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

Wondering how to respond with love to toxic communication? Here's my tried and true guide of the exact tips I use to deal with negativity, abusive language, narcissistic people, and more!

This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site.

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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).


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Originally published on 1/30/18

38 thoughts on “How To Respond With Love To Toxic Communication”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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).

    2. 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 ❤️

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

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

  7. Kaitlyn Fickle Killebrew

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

  8. 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!

  9. 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

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