Hey, it’s Dr. Heidi, your Toxic Relationship Awareness & Healing Specialist.
I want to talk to you today about the smear campaign. For those of you who don’t know what a smear campaign is, it is when a toxic person spreads rumors in order to gather allies and to make their community of believers bigger. The smear campaign is geared to devalue your reputation and your integrity, and to make you look like you are the toxic person, the bad person, or at fault for the things that have gone wrong in the relationship.
What is the purpose of the smear campaign? Why would a toxic person do this? There are many, and they use it for many different things. Toxic people feel better when other people are struggling. For whatever reason, the toxic person feels insecure and feels better and more empowered when the people around them are struggling. If you’re reading this, you probably don’t understand how people can think like that, but that is how your toxic person will think. If you are hurting or down on yourself or feeling like there’s something wrong, that is empowering to them.
The other thing to remember is toxic people need control, power, attention, and admiration. So a smear campaign gets them control, it gets them power, it gets them attention, and it brings them admiration. So I want to talk a little bit about how they do this and what this process is when they perform a smear campaign against you.
If you know the feeling I am talking about, you have probably seen it a time or two, and may have seen it in cycle, because it will rear its head at different points during a toxic relationship. A toxic person uses it very tactfully when they need it to get the upper hand. The smear campaigns that I have personally encountered, just off the top of my head while I was thinking about this topic, have almost always occurred near the unraveling of a toxic relationship. They tended to happen near the end of the relationship or once I’d removed myself from the relationship or cut contact or dissolved the friendship. It happened when I wanted out or stood up for myself. So, ultimately, when I would exit unhealthy situations are the smear campaigns that I remember.
What can you expect out of a smear campaign? You can expect them to say things to others. All others. They have zero boundaries when it comes to making themselves look good. So they will says things to your friends, your family, couples that you’re friends with, coworkers, and your bosses. I’ve had people that have gone through my program who’s toxic person has reached out to their boss to try and make them look bad and jeopardize the integrity of their position at work. To me? That is stepping out of bounds. They shouldn’t have any contact with the boss, right? But they have no boundaries. Most sadly, they will talk to your kids. That’s the one that is the most heartbreaking.
What they do is make you look immoral, unethical, maybe crazy, maybe out of sorts. They’ll call you names like psycho or bipolar. They want to make you look less than upstanding. They want to break you down in another’s eyes, because when you are broken down in another’s eyes, it makes that person question your integrity. If they can get others to question you, it makes them look a lot less toxic or involved in the blaming of what’s gone on in that relationship.
Again, why do they use the smear campaign against you? To make themselves look better. Period.
We all believe there is strength in numbers. If they can make you feel like you are completely outnumbered, they feel they can gain some control and power over you. They want to make you feel alienated. If they can take all of your support away and convince that support group with their smear campaign, you are left feeling alienated and with no support system. In their minds, they have won. They are going to go out and talk to anybody and everybody. They’ll talk to the pastor. They’ll talk to your therapist or your counselor. So just know that there are zero boundaries on who they are going to talk to.
What else can you expect?
You can expect them to convince others that they are a victim of your actions. All they ever did was try to help you. They tried to be there for you. They just tried to love you the best that they could, and look at how you treated them! Within the smear campaign, they are going to make sure everyone knows that they are the victim in this situation.
You can expect them to twist stories. They like to take a story and twist it a little bit, omit a few facts, add a few, but leave one grain of truth in the story so you have a difficult time calling it out as a lie. They will twist the story just enough to be a complete fabrication minus one truth, which makes them look like they are telling the truth and you are the one lying. If you point out, “Everything you’re saying is a lie, except,” that one little word is enough to cast doubt. They put just enough truth that you can’t defend yourself against the lies.
You can expect them to immediately have some new source of attention and admiration. You know from experience that when somebody meets the toxic person for the first time they love them. They are the nicest person, the love bombing person in the beginning of that romantic relationship, or the “I’ll do you anything for you” person in the beginning of a friendship. The toxic person is going to surround themselves by new people for this reason: They need people around them to admire them. Because as long as they are being told that they are such a good person and you are such a bad person, it allows them to continue on with their smear campaign. It keeps them in control. They have the power over you, they have the attention, and they have the admiration of those around them. Everyone admires the toxic person in the beginning, so the first thing they are going to do is go out and get themselves a whole new group of friends. Get a new job. Get a new hobby. Get something that makes them feel good about themselves and feeds their need for attention and admiration. It builds a bigger army for them. Little do these people know that they are going to see the toxic person’s true colors eventually, but when they are trying to smear you and make you look bad, they will makes themselves look very good for their new friends.
You can probably expect to be discarded. Some people have been discarded completely, cut off, never to be heard from again. But most toxic people don’t do that. They discard you and make you feel discarded, but come back with just enough hope that maybe you can stay in contact. A lot of times they will discard you but flaunt their being the victim in front you. The reason they do that is because they are hoping for your reaction. If you react, it validates that you are the one to blame. See how unrealistic and outrageous it is? See how you’re acting? They will blame all of the issues of the relationship on you.
You probably understand and have been in a situation similar to this, whether it’s been among family members or friends or coworkers, etc. Smear campaigns are not discriminatory. They will occur in any type of relationship that there is.
So what should you do?
This is the hardest part to learn. Defending yourself against a smear campaign is a complete waste of time. It will suck the emotional energy straight out of you. Smear campaigns are set up by the toxic people to get a reaction. Don’t give it to them. Those who love you know the truth, right? You’re not going to need to convince the people who already love you. Those who don’t? They don’t matter. You don’t need to convince them either. Giving energy to a smear campaign is giving your time and energy back to them. They have used up enough of your time and energy.
If you have been the victim of a smear campaign or are anticipating one coming on, these are my recommendations: Do not react. Do not defend yourself. Do not feel the need to explain yourself. Don’t respond. Absolutely do not go into negotiations with a toxic person during a smear campaign. You will lose. Do not fight with them, and do not contact them.
Above all? Do not use social media to try and extinguish a smear campaign. It will backfire on you.
Things to remember: When you are dealing with a smear campaign, you yourself know the truth. Someday you are going to heal and are going to recover from this toxic relationship. And when you do, the lies said about you are no longer going to matter, because the truth will come out. Now some people will see the truth and some people won’t, but by the time they do, they are probably not your people any longer.
Just remember that a smear campaign, even though it feels like it is destroying your life, is not that big a deal. It is just a tactic that they use to gain control, power, attention, and admiration. We both know they are not going to take responsibility for anything detrimental in the relationship. They are not going to apologize, and nothing is going to be their fault.
The smear campaign is nothing but another way that they try to dump the blame on you. You have the power by not reacting.
If you are questioning whether or not you are in a toxic or unhealthy relationship, please visit my Toxicity Profile Analysis page and take the FREE assessment. You will receive a degree of toxicity that you’ve experienced in your lifetime, giving you a better indication as to whether or not that relationship is healthy or unhealthy for you.
And, as always, you have my support. Follow my blog or listen to my podcast, “It’s Not Normal. It’s Toxic: Rid Your Life of Toxic People”, available at anchor.fm/drheidi. And you can always find me on Instagram or Facebook @coachingwithdrheidi. Feel free to message in on my website as well or by e-mailing email@example.com.