lines — between family members, co-workers, acquaintances. Here are suggested words to say to help you stay focused and away from nonproductive behavior: “Let’s focus on finishing the task at hand instead of the latest gossip so we can get out of here.”

So, what about the passive/aggressive gift giver, the person who likes to trumpet your short-comings at a family party, then cackles: “Tell the truth and shame the devil!” The idea is this statement seems to be that since I’m truly evil and in the devil’s clutches, any truth telling from me would be an affront to the devil’s own works by still clinging to a shred of integrity.

I suppose it’s intended as a classic gotcha– the short-hair clutch, the practiced chop-buster, by one who loosens the grip saying: “You know I’m only kidding,” and then spills gravy all over your party tablecloth, scoops up the leftovers from the holiday meal and blows out the front door, announcing to all present that you’re a selfish witch and Happy f—ing Halloween.

This scenario and many like it have happened to me. I appreciate Moody’s civil advice and in most families or work situations, the tips probably help. There are, however, lethal relationships, those beyond toxic that kill the spirit and wound the soul, that can’t be changed with behavior modification tips. I know these relationships too well. The advice in this case has got to be: “Run before you get further wounded, run before the hatred kills you. Run!

Have a wonderful Halloween — face the ghosts, fight the ghouls and stump the grumps. When it gets too scary, run.. Remember that November 1 is All Saints Day, the day the evil is put to rest and we begin anew with a pristine spirit. But, remember: Always carry silver bullets and a wooden stake.


Van Moody is the author of  The People Factor (an upcoming release by publisher Thomas Nelson) and a motivational speaker who advises on matters related to relationships as they pertain to friends, family, significant others and the workplace. He is a “People Scholar” who helps others build their “Relational IQ” to achieve success at home, in their social circles, and in business. He may be reached online at

Published by Kate Campbell

Writer, editor, photographer, novelist, short story writer, poet.

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