How To Respond With Love To Toxic Communication

how to respond to toxic people and relationships with love, tips for toxic relationships, #relationshiptips, #Relationshipadvice, #toxicpeople, #toxicrelationships, #communication, communication relationship skills

This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support.

Prefer to listen instead of read? Scroll to the bottom of the post!

About a year ago, I wrote an article on harmful communication tactics to stop using. In the post I talk about common toxic communication styles, like assuming feelings and shifting blame, and how you can replace them from your language. As I re-read the post, I realized that my thoughts about toxic communication have grown and I had more to say on the topic.


Toxic communication patterns apply to how you speak to yourself too

Often times, especially as women, our internal dialogue can actually be the biggest “Negative Nancy” we come in contact with each day. Don’t get me wrong, men can have a negative internal dialogue too, but as women, we tend to feel a global responsibility for everyone and everything around us. People pleasing and keeping the peace are often the ultimate guide when it comes to our interactions with ourselves and others.

In order to keep the peace, what do most of us do?

We rationalize our feelings, shift blame onto others or ourselves, and allow our ego to deny and justify. But all of that keeps us stuck. When we allow ourselves to use any of harmful communication patterns in our internal dialogue, it keeps us feeling less than, not good enough, and trapped in the perpetuating cycle of self-doubt (or self hate).

And how does all of that self loathing manifest?

Typically we turn that anger inward, becoming depressed and anxious. Mental health is one of the biggest women’s health issues that simply isn’t talked about enough. Emotional stress can also lead to high blood pressure and greater chances of becoming ill and abusing substances (more on emotional stress here).

Instead, imagine if you could own your choices, behaviors, and mistakes – how would that feel?!



Why? Because we don’t have to hide. We can move into the light, let go of guilt and shame, take ownership of our lives, and feel love for who we truly are. In doing this, we can stop harming ourselves, and the people around us. When we honor and respect what we tell ourselves, we honor and respect everyone we come in contact with.

When we honor and respect what we tell ourselves, we honor and respect everyone we come in contact with. Click To Tweet

How To Respond To Harmful Communication Tactics: With Love

Keep in mind, this is how you can respond when certain things come up with OTHER people, but also when they come up WITHIN ourselves!

When you come into contact with anything that feels toxic or harmful simply respond with love.

When someone comes up to you (or when you say to yourself) anything negative or hurtful, respond simply by saying “I love (the opposite of what is happening) about you.” For example, say someone (or you) start shifting blame, “can you believe so-and-so didn’t do that? He totally screwed me over!”

Before the person (or your mind) can keep feeding into this story of blame, shame, and guilt — pause and respond with: “I love how you can see everyone’s role in a situation, including your own, and know exactly how to move forward.”

All of the sudden, instead of adding to the problem, we are moving towards a solution rooted in love and light.

You see, when we are doing something “negative” it means we have the capacity for the “positive.” If we notice anger coming up, it means we have the ability to give humor, compassion, and healing.

Here are a few more examples of how to respond with love, based on some of the most common toxic communication habits:

Assuming feelings:

When you hear:

“You need to relax”

Spread love with your response:

Option 1: “I love how you can be so serene, like a tranquil lake”

Option 2: “I love how you ask for clarity about others feelings and what’s truly going on.”

Shifting Blame:

When you hear:

“Well what do you want me to say? It wasn’t my fault I couldn’t be there, I had the to do this other thing”

Spread love with your response:

“I love when you take ownership for your time and communicate your needs with others.”

Denial or “playing dumb”:

When you hear:

“I have no idea what you’re talking about. That never happened. I didn’t do that.”

Spread love with your response:

Option 1: “I love how you can take responsibility for your actions and own your mistakes. It’s a really beautiful quality of yours.”

Option 2: “I love how even when we have different perspectives of what happened we can support each other.”

Uhh… this sounds lovely… but also sarcastic AF. What do I do if someone gets more angry at me for saying this stuff?

Ahhh, I’m glad you asked! First, you’ll notice as you’re doing this, you’ll actually mean what you’re saying. Even if you start out saying it as just a silly exercise, as the words leave your mouth, notice how a shift has happened within you and you see the love and beauty in the situation. All of the sudden, the statement is coming from a place of unconditional love. It’s said with integrity.

When you’re actually coming from a place of unconditional love, the other person will feel it. Maybe not right away, maybe they will think it’s an act, maybe they will even get angrier… but when you come from a place of unconditional love, whatever they throw at you next, will simply be from that exact same place of love.

You are an unwavering stream of love in every interactionClick To Tweet

If you’re coming from a place of unconditional love, remember, you are now helping the person manifest this quality in themselves. By responding with love, you’ve changed the course of your relationship for the better. You’ve given them a gift instead of feeding into their toxicity and reminded them of what they are capable of.

Okay, great. But what if I don’t feel unconditional love towards the person?

You have to ask yourself “why?” Typically, in my experience, if I struggle with finding love for a person it’s because something inside of them is a quality inside of myself I haven’t fully embraced yet. For example, if you’ve been a reader of the blog for a long time, you know that my mom and I have had a strained relationship for the better part of my 20s. Our conversations would typically go like this:

Mom: You beat a dead horse, you can’t leave things in the past. You think I’m just a terrible mother!

Me: You won’t acknowledge any of the feelings or things that happened, you won’t forgive me or yourself, you hate me.

Here’s the reality though:

I actually admired my mom’s quality of leaving things in the past. As a little girl, I struggled to understand emotions. I watched people hide them, bury them, and cover them up. So I ran towards them and sat in them. All in an attempt to try to understand them, I wouldn’t let them go. I wouldn’t stop playing with them, even when they were super heavy and making me depressed.

My mom was 100% right that I beat a dead horse and couldn’t leave things in the past alone. I was stuck in the past. And I admired that she could look at a situation, say “well this happened, let’s go” and move on. The truth was that I hated myself and just wanted her to acknowledge things happened for external validation that she truly saw me and accepted me. But even if she had done that it wouldn’t have helped since I didn’t love myself. I kept looking to her to give me the acceptance and answers, when they were within me all along.


The Takeaway:

If you don’t have unconditional love for someone, it’s because you don’t embrace that part of yourself yet.

We are all connected, loving mirrors of one another. If someone agitates you, run towards them and offer them love because it means you'll be offering the gift of love to yourself. Click To Tweet

Since I realized how I’ve processed emotions against my personal grain (we all have different capabilities in processing emotions, and what works for one person isn’t necessarily the answer the next), I’ve been able to let a lot of things go. I’ve been able to embrace myself in a totally new and beautiful way because I’m not getting mixed into other people’s drama.

As always, if you’re struggling with mental health, know you’re not alone (read about my mental health journey here). Hancock Regional put together a helpful articles on where to turn for mental health help here and here. And for more tips on creating your best life, check out Hancock Regional’s Women’s site, and this article on juggling the demands of work and home.

Listen to this blog post plus an in-depth discussion with real life examples of implementing this strategy after the post (circa 10 min mark):

[buzzsprout episode=’668995′ player=’true’]

Click here for more episodes like this.


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Grab TCM’s Positive Self Talk Worksheet

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  • Michelle Lensing
    January 30, 2018 at 8:55 am

    This is great advice! I like how it takes the focus off of whatever the problem is and really tunes in on a solution.

  • Lecy | A Simpler Grace
    January 30, 2018 at 10:53 am

    This is awesome advice, Rachel. The trick is in the delivery!

  • Sepideh
    January 30, 2018 at 11:28 am

    When I realized that oftentimes, I mirrored things I didn’t like in myself in my reaction and responses to was a game-changer. It can be hard to admit our own shortcomings but when we are able to pinpoint the things that we want to improve in ourselves, there is so much potential for growth!

    I’m learning to do like your mom, to let go…. but I must admit that I have a hard time with that..

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 6, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      BOOM! You know it! You only have as hard of a time with it as you choose to have! I’m going to be launching life consulting to lift people out of those stories and more content around that topic actually!

  • Erica @ Coming up Roses
    January 30, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    That flipping-the-response trick is SO SO good. Spot on, GF!!!

  • Miss ALK
    January 30, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    This sounds like such a useful technique! It is amazing what spreading positivity and love can do. (And you look beautiful in these pics!)

    xoxo A

  • Kristen Jones
    January 30, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    This is such an amazing post! This is something I’d definitely like to embrace more when I’m feeling negative or surrounded with anything/anyone toxic!

  • Marci Smith
    January 30, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    This is so true and such great advice. I really want to respond more positively.

  • mckenna bleu
    January 30, 2018 at 7:45 pm

    This is such an awesome post! I really enjoyed reading it. You are a very talented writer. Great advice all around!

  • thesophiadiaries
    January 30, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    thanks for sharing all of these useful tips and insights! you are seriously so full of knowledge that i totally gotta pick your brain one day about just life in general <3

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 6, 2018 at 3:42 pm

      Awe thank you!! It’s super hush hush but I’m actually launching life consulting services in the coming months with some fun free ways to work with me!! haha!!

  • Jenny
    January 30, 2018 at 9:02 pm

    I love this, Rachel! This is so helpful for me.

  • Monica Delmonico
    January 30, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    Well this article is so timely for me right now! I’ve found myself in a couple toxic conversations lately — and I didn’t know what to do! I hate it! Thanks for arming me with responses!

  • Nichole
    January 30, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    This is such a great read Rachel, thanks so much for sharing. I know I need to work on my communication, and stop being so negative. I am definitely a negative nancy, and always assume the negative. I think practicing responding with love, is such a great mind shift in how we interact with ourselves and others.

  • Crystal @ Dreams, etc.
    January 31, 2018 at 12:03 am

    Last year I really worked on reframing how I responded to the way others spoke to me. I never actually responded, but after reading this I might try that next time, but there are certain people in my life who lash out when they’re frustrated. I’d always take it personally, so last year I decided that I wasn’t going to anymore, and I reminded myself of that when I’d have these interactions with them. Well, there’s one person in particular and it’s someone that I want to have in my life/they’re a close relative so I also can’t walk away. So I reminded myself of the reasons behind this person lashing out when frustrated, and recognized that it wasn’t a reflection on me or my worth. Next time I might say something like this. I know this behavior comes from insecurity on their end.

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      January 31, 2018 at 8:49 am

      OMG SAME! In reference to “I never actually respond” –> that has been the story of my life! In the past I would just sit there and let them dump allllll over me! I love how simple this is – just one sentence that they need to be reminded of. And I’ve done it on my husband when he’s complained about something and his entire energy shifts and he’s so happy and just relieved! so don’t try to do it with this person – DO IT! And let me know how it goes!!!

  • Thena Reading-Franssen
    January 31, 2018 at 12:09 am

    Great points to get out of that negative mindframe! Thank you for these awesome tips!

  • Taylor @
    January 31, 2018 at 1:16 am

    These are great points!! I really need to learn to do some of these!

  • Brittany Strawbridge
    January 31, 2018 at 8:10 am

    This is beautiful and a must read for everyone! I think accepting the past but being able to forgive it and move ahead is so so crucial! Thanks for sharing!! xx

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 6, 2018 at 3:40 pm

      But if you’re forgiving you aren’t really accepting – the two can’t exist in the same place. To forgive means there there is a right and a wrong – it’s duality. Acceptance on the other hand is a singular destination of letting all that is, be! I spent sooo many years thinking forgiveness was the key to letting go, but it was the key to tally counts and hierarchy…. I have another post coming on forgiveness in the coming months haha

  • Caitlin Elisabeth
    January 31, 2018 at 8:44 am

    ok def looking into this when the time comes- these are all really valid points!

  • Deborah
    January 31, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    You are so insightful! These are all excellent responses to tough situations!

  • Sarah Jean
    January 31, 2018 at 1:13 pm

    I love how we don’t have to continue the harmful/toxic communication but can not only stop it, but turn it into something positive! I let other peoples comments bother me for a long time but will try these positive responses next time.

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 6, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      YESSS! I used to just sit and absorb when others were negative and then wondered why i was so sarcastic, anxious, and depressed all the time lolol

  • Mistle
    January 31, 2018 at 1:58 pm

    We were actually touching on this a bit at my work meeting today. We have been reading “The Energy Bus” and it’s all about taking the negative in your life and turning it around. Rather it be how you speak to someone, how they speak to you,etc. I am a very sarcastic person, so for someone who is more sensitive then myself, I change the way I respond to them. I know for myself when I am having a bad day my responses are snappy, so I really try to stop myself and respond more positively. This is a great reminder that you can change a whole conversation by how you respond to someone.

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 6, 2018 at 3:37 pm

      Ohh I’ll have to check it out!! – I used to be super sarcastic too and then I realized that for me, sarcasm was just passive aggressiveness I was taking out on myself and projecting onto others and magically it just left my system!

  • Hannah @ AndThenWeTried
    January 31, 2018 at 2:28 pm

    I feel like I just had a therapy session in the best way. This was super helpful and a great reminder for me to pause and assess a situation before just lashing out when someone is being toxic. Awesome post!

  • Lily Ayala
    January 31, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    I always learn something new from your posts — you’re so insightful and full of knowledge!

  • Aitza B
    January 31, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    This is so important. I was just chatting with someone about how to navigate conversations that sometimes a can turn harms or toxic. One of the best books I really on effective communication was Difficult Conversations by Douglas Stone. It offers an example structure just like this post.

  • Kiara Catanzaro
    January 31, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Wow is honestly all I have to say to this post because it’s everything that I needed to read right now. Responding with love is so important in every situation, and your insight was so helpful. Your examples are also helpful because I’m sure it can come off sarcastic to people if it’s something you’re not used to practicing, or they’re not used to haring that type of response. I really want to apply this to my life, and I’m particularly thinking about the work place. Going off of that, do you have any additional tips if it’s related to people at work? Anything you think is definitely a “don’t?” Thanks, Rachel!

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 1, 2018 at 8:19 am

      Honestly, I don’t think there are any don’ts other than to really mean what you’re saying. My husband did this to his boss and a friend the other day (both very alpha-type a men) and initially one of them kept going down the negative road thinking he was joking and he was like, “no I’m serious I really love blah blah blah about you) and then (with both of them) when they took in what he said it stopped both of them dead in their tracks where they started apologizing for how they were acting! The workplace is a fantastic place to use this IMO since it’ll really foster a more secure environment which I think will spill over to so many different dynamics in the office! – so just be prepared to repeat it a few times and make your intentions known (that you aren’t joking and are serious).

      • Kiara Catanzaro
        February 1, 2018 at 8:45 am

        Thank you SO much for your response! I’ll need to let you know how it goes next time these conversations come up at work, but I really appreciate you giving a little more insight ❤️

  • April | The Blue Hydrangeas
    January 31, 2018 at 8:47 pm

    This is such a helpful post! For anyone who deals with the public on a regular basis it is absolutely necessary to implement these suggestions. More often than not we forget that perhaps the other person is just having a bad day and responding with love is such a positive way to handle negative conversations.

  • Helen @ Hel On Heels
    January 31, 2018 at 8:56 pm

    These are fantastic points and great ways to re-frame questions and responses. I love the idea of combating negativity with love.

  • Michelle Morton
    January 31, 2018 at 9:13 pm

    Love this! Thank you so much for sharing. Love yourself and make room for others to love you.

  • Melissa Cruz
    February 1, 2018 at 9:27 am

    It can be worse hard though! I need to take time to answer or else I say hurtful things. I get upset so easily sometimes I really need to work on that. Responding with love is the way to go. Why to be upset, there’s no reason for that. Love this!

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 6, 2018 at 3:34 pm

      Ahh it’s only hard if you choose to make it hard! You’re literally cursing yourself girl! Limiting that the only way you can respond is by taking them time or you’ll say hurtful stuff when you know that isn’t the only possibility/reality! You know you are pure love and light, you’ve seen the shamanic way <3

  • Alix Maza
    February 1, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    I really need to work on this! Thanks for posting these.

  • Bella B @ xoxoBella
    February 1, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    this is such a wonderful read, I always enjoy your posts!! I am totally saving this.

  • Danielle Randall
    February 2, 2018 at 8:03 am

    wow! This is such a great post with wonderful advice!

  • Taylor Smith
    February 2, 2018 at 10:33 am

    Interesting perspective, Rachel. I’ll have to try that out next time someone I know is spreading negative and toxic feelings.

  • Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew
    February 2, 2018 at 11:45 am

    This is something that everyone should read! Communication is always key so this is a must.

  • Ashley Vickney
    February 2, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    This is SO helpful to me right now. I’ve been having the hardest time responding to an important person in my life with love and not negativity. Thank you!

    • [email protected] Confused Millennial
      February 6, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      Ahh I can totally relate! Just know, that you are creating the relationship. When you respond with love, they’ll change and it’ll be easy to hold that space and accept where they are at <3

  • Alexa Bartimus
    February 6, 2018 at 9:33 am

    This was a wonderful post, it is so hard dealing with toxic people or even realizing that maybe we are the toxic person and change

  • [email protected] Confused Millennial
    February 6, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    Thank you!! Sending you all the love & light <3

  • [email protected] Confused Millennial
    February 6, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Yeah but it’s not about those people. It’s about you mirroring this to others so they can see it in themselves and allow that part of themselves to come out. There’s nothing to learn, only a place of remembrance and reflection <3

  • [email protected] Confused Millennial
    February 6, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    YES!! Love that! you’re creating your reality in that sense! and thank you for the kind words!! <3

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