The Illusion of Poisonous People

In yesterday’s post (to read Playing from the Heart, click here), I discussed playing from the heart, which is to make plays with the most love, caring, and compassion you can muster. I would like to share a story about how one of my clients played from the heart in what he once considered a situation that was out of his control and destined to be a loss for his team.


I recently worked with a client who was experiencing some very negative symptoms, even panic attacks. He perceived the problem to be stress from his job as a professional service provider and also a business owner who has employees. Thus, not only do some people depend on him for professional opinions, others depend on him for a living. In his mind, it was a crushing workload, and frankly, a burden to carry. You can imagine how he was feeling with this as his mindset.

After our first session, he began to lose his need to control, and he started to open up to possibilities and began to love making the plays of his profession. Early in the next week, he was already feeling much better and had a renewed purpose and energy.

Over the next few weeks and months, he continued to make great personal strides, but he continued to be concerned about one particular staff member (we will call her Employee X) who seemed to poison the minds of the all staff in the practice, including him when he was not aware that she had no power to control his thoughts and feelings. Fortunately, he was frequently able to be aware that she did not control him, and as he opened up to other possible thoughts about her, he usually felt better. Unfortunately, it was not possible for me to work with the entire staff, so we had some talks about how to handle the situation.

Finally one day he was feeling extremely frustrated with the same problems occurring again and again, and we had a conversation about how to handle the situation. All he could do was communicate and lead from the heart. This would help force a choice among his other staff members: Continue to let this person seemingly poison the environment and their thoughts and feelings, or they could decide to play it from the heart, like the boss was going to model for them.

 A few weeks later, I got this text from him. I think it sums up nicely several ways he’s made important changes in the way he’s making plays from the heart in what he once considered an external situation that controlled him:

Employee X showed up unannounced to a meeting. Frankly, I didn’t invite her because she isn’t productive in those meetings. She called me out publicly in front of the rest of the staff. I addressed her objectively and swiftly. I was calm and concise. My thoughts didn’t waiver, so neither did my feelings. The staff saw how calmly I handled it. I hope they can follow my lead. More importantly, Employee X got a clear message. Play all the games you want, but it is not going to affect my emotions.

Hopefully that will be the end of her antics. I’m not sure what she has gotten all these years out of pushing my buttons, but it is my fault for letting her do so. So instead of me spending all my team proving my point to everyone, I’m just going to lead the right way and hopefully everyone will follow. She now has a decision. Get on the team or not, but your cancerous attitude will no longer hang over the rest of the team.

I am not sure I would have handled it or explained it in exactly the same way, but this was his way of dealing with it. And it was certainly much better than the ways he had dealt with it in the past.

In becoming aware that the staff member had no control over his thoughts and feelings, my client began to awaken to other possibilities. Finally, he was able to make some plays from the heart that have helped him deal with this employee even though she really hasn’t changed much at all. As my client understood that nobody can poison another’s mind, he began to change his thoughts and feelings about this person and the situations she influences. He certainly has not come to enjoy her, but he no longer believes she has the power to poison him or the environment.

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