How to Handle Toxic Personalities in Business

As we all go through life and it’s many twists and turns, there is one thing that we will all encounter from time to time, and that is toxic personalities.

A few caveats as we dive into this discussion-first, for the purposes of this article I will stick to dealing with these types of people in business.  We all know, however, that we also deal with them in our personal lives, in our friends (frenemies) and family.  I’m sorry to say that I cannot address your Aunt Edna that comes to Thanksgiving Dinner every year with her passive aggressive “helpful” comments:

  • You’re so pretty (handsome), I wish you would lose those extra pounds.
  • You’re so smart, why can’t you get a better job?
  • You were such a good child, why can’t you get your children to behave better?
  • You have such potential, why can’t be more like your cousin – sister – brother – etc.?

Second, these tactics are reserved for the truly awful, thus my use of the word toxic.  The word “toxic” means:  poisonous, virulent, noxious, deadly, dangerous, harmful, injurious, pernicious.  Therefore, these tips are reserved for those people in your business life that meet one or all of these defining words.

Here are my top 7 tips for dealing with toxic personalities in business…

  1. Don’t waste your valuable time trying to figure out why a toxic person behaves the way they do. It is human nature to try to understand human nature.  You will go from scratching your head in wonder to lying awake at night trying to figure it out.  Here is the secret – you can’t, so don’t try.
  2. Keep all your interactions with a toxic person professional, on point and succinct. People like this tend to have their ups and downs, sometimes they are perfectly pleasant and easy to deal with, other times they turn into your worst nightmare.  Resist the urge to engage them further when they are “behaving”, it only takes a matter of seconds for them to revert to their toxic behavior, often with no warning.  If you keep your communications professional, bland and direct you will reduce the amount of times that you actually have to deal with their less than friendly side.
  3. Don’t take it personally. Your toxic person is likely the same with most, if not all, people in their lives.  This isn’t about you and although I won’t say take a look at your behavior from time to time to see if there is something you are doing wrong, don’t overanalyze or blame yourself.  It’s not your fault.
  4. Don’t get sucked into lengthy battles over email or social media. When toxic people misrepresent us or insult us, it is our tendency to want to fight back.  Trust me when I say, you won’t win any battles with this person, you won’t change their mind and you will likely be ending up making yourself look bad if you engage them in this manner.  On social media, it places your reputation at risk and onlookers will see you as unprofessional for calling out this person publicly.  On email, you can go back and forth and back and forth and back and forth again…  You will not change their minds and will only succeed in making you anticipate the next set of crazy that will be delivered into your inbox and stress you out.  Toxic people tend to be overly dramatic and emotional, their communication style is usually lengthy, all over the place and sometime vicious.  Don’t invite that into your life by engaging in a back and forth battle.
  5. Keep a record of your dealings. These people will often misrepresent things you have said or outright lie. If you keep a record of your communications, you will be able refute erroneous facts and help them with their faulty memories.  This can include things like, you promised me a big discount, you promised me that the shipment would be expedited, etc.  Even when you do “catch them in a lie”, resist the urge to gloat.  Simply point out what actually transpired and play it off as “that is not what we agreed on”.  When possible, keep your communications in a written format so that you have an indisputable record.  Do not expect, however, your toxic person to admit that they lied or be contrite, they will play it off as they misunderstood or forgot.  In other words, catching them in their lie won’t make dealing with them any easier.
  6. Know when it’s time to say goodbye. At some point, a toxic person simply starts taking up so much of your time that you need to send them packing.  How do you know it is time?  The answer is simple, they are costing you money.  This can come in the form of wasting your valuable time, stressing you out so that you are not as productive or straight out not paying you on time or in full.  If they are costing you money, it’s time for them to go.  End the relationship quickly, directly and professionally.  Whether they are an employee, a customer, a vendor or any other business contact.  Cut them loose, you will feel much better when you do.  Then you can get back to what is important to you.
  7. Once you say goodbye, never ever under any circumstances welcome them back into your business (or life). Once you have successfully eliminated a toxic person, stay the course.  Do not let them back in no matter how much they tell you that they will change, they may for a while but they will always revert back to their former behavior, it is who they are.  If you have small interactions with them, just be professional and polite but keep them at arms-length and remember what you went through to get them out.

Unfortunately, dealing with toxic personalities is a part of life and business, it is how you handle it that will ultimately determine how much heartache, time and money it will cost you.  Remember you can’t change people and how they act, you can only change how you react to them and how you handle your own emotions.  Applying these principles should take the sting out of dealing with a toxic personality.

Need more help handling negative feedback? Check out Issue 5 of the Cut to the Trace eZine, where we discuss handling negative feedback from customers professionally.

Growing Your Business: 6 Things to Look for When Choosing a Trade Association

When you talk to Handcrafters, you hear many positive things. Handcrafters love to help people feel beautiful, love to innovate when it comes to formulation, and especially love to educate others about their products.

One thing that the majority of Handcrafters we’ve spoken to also voice is the loneliness of the industry. Because the art of making handcrafted soap and cosmetics is still a growing industry and Handcrafters are located all over the globe, they sometimes feel disconnected or isolated.

Another common negative is the lack of insurance options, and the desire to protect their business. Handcrafters want peace of mind so that they don’t have to worry about what might happen-they want to focus on growing their business and expanding their line.

These are a few common reasons why Handcrafters seek us out, and the HSCG prides itself on being dependable, trustworthy and full of benefits for ever Handcrafter level. So today, we are going to lay out six ways you can differentiate the great trade associations from the not-so great ones so that you can get the most out of your business.

  1. What benefits does it offer? Let’s be honest; when you seek out an organization to join, you’re probably searching for something that directly benefits your business-that’s just good business sense! Take a serious look at the benefits that offered by the organization you’re considering before you join. Will you use them? Will the benefits help further your business? If one of the benefits is insurance, have you read the coverage to understand if it truly envelops your whole business? If you’ve answered no to any of these questions, keep searching. (Check out the HSCG’s benefits to get an idea of what you should be looking for)
  2. Does the organization have a good reputation? This is important. Put those Facebook stalking skills to good use and do a good ol’ fashioned search for the organization you’re considering. Do they have positive reviews, and are they recent reviews? Take a look at the content they are posting. If they post educational material on social media or on their own site, browse through it and check for obvious errors. Ultimately, you will be aligning your business with this organization, and if they are not reputable your business reputation may also take a hit.
  3. How is their customer service? This one is very important, especially if you are considering purchasing insurance through the organization. In this age of digital communication, most businesses have a Facebook page with the option to message, a listed email address and/or a chat option on their website; make sure that the organization you’re considering does too. If they have a phone listed, give them a call and ask your questions over the phone. Checking for comprehensive customer service first will help you avoid any surprises if they don’t communicate well later.
  4. How does the organization further the industry? This is a big one. Does it exist only to offer insurance, or does it provide advocacy in the changing world of legislation? Check to see if there are educational opportunities like certification programs, listed teachers and classes that you can either take advantage of, or participate in. (The HSCG’s main goal is to further the industry-check out our Legislative Advocacy and Certification Program.)
  5. Why does the organization exist? Learning the reason why the organization started in the first place will give you insight into what their goals are. If they do not exist to further the industry, keep searching.
  6. Most importantly, is the association legitimate? We want to think that when we see a company’s website or talk to a customer service representative in their office, they are honestly representing themselves-but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Are they claiming to be a non-profit? You don’t have to take that at face value! A simple search will usually tell you if the organization is actually a registered non-profit. Take a peek at the way their organization runs, too. Do they have bylaws and policies in place? This may seem like it doesn’t affect you, but it will; official bylaws and policies mean that the organization has plans in place to keep business running fairly and ethically. (The HSCG’s Bylaws are available for public view; Members may log in and access the HSCG Policies through the Member Area.)

Final Thoughts 

Choosing an organization to join when it comes to your business doesn’t have to be the most difficult decision you’ll ever make. Take into consideration what you hope to gain from your experience and membership with them. Also take into consideration their dependability; if they promise to deliver experiences, education and services but fail to do so, look elsewhere! Your organization should be as dependable, trustworthy, and downright awesome as you are…never settle for less!

How to Sell an Experience – Secrets to Superior Customer Service


Think back on a time where you had really fantastic customer service. Now, think back on a time where you had a negative customer service experience; what do you notice? Most likely, when you thought about the positive experience, you felt happy; when you thought about the negative experience, you likely felt sad, embarrassed or angry. Every customer is an opportunity to sell not only your amazing products, but an experience. Today, I’d like to discuss some tips and tricks to help you do just that!

Interact genuinely.

No one likes a pushy salesperson! Greet your customer genuinely, and wait a few moments. If you have a special on multiple purchases or a discount that you’re offering, let them know ahead of time. When you see that they are showing interest in a specific product, take a moment to share why you love it, or why your other customers love it. If they are not already holding the product, place one in their hand and let them see the quality for themselves. Then, suggest a product that would pair well with it. Listen intently to what they are saying and find out what their specific needs are. Most importantly, do not make claims that are not true; saying that your product will do something miraculous might win a customer up front, but they will likely not come back when the product ultimately does not perform.

Put your phone down.

Social media, texting, phone calls, games; we have the unique opportunity to have all of this technology right in the palm of our hands at all times, unlike the retailers of yesterday. But, also unlike our ancestral retailers, we have the unique opportunity to thoroughly ignore customers in order to get to the next level of Candy Crush. Use your phone as little as possible if you are at an event where you are selling your products; this will show customers that you are interested and present.

Don’t get offended.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned during my 15 years of providing customer service both in retail and hospitality environments is that you must not take anything personally. Everyone has had a bad day and snapped at someone; if this happens to you and it seems to come out of left field, try to empathize and provide the best service you can. You may also run into a situation where a customer simply does not like your product or understand your pricing. It is important not to become confrontational in these situations. If it is a pricing issue, take the time to explain why your products are priced the way that they are. Giving a patient, well thought out and kind response will make a bigger impact than a knee-jerk reaction to be aggressive and defensive. If they are unhappy with your product, be sure to stick to whatever return or refund policy you have in place; and if possible, offer an alternative for them to try.

Be prompt.

If you are managing an online store, or if you have a storefront with a dedicated phone line, set aside a specific time each day that you will commit to answering messages. Between formulating, packaging, and selling, your time is precious; but ignoring an inquiry or complaint will lead to frustration on your customer’s behalf, and they may go elsewhere.

Take the high road.

We know that your products are fantastic, and you know that your products are fantastic. But, it is entirely possible for more than one fantastic product to co-exist!

Sometimes, customers may ask you what the difference is between your product and a competitor, or which one is “better”. Even if your competitor hasn’t behaved similarly, resist the urge to talk negatively about someone else’s products. Always steer the conversation back to your own by saying something to the effect of, “I can’t speak to the quality or ingredients used in Suzie Soap’s products, but this is what I offer.” Keep your comments neutral and clean; taking the high road will leave a lasting, positive impression on your customers.

Your current and potential consumers are some of the most important people that you will ever interact with. Each one presents an opportunity to educate about the importance of handcrafted products and the incredible entrepreneurs that produce them. When you provide an experience and not just a “stop-and-shop”, you are encouraging buyers to be loyal and in turn, they are supporting your dream.

Remember: It is so much easier to be nice, to be respectful, to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and try to understand how you might help, than it is to try to mend a broken customer relationship.” –Mark Cuban