Breaking up with toxic friends & difficult people

breaking up with toxic friends

A couple of weeks ago we were on our live broadcast (AKA a mass Google Hangout) with all of our lovely Passion Plan Virtual Experience peeps.

Someone asked a question that, all of a sudden, prompted other people to chime in with variations of, “Yes! I’ve been there! Someone else has experienced this! I’m not nuts!”

It was one of those awesome moments when I’m really grateful for our clients, because it wouldn’t have occurred to me that evening to discuss that topic with them.

The issue? It went something like, “How do you ‘break up’ with toxic friends?”

The client who shared her story said that she’d been trying to distance herself from a group of friends that were always making her feel bad about herself, never “got her,” and were actively harassing her over email (yikes).

While hopefully most of you aren’t being harassed right now, I think it’s long overdue that we addressed this, don’t you? Because I know a lot of you have been there when it comes to funky or downright toxic friendships.

And even if you’re blessed with non-toxic friendships, I bet you’d like to know how to handle generally difficult people, yes? Alright, let’s go there.


{Ever heard that expression? It’s my new favorite.}

This should become your new mantra (not the thing about the monkeys, though feel free to adopt that, too!). Repeat after me:

What other people say and do is about them. Not me. In fact, it never says anything about me.

Personally, I tend to get pretty miffed when people are rude. Take, for example, when I schedule a free breakthrough coaching session with someone, we confirm the call the day before, and then they totally ghost me. They don’t bother to send a, “Sorry, can we reschedule?” email or a quick text that they can’t make it. Nothin’.

My gut reaction is to get peeved about this. Why? Because my time is valuable, and if I’d known you were going to be a no-show I might have given it away to someone who was eager to talk.

But then I remember the truth: No matter why they were rude, their behavior says nothing about me.

We have a tendency to automatically assume that other people’s rude, dismissive, angry, bossy, or otherwise annoying behavior must have something to do with us.

In my case, I’ll think things like, “What if I’m a shitty coach?” or “What if I somehow did something to shut this person down?”

But do you know what’s much more likely? The person got scared.

Because after all, choosing to get coached means opening yourself up to change. And change terrifies the shit out of some people. So they’ll “forget” to call me, or just run away, because they flirted a little too closely with change and couldn’t handle it.

Or maybe they legitimately forgot. Maybe they got stuck in traffic. Maybe they got caught up in a work meeting.

It doesn’t really matter why they did what they did. It still has nothing to do with me.

And when you can truly believe that it’s not about you, then instead of feeling victimized by other people’s actions, you get a choice: “How do I want to choose to interact with them going forward?”

Sometimes, just detaching yourself from their crap is enough to neutralize any bad energy you feel. You can let it go and move on. But sometimes, a clean break is necessary.


Really, truly believing that other people’s crap isn’t about you means something else, too:

You can’t try to “fix” people.

All of my clients are really kind, loving people. And the ones who have a tough time with difficult friends (or any other kind of person) are typically the same ones who think, “Well, if I just explained myself a little better,” or “If I could just help them then they would be easier to tolerate.”

Even worse, they’ll think things like “Am I a bad person for wanting distance from this person?” and “I feel so guilty for how I feel!”

Make no mistake. If someone is constantly draining your energy, making you feel badly about yourself, or treating you poorly … you have every right to “break up” with them.

You know what’s funny? If you were in a romantic relationship with someone toxic, everyone would support you in breaking up with that person. But with friends or colleagues we somehow feel like we “can’t” or that it’s “different.”

People are people!

twitter-bird Any person, including friends, deserves to be broken up with if they make you feel like crap.


Here’s my best {and brief} guidance when it comes to making a break and still feeling good about yourself:

  1. Realize that it’s not supposed to feel good at first. Breaking up with people is naturally a little awkward and very uncomfortable. If you wait until you feel 100% brave or 100% ready you’ll never do it. It’s supposed to feel scary and uncomfortable. Do it anyway.
  1. Get it alllll out in a way that makes you feel authentic. I told our Virtual Experience client from the beginning of this blog to write a thoughtful, firm, and honest email to her toxic friends that made her feel like she’d held nothing back. Getting everything off of your chest and feeling like there’s nothing left to say means you can hit send (or hang up, or walk away) and be at peace with your choice.
  1. Don’t point blame at them (even if they deserve it). Because that’s just going to trigger defensiveness and closed-mindedness. Make this about you, your values, and how you desire to live your life, not about what they’ve done.
  1. Really, truly refrain from re-engaging. Toxic people often can’t let things go. They might rage, cry, bitch, moan, etc. … but hold firm. You can’t have a clean break if you allow people to creep back in and steal your time and energy.

So, what do you think? Have you had experience with toxic friendships or difficult people? And how might you deal with it moving forward?

Much Love,

Rachel (+ Kristen)

4 Comments // ADD COMMENT


  • Kichmanowich

    What if a toxic person in your environment is your closest family, your father for example. How do you break up in that kind of situation?

  • Max


    Great post!
    I’m currently working on a sort of break up. it sucks. The guilt! But, I’ll work thorough it and find new friends that don’t drain my energy.
    So, how does one go about finding new friends? 😉

  • Angelica @ SyntaxxErrorrr

    I love the sentiment that someone else’s actions are a reflection of them, not me! I’ve been struggling with people blowing off our scheduled appointment calls too. I have to write a post about this right now. Thanks for the inspiration!

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