Around the Campfire Ep.1 : How Do I Stop Being Affected by Toxic Colleagues?

This will be the first of a series of posts wherein I receive questions from my readers and try to offer an answer, a few words of advise or some encouragement from my own life experience if and where possible 😉 The questions might be about a life issue, a snag in your personal growth or something you would like to have more clarity on. Everyone is welcome to share their questions, comments and stories through contacting me on the Soul Hiker Facebook Page, my personal FB profile, email or by using the comments section below. All questions will remain anonymous unless otherwise requested.

Feel free to join this circle of words around the campfire where we exchange views and perspectives on life issues between fellow Soul Hikers.

Today I will start to answer a question sent by one of this blogs readers. The question is this:

“I have been doing a lot of inner work over the last year. I try to meditate as regularly as I can, eat healthy, and read and discuss spirituality topics. I think I am doing good progress but my issue is work. The general vibe at work, especially around some of my colleagues, is very toxic. I feel suffocated’ and often feel out of myself and heavily influenced by their behaviour. What can I do in order not to be so affected by this?”

First of all this is a commonplace issue, especially among people who are in some way or another ‘on the path’ and changing their perspective on life and themselves. This could be either because they have awakened to new realisations, were inspired by a new vision of life or perhaps gone through a rough patch that shook them up a little. Either way, these are people who are in a transition between an ‘old’ and ‘new’ version of themselves.

You see, change and growth are not easy. Sensitivity on all matters is heightened, crises beat up your shore more often, emotions get high and relationships of all kinds can get weary, stressful or simply break down. This is a necessary part of a path choice that is quite rewarding in the end. If you are nodding your head to all this, then most definitely you are ‘on the path’ and you know what I am talking about.

Whatever we go through in life, we somehow send out signals around us that people might pick up even though unconsciously and the other way round – we unconsciously pick up or tune into signals that others around us are emitting all the time. Now keep in mind that we are all mirrors. Whatever we have inside is projected outside and reflected back at us when we interact with others and vice versa – whatever others go through is reflected back at them through our words, thoughts and actions.

Another way of seeing it is that we all carry an invisible bubble around us and this bubble contains all our mental and emotional stuff. When we interact with others, it’s like those bubbles intersect as if we enter each others’ bubble. When we do, a lot of information is exchanged – body language, feelings, words and all sorts of perceptible and sub-perceptible things. In fact we sometimes we feel overwhelmed within a group of people because the ‘information’ is too much and too loud! With some other people we feel energetically drained or suddenly we feel that we have hit on a low key. These are the classical energy vampires. At the opposite end, there are people who are uplifting and have an overall aura of positive, vibrant energy. Every time you talk to such people you feel a buzz or a ‘high’ and you are left inspired and energised.

Now coming back to the issue at work. This is where we have to go into each others’ bubbles whether we like it or not. We have to interact with colleagues on different levels at some point. Your question is how to not be affected by colleagues that you feel are intoxicating your own bubble. The first answer is awareness. Being aware and conscious of your own feelings and reactions every time you enter those bubbles is crucial. It changes everything. Why? Because being more aware and conscious means partially standing outside of those bubbles and observing what’s going on. While you are talking or responding to others’ verbal and non-verbal communication, you observe your own feelings and reactions. As you do this you start to ‘depersonalise’ or ‘dis-identify’ with the whole thing. You step out of the drama which you are usually sucked into unconsciously and affected by it. Keeping in mind the whole thing above about mirrors and bubbles is already a head start and a perspective changer. You realise that there is another way of looking at it and playing the game.

Secondly, you need to stop taking things personally. As I mentioned, people around you carry different bubbles than yours. They are all on different life paths, lessons, issues, perspectives and ways of seeing things. Not to talk about emotional biases and histories. What others see or think of you is quite irrelevant and what you think they think of you is even more so. It’s because it is not real or even close to it. It’s just a product of how those bubbles intersect and interact. If you take it personally, you give more energy and substance to others’ bubbles – you give them a solid reality which in turn will affect your own bubble. In short, you will be affected mentally and emotionally through your communication with others around you.

So being more vigilant and observant of how you feel and respond when you enter someone else’s bubble – say a colleague – and by not allowing yourself to take whatever ‘information’ is sent your way through others’ actions and words personally, you start becoming less and less affected by others’ toxicity or ‘junk’ emanating from their own bubble.

Yet the real important outcome of all this is not that you dodge the bullet so to speak. It’s not just that you avoid being affected negatively by your colleagues’ toxicity but by being less affected you are responding differently and hence you are reflecting back a different sort of ‘information’ when you enter that bubble. You are not unconsciously drawn into it and therefore not giving it ‘solidity’ anymore. What happens then is that the other person will actually start changing his or her own behaviour too by either freaking out – because the person starts seeing his or her own shortcomings and is not ready to face it (hence denying it and projecting it on to you through blaming – but that’s OK because you are now more conscious of what’s going on) – or actually attuning to your positive response and change accordingly.

In scientific talk there are two opposite things called positive and negative feedback which are a bit counterintuitive since we associate positive and negative with good or bad. In the case where we unconsciously react to others’ behaviour, we enter a positive feedback, that is, we keep on reflecting and reinforcing each others’ negative reactions and the whole thing keeps on growing and building up until things become too toxic to handle. On the other hand, by being more conscious of not slipping into the drama, negative feedback ensues wherein the other’s person negative reactions start decreasing every time they bounce back from you with little to no reaction until finally it comes to a silent halt.

So in summary what you need to take home from all this is that you can turn things around and instead of only thinking how to not be affected by others’ behaviour start thinking that you have the power, if you are conscious enough, to actually change the relationship around which is a truly empowering thought!

Hope it helps!

Category: Around the CampfireLife Hacks


  1. Thanks Joan for your comment…you got the idea of feedback loops brilliantly well and I’m glad to hear that you are about to give it more attention in your relationships with others. Way to go! 🙂

  2. This article did provide insight with my own drama that I’ve unwittingly fed into by giving it positive feedback….I’ve been looking and trying to think of a better/different way…thank you for this info. I will try to discipline myself to “engage” in negative feedback and to alter my expectation to fix this person’s perception of me….Thank you.

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Article by: Gilbert Ross