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Work with Toxic People? Here's How to Cope

Wednesday, February 14, 2018


If you work with a toxic person, someone who is abusive, controlling, or try to cause you harm, find out how to cope with their behavior and what steps you can take to minimize their bullying.Do you have any toxic people in your life? People who are abusive, controlling, or try to cause you harm? Generally, you can get rid of this negativity by cutting toxic friends, family members, and acquaintances out of your life or at least drastically reducing contact with them.

But when you work with toxic people, the solution to your problem isn’t that easy. You have to work with them whether you want to or not. So how can you cope?

Here are some ways to protect yourself from a toxic workmate:

  • Assess if the person truly is toxic. Are they abusive or just difficult? Are they absorbed in themselves to the detriment of others, or are they just overcompensating? It’s worth considering because sometimes people who are not truly toxic can be won over by kindness and compassion and become less difficult. Behind their annoying behaviors, there may be feelings of inadequacy, vulnerability, or a longing for attention and personal connections.

  • Don’t take to heart what toxic people say to you or about you. Words can hurt, especially when we’re barraged with subtle digs all day long. It's easy to withdraw into yourself, feeling hurt and rejected. Then you replay, rehash, and relive the experience over and over again. Don’t do that. Don’t absorb what toxic people say and let it reach you emotionally. Stay calm and rational. Doing so will help you diffuse the situation, rather than providing the bully with the reaction they hoped for.

  • Improve your emotional intelligence (EQ). This may sound counterintuitive because the toxic person should be the one working on their EQ! But really, people with a high EQ can neutralize the effect of toxic people. They stay aware of their emotions and remain calm and objective. They establish clear boundaries and decide when they have to put up with a toxic person and when they don’t. They can keep an emotional distance from the person without becoming cold and uncaring. People with a high EQ also understand that holding a grudge doesn’t do them any good, so they have an easier time letting things go that bring them stress.

  • Continue to do your best work. Rudeness in the workplace is known to stifle creativity, problem-solving, and efficiency. Counteract the inclination to lay low at work by continuing to put your best foot forward. In addition to helping you be your best self, this also casts doubt on any negative things your toxic workmate says about you.

  • Keep your interactions with the toxic person to a minimum. Engage with them as little as possible, and they may move on to someone or something else. Speak in a neutral voice. Keep your responses short and unemotional. Stay on topics that are boring or inconsequential. Don’t engage when they taunt you or make eye contact. Avoid sharing personal information with them and don’t ask them anything personal. Make yourself seem as uninterested in them and as uninteresting to them as possible.

  • Document everything.
    Make sure to keep a record of toxic behavior. Write down what happened, when it happened, who witnessed it, etc. Keep emails, notes, and even voicemails. If things reach a point a point where you need to bring the problem to the attention of your employer, Human Resources, or beyond, this ensures you have the necessary information to make your case.

  • Focus on yourself. You can be happy if you keep your focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. You can’t control your workmate or make them change their personality. But you can continue to work becoming the best possible version of yourself. And remember, sometimes they healthiest choice is to walk away. You can work elsewhere!

Toxic people in the workplace often have severe Empathy Dysfunction (EmD). This is characterized by an “all-about-me” attitude and is manifested in thoughtless, self-absorbed behavior. The result is contemptible harm to those around them. My upcoming book, “When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” delves into Empathy Disorders and offers advice on how you can protect yourself from people who can’t or won’t demonstrate empathy. You can read the first chapter here.

Are you in a position of leadership and see signs of toxic behavior in your business? Or are you on the receiving end of this type of demoralizing behavior and want it to stop? Many have found that consulting with a trained therapist and business coach has helped them find positive solutions. Please contact my office in Jantzen Beach to schedule an appointment or take advantage of online therapy.

My New Book Introduces You to the Empathy Scale (EmD Scale)

Monday, February 12, 2018


Over a decade ago, it felt like my life turned into a nightmare of intrigue not unlike a Hollywood crime mystery script. I felt like Julia Roberts in the movie “The Pelican Brief,” wondering how she’d gotten herself into such a mess, being forced to learn on the fly how to protect herself from a group of unscrupulous conspirators.

In my case, it wasn’t a fictional plot. It is a true crime story about a suburban mom in the eye of a perfect storm of greedy neighborhood bullies wrongfully enlisting the aid of pawns — several of them elected — in judicial, legal, and law enforcement systems.

My decade from hell began with a sad, but not uncommon, divorce story. My scorned husband used parental alienation to harm me. His efforts were effective. Neither of my daughters has spoken to me for years. Following the divorce, I was besieged by a host of unethical and absolutely selfish power brokers, who stirred up a hateful and destructive mob.

Sadly, my daughters are also among those who were victimized by the perfect storm of dangerous players in our lives. In turn, my two girls victimized me. That’s why the first chapter of my new book is entitled: “No One Calls Me Mom Anymore.” You can read chapter one for free by downloading a copy here.

For years, I’ve puzzled over what toxic people have in common. It finally occurred to me that all of them have one thing in common: deficiency in empathy to some degree or another. This was my “Eureka” moment! It made everything clear.

Next, I had the revelation that I could categorize empathy dysfunction into various levels of empathy (or non-empathy). My hunches and hard work had begun to take shape and culminated in my designing the Empathy Dysfunction Scale (EmD).

I’ve already introduced you to EmD-5 Radiant Empathy, in an earlier blog post that described it as “the ability to care for the feelings and thoughts of others without any need for reciprocity. It takes a lifetime to develop Radiant Empathy because it’s the combination of a healthy brain and life experience.”

My new book, When Empathy Fails – How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you clearly defines the six levels of empathy, from EmD-0 to EmD-5. (It will soon be available in Kindle and print editions on Amazon. Sign up for my newsletter, so you’re notified right away.)

The most important thing I want you to take away from reading Chapter One “No One Calls MeMom Anymore,” is how to spot people with Empathy Dysfunction, and then stop them dead in their tracks, using the tools that worked for me — before they damage you or your loved ones.

Eventually, I came out on the other side of it all, triumphant and at peace. So can you. Be sure to download your free chapter today. After you read it, please visit my Facebook page and tell me what you think.

Empathy Dysfunction (EmD) Is More Common Than You Think

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


You’d think that everyone has at least a little bit of empathy, right? Contrary to this popular belief, I’ve discovered that this is not so. Some people have no empathy at all, while others display a limited measure of empathy. That’s why Empathy Dysfunction (EmD), although it isn’t a household term, is so important to understand. It explains so much about the state we’re in these days.

I’ve spent over 40 years observing and treating people with a variety of problems, such as narcissists, sociopaths, autistics, alcoholics, and the brain-injured. What do they all have in common? Empathy Dysfunction (EmD). The one constant I’ve discovered among all of these is that their problem with empathy causes the greatest damage to their relationships.

These are a few examples of Empathy Dysfunction (EmD):

  • Your wallet is stolen by someone who looked you in the eye.
  • Your good friend lies to you repeatedly.
  • Your loved ones accuses you of interfering when you try to rescue them from their harmful choices
  • Your heart breaks when your children turn against you.

Empathy Dysfunction (EmD) also explains most of the problems we experience in our NT/AS relationships. As far as I am concerned it’s the most important factor. Once you have mastered the mysteries of your Aspie loved ones Empathy Dysfunction (EmD), you stand a much better chance of surviving and even enlivening your relationship.

It's not that I have a cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Far from it. But I do get it. I get that they don't get us. They don't think like us. They don't think about us. They don't plan their lives around their relationships. They don't know themselves in relation to us.

It’s such a conundrum, isn't it? We spend every waking moment considering others. It’s not that we’re self-serving martyrs. Rather it's just natural to think about the thoughts of others, to consider how they may feel about our actions, and to get why others think the way they do even if we disagree. That's empathy. We have it. They don't.

It’s freeing to have this realization, so that you’re never again stuck in the despair of wondering what's going on, or if you’re loved, or if you’re wasting your time seeking to be understood from an Aspie who doesn’t seek understanding at all.

In my upcoming Asperger Syndrome: Partners & Family of Adults with ASD video conference entitled When Empathy Fails, I'll share with you the highlights of I’ve learned about Empathy Dysfunction or what I call EmD. It will be held on Wednesday, January 31st, at 11:00 AM PT (FULL), Tuesday, February 6th at 9:00 AM PT (a few spots open) or Wednesday, February 21st at 3:00 PM PT (a few spots open). Make sure you register today and put it on your calendar. You’re not going to want to miss this one!

I have a lot to say about Empathy Dysfunction (EmD), because I’ve just finished writing a book about it. It’s entitled "WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you." Download your free copy of the first chapter, "No One Calls Me Mom". Of course not all of our Aspies are hell-bent on destroying us, but it feels like it some days, doesn't it?


How Do You Cope with Unwanted Male Sexual Advances in the Workplace?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017


When the Seattle Times reported that former Washington Rep. Jim Jacks was forced to resign his seat in March 2011 for “inappropriate behavior” toward a young female staffer, it got me to thinking about why this problem is surfacing now.

Women and girls have been sexually harassed and assaulted for centuries — and it continues to this day. What’s different in our culture that encourages the painful, horrible truth to surface now?

As I state in a recent article for the US~Observer, I just don’t believe women who tell me “It has never happened to me.” I suspect they’re in denial or are fearful of opening up — or worse they accept that this is just the life of being a woman. There isn’t a twelve year old girl alive who hasn’t learned how to handle grown men who make sexual comments or reached out and touched her inappropriately. As a watchful mother myself, I kept a careful eye on my daughters and taught them how to handle themselves, too.

How do you cope with unwanted male sexual advances in the workplace? Here is a list of some common answers I’ve heard. This is excerpted from my recent article in the US~Observer.

1. “It’s just part of what I have to deal with. I shrug it off.”
2. “I’ve never told anyone. I would lose my job.”
3. “I’ve been told to let it go. No one will believe me.”
4. “It’s never happened to me.”
5. “Why would any woman put up with that? I wouldn’t.”
6. “I wish I had been brave enough to speak up long ago.”
7. “Irrational fear kept me quiet.”
8. “I spoke up and got fired. He got promoted.”
9. “That doesn’t still go on, does it?”

As long as any of us keep quiet about the harassers, we’re leaving women to protect themselves, which has lasting and traumatic consequences. As a psychologist, I know only too well how long it takes a woman to recuperate from sexual harassment (and abuse) — years, if ever.

Let’s keep the #MeToo Movement going strong. The US~Observer wants to know your story. If you’ve been victimized by Jim Jacks or any other unethical, corrupt politician or strongman, let me know. And, if they haven’t been brought to justice, let the US~Observer champion your cause.

My newest book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” is about people like Jim Jacks. If you’ve felt powerless in the face of abuse by someone with severe Empathy Dysfunction and are ready to take back your power, please grab a copy as soon as it’s available. (To stay up-to-date on it’s release, please sign-up for my “Enriching Your Life” newsletter.)

If you live near Portland, OR/Vancouver, WA and need to talk about your experience so you can begin the healing process, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.

The #MeToo Movement and Why I Decided Never to Be Silenced

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Victims of sexually assault and harassment often suffer in silence, and since it’s the silence that kills one’s spirit, it’s time to speak up and fight backFor too long, women and men have suffered in silence as victims of sexual assault and harassment. As the recent stories about celebrities, such as Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, and Louis C.K. unfold, women and men are finally admitting “Me Too”.

Many people feel it began on October 15, 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted:

Me too.
Suggested by a friend: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

But the #MeToo movement didn't start this year. It started more than 10 years ago with activist Tarana Burke. However, the celebrity connection has caused a flood of women pouring out their stories of hurt, fear, and isolation on Twitter and Facebook.

We are victims no longer! We are telling our stories and enacting change.

For example, on November 15th, a bipartisan group of Senators and Congressional members introduce the 'METOO Congress Act' aimed at reforming how Congress handles sexual harassment.

I’m ready to tell my story now too.

Amid the flurry of these news stories, I was listening to an OPB newscast and heard a familiar name, Jim Jacks. He’d been forced to resign in 2011 for “inappropriate behavior” toward a young female staffer (verified this week by the Washington State Democratic House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan). Hearing his name made my stomach lurch.

No, I wasn’t sexually assaulted by him, but his unfounded actions forever changed my life.

In 2004, Jacks was part of a ring of three Vancouver government employees, who set out to destroy me with a defaming memo. His single untruthful memo set off a decade-plus witch hunt that cost me half a million dollars in legal fees; many emotionally frightening nights; and the loss of my children. Jim Jacks stole from me just as he stole peace of mind from his more recent victim. Not only is he guilty of defamation, he’s guilty of never giving me a chance to defend myself (just as many women suffer in silence about their sexual assaults).

It’s the silence that kills one’s spirit. As for me, I won’t be silenced anymore about Jacks or the rest of the scoundrels in Vancouver, Washington. Victims shouldn’t have to stand by watching their abusers and others cover up these injustices.

Throughout my lifetime, I’ve also encountered many males who have crossed the line into sexual harassment and they’ve left me speechless and afraid. I detail these experiences in my recent exposé in the US Observer.

My newest book, “WHEN EMPATHY FAILS: How to stop those hell-bent on destroying you,” is about people like Jim Jacks. If you’ve felt powerless in the face of abuse by someone with severe Empathy Dysfunction and are ready to take back your power, please grab a copy as soon as it’s available. To stay up-to-date on it’s release, please sign-up for my newsletter.)

If you need to talk with someone about how to standup for yourself, please contact my Jantzen Beach office and schedule an appointment. I also offer online therapy if that works best for your busy schedule.



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