People Can Be Hazardous to Your Health, Too! Guest Blogger Debbie Phillips

Photography:  Rob Berkley

 I’m delighted to share the wise words and thoughts of a special friend and this month’s guest blogger, Debbie Phillips.  Debbie is an author, speaker and the founder of Women on Fire, an organization that promotes women’s success through inspiration, strategies and support.  She and her husband, Rob Berkley, conduct “Vision Days,” life coaching retreats on Martha’s Vineyard which have helped me tremendously in my own life and work. 

I’ve just completed a weekend of Vision Days, and am re-energized with new goals, both personal and professional.    Please enjoy Debbie’s insights here, to inspire you in your own life.

You’d never roll toxic paint onto your beautiful living room walls.

And, you wouldn’t hand your precious child a cadmium-tainted toy.

Ditto for cleaning solvents with odors that knock you on your heels.

So, why on earth would you ever allow a toxic human being to contaminate you, your lovely environment and your peace of mind?

In my nearly two decades working as a life and executive coach, how to handle toxic people is right up there with “how do I discover my life’s purpose?”

Almost everyone has someone who wreaks havoc on their well-being – and many people live with an abundance of toxic intruders.

The offenders range from help-rejecting complainers to down-right nasty or hurtful people who zap your energy, leaving you physically or emotionally drained.

These include people with explosive tempers, offensive and annoying behaviors, people without boundaries who trample all over yours.  There may even be people you don’t feel physically safe to be around.

“But I’m related to her,” I will often hear.  Or, “he’s my boss and I’m at his mercy.”

There is good news!

Just as you can transform your home from toxic to eco-friendly, you can do the same to your life by removing toxic human energy.

Photography:  Rob Berkley

By following these steps you are on your way to a “greener life”:

1)      Make a list of toxic people in your life. They can be relatives, co-workers, bosses, friends, neighbors, anyone you may feel dread seeing, thinking about or being with. If you’re not sure who is toxic in your life, ask someone you trust who cares deeply about you.  Sometimes we’ve put up for so long with someone toxic that we become numb to the abuse.

2)      Create a scale from 1 to 5 — with 1 being annoying to 5 being harmful or destructive to your spirit and well-being.  Now rate each toxic person on your list.

3)      Starting with anyone who receives a 3 or higher score, decide how you wish to handle.

Photography:  Rob Berkley

Here are some effective ways for handling most toxic people:

1)      Minimize your contact with them.  Just because you’ve known gossipy, negative Jane since the 6th grade, it doesn’t mean you have to keep her on your invitation list or accept one from her.

2)      Declare your space a Positive Zone.  One client informed her toxic mother that she would no longer participate in any negative criticism about family members.  She then told relatives that if they heard through the grapevine anything she said that was less than flattering, they could be assured it wasn’t true. She created a Positive Zone in her life.  It worked! Over time, she simply politely excused herself from family conversations that devolved into character assassinations of others.

3)     Calmly and clearly inform toxic offender that “it’s not OK to yell, criticize, berate, etc.” Let them know you will remove yourself from the situation.

Photography:  Rob Berkley

You’ve turned the corner to a more non-toxic life when you can easily answer these questions and make a choice:

1) Does this person leave me feeling depressed, demoralized, belittled, misunderstood, criticized or exhausted?

2) Or, does this person leave me feeling uplifted, supported, understood, respected, cared about, and alive with possibilities?

May your life be filled with eco-friendly people!

Debbie Phillips  and her husband Rob Berkley live on Martha’s Vineyard and in Naples, FL.  Learn more about Debbie and her work at or at  www.visionday.comAll photos kindly provided by Rob Berkley.  See more of his work at


Photography:  Rob Berkley