Britney Spears just can’t get out of the news. She has lost visitation rights for her children, her fans are dropping like flies, ran over a photographers foot and where is her underwear? There is an Association she should join. They even have a special day of celebration – and we know how Britney likes to celebrate.

In 2005, the Association of Conflict Resolution deemed the third Thursday in October as Conflict Resolution Day. Perhaps there should be a sub line on this celebration saying difficult people with toxic outcomes welcome.

Britney and many others need a dose of personal responsibility. Most people need to take it upon themselves to resolve problems and issues in the work place and at home. Here’s what I know. If you have bad relationships and conflict in your life, it’s your fault.

It took me a very long time to learn that one. Decontaminating Toxic People is easy when you choose to look at current approaches, evaluate whether they are working, choose to improve, and take a risk. Most people (aka Britney and her song Toxic) are too lazy to make changes and then whine about the consequences they face.

Here is an 8-step conflict resolution plan:
1. Identify the Toxic Person’s behavior.
• Review the six types of Toxic People from the book Toxic People: decontaminate difficult people without using weapons or duct tape, or a resource of your choice and determine with whom you are dealing.
• What is the incentive for their type of difficult behavior?

2. Understand the outcome needed with the relationship.
• Do you need to resolve the issue and move forward with this Toxic Person?
• Is it better to sever the relationship completely?

3. Decide how you want to be perceived by the Toxic Person.
• Are there other people concerned about your relationship, like your leader? What is their desire?
• Do you even care what difficult people think of you? (Don’t be cavalier; think about the importance of this question!)

4. Plan your response to Toxic People.
• Be accountable for what you are going to say.
• Develop a variety of approaches so you can be flexible as the conversation develops.

5. Practice your approach.
• How will you check your own anger or anxiety during the approach?
• If you want to ensure your success, practice by recording yourself.

6. Choose the appropriate time and environment.
• Look at the Toxic Person’s energy level at different times of day. Some people are better communicators and more tuned in first thing in the morning than later in the day.
• Is it better to meet in their office, yours, or a neutral place?

7. Follow up with the person if appropriate.
• If this is someone you need to have a continuing relationship with, decide how and when you will follow up with them after your conversation.
• Don’t gossip with anyone about your interaction.

8. Evaluate the meeting by yourself.
• Did you achieve the outcome you planned for?
• What did you learn that you could apply next time?
Continue to refer to this list every time you have to manage a toxic situation or a difficult person, and do this until all the habits become second nature. If you just use these ideas two or three times, they cannot really become ingrained into your head, and you will soon fall back into your old habits and problems.

Rehearsal and practice give you the outcomes you want from any toxic spill! Let’s send this info to Britney Spears! Hopefully she will have time to read it between cocktails.


Marsha Petrie Sue is a professional speaker and the author of Toxic People: dealing with difficult people in the workplace without using weapons or duct tape.
This book was ranked #16 out of 50 on the best seller Bookscan list.
Available at Bookstores Everywhere or visit

Author's Bio: 

Marsha Petrie Sue is the Mohammed Ali of conflict-free communications, leadership excellence, and managing change. She can dance and look pretty, and she uses the entire ring, but she knows how and when to land a knockout punch.

Think of her presentations as charm school with live ammunition. She challenges every morsel of your beliefs while entertaining and enlightening.

She dares people to take personal responsibility for their choices, success, and life. Marsha is original, unique, and a one-of-a-kind professional speaker and author. Whether dealing with employee relationships, increasing productivity or pumping up sales, her guiding principles bring energy and fun to any meeting or event.

Her clients include Harley-Davidson, American Express, British Petroleum, The Pampered Chef, IPC-The Hospitalist, The Association of Legal Administrators, Wells Fargo Bank, Cisco Systems, The Doctors Company and more.

Her latest book Toxic People: decontaminating difficult people at work without using weapons or duct tape, is a #1 best seller. She is also the author of several other resources including the award winning CEO of YOU: Leading YOURSELF to Success.