580 Dr. Rhoberta Shaler:
Ever feel drained after talking to someone? Been in a relationship where your partner … …always has to be right, and there’s nothing you can do right? Know what its like to be gaslit and verbally abused?
I’m Melinda Wittstock and today on Wings of Inspired Business we meet an inspiring entrepreneur who has made it her mission to help us all rid ourselves of the toxic people in our lives.
Raised by what she calls a pack of Hijackals®, Dr. Rhoberta Shaler set out to help people all over the world develop the survival skills to cope with narcissists – and recover from the toxicity that can destroy your confidence, dim your light and sap your life force.
Host of the popular Save Your Sanity podcast and known as the Relationship Help Doctor, Dr. Rhoberta shares important information you won’t want to miss, because it’s hard to succeed in business and in life unless you free yourself from toxic people. She’ll be here in just a moment! First…
Dr. Rhoberta Shaler knows firsthand what its like to be gaslit to the point where you think YOU are the crazy one. Turns out narcissists and other toxic personalities have a predictable playbook – and its vital you know the signs – so you can save your own sanity.
Known as the Relationship Help Doctor, Rhoberta provides urgent and ongoing care for relationships in crisis. Even the United States Marines have called on her for help!
Dr. Shaler particularly helps the partners, exes, and adult children of the relentlessly difficult, toxic people she calls Hijackals® to save their sanity and stop the crazy-making. She defines Hijackals as “people who hijack relationships–for their own purposes–while relentlessly scavenging them for power, status, and control.”
Today Dr. Rhoberta offers the insights, strategies, and support you need to reclaim hope, confidence–and your sanity–when dealing with the constant uncertainty and jaw-dropping behaviors of Hijackals in your life, at home and at work. Author of 16 books, including her Hijackal ebook series, Escaping the Hijackal Trap, and, Stop! That’s Crazy-Making, she is the host of the popular podcast, Save Your Sanity listened to in more than seventy-five countries. She is the former host of the Emotional Savvy channel on Binge TV Networks, and her work has been featured on PsychCentral, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Your Tango, The Good Men Project, and eHarmony, among many others. Her YouTube channel, ForRelationshipHelp, is an evergreen source of practical insights and tips for relationships and has reached over 390,000 views.
Today we talk about how to know whether you’re in a relationship with a hijackal, the first thing you need to do if you have a hijackal partner, parent, sibling, friend, boss or team member, and how to recover your confidence, empowerment and joy.
Let’s put on our wings with the inspiring Dr. Rhoberta Shaler
Melinda Wittstock: Rhoberta, welcome to Wings.
Rhoberta Shaler: Thank you so much, Melinda. I’ve been looking forward to this.
Melinda Wittstock: Me too. What led you to discover and name the hijackal?
Rhoberta Shaler: Birth actually is what did it…
Melinda Wittstock: It’s a long story, right?
Rhoberta Shaler: It is. I was born into a family of two hijackals and I’m an only child. Whoo. So I had the focus or a neglect of two people rather than sharing the wealth with other siblings. And of course, when you’re a child, all you know is the family you were born into. Because of the way our brain development runs, you think that this is you, they’re defining you by how they behave towards you. And so you take it a lot when you’re young.
As I worked with it, I was about nine years old when I decided they were both crazy. And as I was working toward becoming a medical doctor, I was always interested in diagnosis, and what’s going on, and all of that. And of course, deciding to be a medical doctor when I was 10 got me a lot in way with the parents, because when you have hijackal parents, they want you to validate them by making them look good. So being able to tell the story of our daughter wants to be a doctor was a big deal too.
But that’s how it happened, I was born into it. And then when I was just about to go to medical school, I found out I was pregnant with my first child and said, “No, I can’t take a child through medical school. That’s just not fair.” So I switched to psychology and got a PhD and focused on these relationships, these toxic relationships, full of emotional abuse and long lasting effects.
When it came time to say, “What do I talk about?” I found that too many people in my opinion were going to what they consider to be Dr. Google and saying, “Here’s what’s happening in my life.” And then Dr. Google spills out a clinical diagnosis and you go, “Oh, there’s a name for this.” But the problem is that you’re not qualified to make a clinical diagnosis, and it may be helpful for you to know that it’s not all you.
But I wanted us to have a term that we can talk about the patterns, traits, cycles, behaviors that are predictable, that are likely, that you can look at and say, “Oh, how did you know?” And then know what to do once you’ve determined that. So we can easily talk about hijackals rather than narcissist, borderline, sociopath, psychopath, and anti-socials.
Melinda Wittstock: Those are all the things that comprise, I guess, the composite of the hijackal. And so how does it manifest? How do you know that you’re in a relationship with a hijackal or a team member, an investor, a vendor, or someone is a hijackal? How do you know?
Rhoberta Shaler: One good way, Melinda is that you don’t want to talk to them. You find yourself in preparation mode, not from the point of view of gathering your intellectual property, but from your emotional property, like, “Oh, I’ve got to talk to them again.” And they always want to win. In every conversation they have to be right and you have to be wrong. I remember being with one in a speaker’s association in Seattle, and I had just met her. She was doing very well in the industry and I was fairly young in the industry.
And so I was having lunch with her and she would say, “I really feel strongly about this.” And I’d say, “Oh, me too.” And she’d say, “But I changed my mind. Now I feel strongly about this.” You couldn’t get agreement with her because she had to be on top. And when you find yourself in a situation with a colleague, or a coworker, or any of the people that you mentioned, Melinda, and you find yourself cringing before you meet, have a good look at that.
Melinda Wittstock: Or just even a depletion of energy after you’ve talked to someone like that. If you’re just left empty or bereft, it’s an odd feeling. I know that feeling because I experienced that in my marriage, and the gas-lighting as well. I want to talk about gas-lighting a bit. It took me a long time personally to understand I was being gas-lit.
Rhoberta Shaler: Most people do have that experience because most people are trusting. So you want to be cooperative, and collaborative, and compromising with your partner, whatever kind of partnership it is. Even if it’s your mother or your father, that’s what you want to do as a healthy individual. And so they may have created you into a less than healthy individual, but that’s another topic. So you want to believe them, and gas-lighting means that someone else has trained to define your reality for you.
They’re endeavoring to tell you what you think, feel, need, want, prefer, remember, and tell you that, “Oh, silly you, you don’t remember, but I remember.” And here’s a key phrase, Melinda, someone says, “I think I know you better than you know yourself.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. Right. And they do use that phrase. It’s almost textbook.
Rhoberta Shaler: It is. It is because that is the ultimate piece that if you are in any way, questioning your own self-esteem or your own confidence, and someone says, “I know you better than you know yourself, you may lean into that and say, “Oh, okay.” Instead of going, “What?”
Melinda Wittstock: I think there’s an interesting dynamic too, where certainly narcissists or just let’s call them hijackals really seek out empaths.
Rhoberta Shaler: That’s something that is really spoken of a lot. People really like that dichotomy. I’m not all that hot on the term empaths myself. But I think that what they seek out are two kinds of people and they’re very different. One kind of person is the person who has been groomed to second guess themselves. So they’re looking for people who may be lacking in confidence, looking for a partnership so that they feel whole.
They’re looking for someone who wants to be doing life together, but needing direction. They look for people who are really good people who are malleable. And at the other end of the spectrum, and this may surprise people is that they love a challenge. So they will look for someone really successful and then see the challenge of how can I get him or her to be really vulnerable with me. And when they’re really vulnerable and they spill the tea, then I will weaponize their vulnerabilities and use them against them.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay. That was my story and my marriage, that one. Exactly that.
Rhoberta Shaler: I’m sorry.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, me too. 18 years of that. And it was such a gradual slippery slope that it happens so gradually that you weren’t aware of what was happening to you.
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes. The better ones can do that. Some of them are a little clumsy and rudimentary, they just want power over you, so they’re on Jerry Springer. But the more sophisticated do it incrementally.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Rhoberta Shaler: And they do it with, “Oh, I’m going to hurt you.” And this is where the trauma bond comes from. I’m going to hurt you, but then I’m going to swoop in and be your hero.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m sure there are so many women listening right now that are going, “Oh, Oh gosh. Is that me? Or at different phases of the discovery and the recovery?
Rhoberta Shaler: Absolutely. Because you want to believe the person and you want to believe yourself. And what I call that, Melinda, is that you get hooked on hope that the person who wooed and courted, you swept you off your feet and pretended to be everything you ever wanted is the real person. And as this diminishing return starts to show up. As you mentioned, you keep being hooked on hope that that person will show up again.
If only you’re more patient, if only you’re more kind, if only you’re less demanding, the whole thing you could take on yourself. If I make myself into a pretzel and worse, make myself into a doormat, then magically that person I fell in love with will return. But we don’t notice is, in the book I wrote, Escaping The Hijackal Trap, there’s a whole chapter on the gotcha factor. They have a way of getting you so that they feel they’re secure that they can now let down and be their real selves.
Melinda Wittstock: So Rhoberta, when you find yourself in such a relationship, what are usually the steps to recovery? What’s the first aha that women in particular tend to have? What is the process of taking those steps to get away from that person?
Because it can be really difficult to disengage, especially if they’ve left you as a shell of yourself and your confidence is taken away, and sometimes your money is taken away like in my case or whatnot. Right.
Rhoberta Shaler: Sometimes.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s difficult to figure out how to come back from that, so what’s your advice for that often a long process of healing?
Rhoberta Shaler: That is a huge question. I’ll start and then we can talk about it.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I know there are so many facets to it, and certainly in my own experience, there were phases, moments of aha, seeking help …
Rhoberta Shaler: Right. Let’s just address that for a minute. If you think you’re in a relationship like this, it’s really important to look for a specialist in these kinds of relationships. And so I’m putting this caveat at the beginning of the answer to your question, Melinda, but I have clients all over the world and so many, almost all of them have said, “Oh, we went to counseling.” But what does a hijackal do? A hijackal only agrees to counseling if they feel confident they can charm and manipulate the therapist into their point of view and re-wound the other person.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness. Okay. I’m laughing because I have a story on that. We went to couples therapy and it was all about false equivalence. The therapist would say things to my ex, like, “Okay, so what would make it better for you? How can Melinda be better?” And he would say things like, “If she just cleaned up the vitamin cupboard, because the vitamin cupboard is a mess,” whatever. And then she’d ask the same question of me and I’d say, “It would be really great if he really cut back his drinking and didn’t abuse me verbally in front of other people or at home in front of the children.”
Rhoberta Shaler: That would be a very false equivalence.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s how that went and it was just so ridiculous.
Rhoberta Shaler: That was, “Look at all I’m asking of her; Clean the vitamin cabinet. Why can’t a woman just do that if that would make me happy?” And you’re sitting there going, “My life is a shambles because of you, which part of my life would I like you to change?” And that’s what happens. And you will get generalities from them, not… You were surprisingly specific in that case, getting an answer about the vitamin cabinet.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Which I went and cleaned, and nothing changed.
Rhoberta Shaler: And it wasn’t enough, no.
Melinda Wittstock: It was never enough.
Rhoberta Shaler: There’s another piece of the puzzle because every time you do exactly what a hijackal asks you to do in hopes of being patted on the head, they move the marker and tell you how silly you were to think that that was what they wanted. So as soon as your vitamin cabinet was cleaned, there was something else terrible happening in the garage, no doubt.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. I was beginning to really, really understand what was going on. It led me to a whole bunch of books, It led me to this journey into consciousness that ultimately really has transformed completely my life as I regained my confidence, my sense of value and all of that.
But like at times I’d be like, “What happened to that young woman in her 20s who was conquering the world and had so success and confidence? And that how to regain that sense of self worth, and quite a journey.” So from that moment of say, aha, and people go to the therapist and they don’t necessarily get the therapy that they need like in that scenario, what’s the next step? Because you do really have to be talking to someone like you, someone who actually understands this to be able to help you through it.
Rhoberta Shaler: That’s right. And the better thing to do is to go and know that you want to rebuild yourself, become re-empowered within yourself before you make the decision to leave. On my podcast, I always say to people, unless there is physical or sexual abuse, in that case, go immediately leave, go to the police leave. But if there isn’t take the time to regain yourself before you leave. Learn some strategies, try them out, set some boundaries, start small, make some changes in your communication style. And I teach my people to do all of these things.
See what’s possible, but as they’re doing that, they’re feeling more and more like they’re taking up the space in which they need to exist, that they fill themselves out fully and refill the places that the hijackal has taken an emptied. And when they do that, then we can be coming towards an equitable decision about leaving or staying, to see and calibrate what has been possible in that journey, in that part of the journey. Now, if you’re with a dyed in the wall hijackal, you’re going to be leaving if you’re wise and if you can.
But if you can’t and you want to, we need to make a plan. And that includes often forensic accounting, because hijackals love to hide money. They like control over the finances and they like to siphon off finances, put them in their own name-
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my God. You’re just describing this period of my life.
Rhoberta Shaler: Well, there you go. I’ve been there too, a walking proof. And so, you have to notice the various aspects that you are being damaged in, and that’s where the journey begins. When I work with someone who says, “I think I’m with a hijackal, what do I do?” We look at that. We look at how they feel, how they’d like to feel. Where they lost any feelings, or maybe they had a hijackal mother. I wrote an article for YourTango called the 12 Lies Your Narcissistic Mother Told You About Yourself.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, what are the 12? I’m so fascinated by this? Because is there a pattern? Do you most women who end up falling for narcissist partners have a narcissistic parent, either mother or father?
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes. Yes, yes. In the first six years of life, about that, somewhere between five and seven, we’re born with incomplete, undeveloped brains, and they’ve got some work to do after we pop out and breathe. And so that first six years, seven years, we are really vibrating sacks of emotional nerve endings. We don’t have language, we know we have these two giants who were supposed to take care of us and we have to figure out how to get them to take care of us.
Do I be cute? Do I laugh? Do I be silent? Do I scream? What do I do to get their attention? What do I do to get them to take care of my needs? Then that’s how we develop our sense of self. What did they respond to me with and how do I know how I fit in this world? So basically very subconsciously, unconsciously, patterns are being created. Melinda, that’s the way I describe it is that your operating system was being installed. And in most cases it had worms, and Trojan horses, and viruses and things in it and you didn’t know.
It’s the only operating system you ever had, so this must be true because the giants told you so, and so you don’t notice that. You then operate on that system. And so you may pick up things along the way. Of course, as a little person you’re looking forward to, I want to go to school. I want to go to middle school. I want to go to high school. I want to get out of school. Then I’m supposed to have a job and I’m supposed to maybe go to college, or learn a trade, or be an entrepreneur.
And then I’m supposed to be successful. And then I’m supposed to have a partner. And maybe I’m supposed to get married. And then maybe I’m supposed to have a house and children. And by the time you get all that, you’ve been head down, tail up, and then like a mere cat, you pop up and go, “What happened? How did I get here?”
Melinda Wittstock: All those subconscious drivers, they’re all formed zero to seven. Sometimes before, sometimes deep in our epigenetics as well.
Rhoberta Shaler: Sure. Yes. And so when you pop up and realize that, how did I get here? This feels awful. What do I do? By that time you’re so put down, worn down and torn down, you may be too exhausted to barely crawl to find somebody to help you, but do it, absolutely do it. Because it’s only from the outside questioning that you can find those places where the predisposition was put in and that somehow this got okay with you slowly.
Like you said, man, it all seems lovely in the beginning, and then slowly, slowly it diminishes. And I’ve even had people, it didn’t diminish slowly at all. I had one client who on her wedding night after the reception, her groom dropped her at the hotel and didn’t come back for five days.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness.
Rhoberta Shaler: So some people do the gotcha and then they feel they can do whatever they want, like that person. But other people have a different ability to function. So they will slowly have that [dan-pneumo 00:21:24] of attention, that, okay, got you now. I can be a little frivolous. I can be a little forgetful. I could be a little mean. And then slowly the real person emerges. So in that great big question that you asked, first of all, get good help because you just can’t see these things. You just can’t, somebody has to help you with that.
You may see some things, reading books, or taking my courses, or doing things like that, and that’s a great beginning. But then for you personally, in your personal life, as opposed to generally what happens with hijackals, that’s what you want to figure out, that’s why you go and get help. So in order to empower yourself, we have to find that spark that will ignite some energy that says, “No, this is not okay for me and my kids,” or, “This is not okay for my business,” or, “This is not okay in my family. I do not want this anymore. How do I make the leap out? Or how do I get my head around the ability to explain why I’m out of here? How do I get that power to say, ‘I matter?'”
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. I started to realize it didn’t actually matter what I was saying because I wasn’t being heard. And so I started to test things out like saying, “Hey, did you notice the windows are three inches too short?” Or just something nonsensical and it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter. I could say anything. I could say, “Took, there’s some aliens outside.”
And I started to realize that it wasn’t actually about me. And that was the beginning of that, getting confidence back. And then once I’d made that leap in my head, friends started showing up in my life, resources started showing up in my life that were giving me all the breadcrumbs of how to deal with this scenario on my journey.
And it did take a little ways to actually get away from it all together, get my kids out, all of it. But gosh, what a journey? While this is not a political podcast, we’ve gone through four to five years of a steady drum beat from what I regard as hijackal president.
I’m sure there were a lot of things that I recognized in the former president that I had experienced myself in my own life. How is all of that affecting people who are in different stages of recovery from relationships with hijackals do have endured that at this kind of more country-wide level in that case?
Rhoberta Shaler: Excellent question. It has changed things deeply. In 2015, a very well-known publicist approached me and said, “Wow, this is your year.” And I said, “Oh, why?” And she said, “I can get you on every media outlet to talk about the candidate.” And I said, “Oh no, no, no, no. I’ll talk about it after when he loses, but not now.” Little did I know I’d have to wait until now. But you ask a very good question because anybody who has been wounded in this way is subconsciously at a minimum triggered by this behavior.
And part of the behavior started in 2015 by giving people permission to express their dark side. And so, people who had underlying anger felt a little more ready to come out with it, they wanted outlets for it. Then lying. Lying is such a big thing. On the podcast, I’ve done things about pathological lying, all kinds of lying because hijackals lie. They do it with a total aplomb. So it’s second nature to them. They don’t necessarily even think about it because in their minds they are right. They are right and they are righteous.
So anything that they say has to be the right thing. Here’s the thing about hijackals, in the moment they must win. So if in the moment they have to say, “Black is white,” to win, they will say that. And then 10 minutes later, they have to say, “Black is red to win,” they will say that. And then when a media person says, “But 10 minutes ago, you said black is white.” What’s the answer, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. The answer is, oh “fake news.”
Rhoberta Shaler: It’s that and then say, “Oh, you don’t listen very well. Do you? Because of course you’ve taken it out of context.” We all heard the lie. We all heard the lie. But if somewhere in our background there was fault being found for us suggesting that someone wasn’t telling the truth, we will subdue that within ourselves and we will give people the benefit of the doubt. And if we have been totally damaged, then we’ll start saying, “Oh, but they do other things really well. Oh, it doesn’t matter, they did this really well or they’re promising to do this.”
And the promises of hijackals, they are multitudinous, however, the actual follow-through of hijack goes is almost non-existent. So we saw a lot of that. Now we’re seeing the true nature, which is the sulking pouting person who got caught in somewhere between three and seven years old emotionally that behaves that way at the absolutely benign idea that they could be an inference that they’re not perfect. Right?
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Rhoberta Shaler: That’s what we’ve seen. We’ve seen the pouting, and the sulking, and making other people wrong and name calling, name calling in huge ways. And nobody has said, “Look, you’re behaving like a three-year-old.” And if people have had that in their background, they may not even understand what they’re responding to.
Melinda Wittstock: Take Trump for a moment and the book by his niece, Mary Trump. And when you actually understand the kind of transactional, and loveless, and unsupportive way that he was brought up in his early years, you can see the making of this.
Rhoberta Shaler: Oh, absolutely. But let’s not put our compassion hat on too firmly. These things are certainly created in the young child. Absolutely. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to take care of it. We didn’t break them, we don’t have to fix them. When you get into a relationship with them, it is not your job to fix, rescue, set straight what they’re doing and you don’t want to be enabling them. Many times we talk about enabling, and so I wrote a definition and I think it fits here in your questioning.
My definition of enabling is when you usually step in to fix, solve, excuse, rationalize, justify, or make the consequences go away for the poor choices of others.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Right. And it’s like compassion, because people generally, so many of us want to do the right thing.
Rhoberta Shaler: We want to be good people.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes. And then it’s so difficult though how to do that with someone who just doesn’t play by the normal rules. Where the goalposts are constantly shifting and we’re seeing this play out even now. It’s so interesting because now I look at it and I think, oh my goodness, what is it? Like a third of the country or whatever is totally bought into this, almost cult-like.
Rhoberta Shaler: They have, because those people, and I can’t speak for every one of them, but I’ll generally speak for the group are looking for a sense of belonging. They want something to make them right. And so this makes them right. They can go because he sent them, they can hurt because he wants them to. Some very convoluted way. They think that they’re going to be rewarded for being bad and they are going to hopefully feel that while they’re in jail, and missing their families, and missing their income, and losing their jobs, do they really think that he’s going to reach out and say, “They’re there, well done?” No, they’re not. And they’re going to have this incredible depressive opportunity.
One of the things that we do and it’s part of creating trauma bonds and betrayal, is when you go overboard to help people who have been destructive to you. And they don’t look at the destructiveness, they keep hoping to be validated. And when you look at the behavior styles of the people in the film and all, and you see the need to be so angry, the need to hurt, the need to bring pain, the need to disrupt, it’s all a projection of their own internal pain.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. I think that’s so, so true and it allows you know, on a scale, like what we’ve witnessed, it allows a mass manipulation, just like a one-on-one kind of manipulation because it’s playing the deepest things and often subconscious things within them.
Rhoberta Shaler: And if they were listening right now, they would say, “That’s ridiculous. That’s ridiculous.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, they would. I know they would.
Rhoberta Shaler: Because-
Melinda Wittstock: Which is an interesting question because how do you get folks off that ramp? How does that heal itself? My goodness.
Rhoberta Shaler: You don’t. You don’t, you can’t get folks off that ramp, they have to want to get down. And that’s the sad part about it because they become entrenched. They’re afraid to be wrong. Again, leave your compassion hat on the bench, but one of the things that happens in the creation of a hijackal is they’ve been deeply shamed. And so they built this armor, I’m writing a book right now called Armored By Shame. They have been deeply shamed, so they’ve created this armor that it comes complete with high level sensors.
So anything that could possibly feel or be construed as you decrying anything about me that could possibly engage me in a feeling of shame, I will head off at the past and I will come with all guns blazing.
Melinda Wittstock: That’s exactly what’s going on.
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes, yes, that’s exactly what’s going on.
Melinda Wittstock: Rhoberta, talk to me a little bit about the stages of recovery.
The further I got out from it, the more I began to see echoes of that former relationship, folks they could appear as vendors, or team members, or just casual acquaintance or whatever, who to me appeared like echoes. And I interpreted it as the universe saying, “Are you sure you want to leave this whole dynamic behind? Are you sure.” It was like testing me in a weird way.
But for a long time I had those echoes, and with each one that I dealt with, I got stronger at dealing with this and better at actually understanding the dynamic of what was going on, and more attuned, and conscious and aware in the present moment of being able to identify. But it was quite a long process. How we start to stop that recurring pattern, I guess it is from happening.
Rhoberta Shaler: The first thing is to absolutely recognize that what the other person’s doing may not have anything to do with you. And that person is going to tell you everything is your fault and you’re to blame for everything that occurs; the IRS, the weather, whatever. And so the first thing is to separate yourself from that and to realize that it’s not your fault, these are projections. A person, they project when they’re afraid of what you’ve said, so if they’re afraid of something in their own lives, they’re afraid of not being good enough.
They’re afraid that they have hijackal tendencies, they’re afraid and you say to them, “You are not good enough,” or, “You have hijackal tendencies.” They will take that innate fear and turn it on you and say, “Oh no, you’re the one who is a narcissist. You’re the hijackal. You’re the one who’s not good enough.” So they constantly project anything that they’re afraid of to you. So you have to unhook that, Melinda where, okay, he or she said that this was what I do. Is it what I do? Or is it that they were looking for power over me by blaming me? And so you unpack things in that way.
One of the biggest relief minutes that people get is when they realize, oh, that really wasn’t my fault. There’s nothing else I could have done. I had a healthy response, I was told it was wrong. It is not my fault. Then we start unpacking how many times did that happen? So it’s creating that sense of self that says, “Maybe I’m not who they say I am and I need to unhook myself from that.”
And if we’ve had a hijackal parent, it is going to be a parent over a long period of time, and it does take a long period of time to see where the similarities were and how you fell into a subconscious pattern that was implanted in your operating system before you had any say in the matter. So if you have given yourself esteem to this person and they are defining yourself esteem, you have to take it back.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. You really, really do. You have an amazing podcast, Rhoberta, Save Your Sanity, which goes through all of this. Is super, super popular. Delighted that it’s on Podopolo of course-
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: … but it’s so, so important. So what was the moment in your own life where you said, “Okay, you know what? I’m going to go full on into this and doing all the work that you do with all your clients, and your podcast, and everything, and grow your business around this topic.”?
Rhoberta Shaler: I started my business in 1984 and it was all things to all people as many do. Okay.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I know. It’s for everyone.
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes. Yes, yes, yes, and people were giving me advice, niche, niche, niche, and I was in Canada, so it was niche, niche, niche. “No, no, I don’t want people to think I can’t handle that.” So it took quite a while to actually… I always was very, very interested in the resolution and mediation, negotiation of conflict. And I spent years as a speaker speaking to corporations about that, then going in and helping them with the issues that they had in the workplace.
Even the United States Marines. So there was all that going on. And then I realized, okay, refine, refine, refine the niche. And so I don’t know, six years ago? No, it was nine years ago, I started really focusing on passive aggressive behaviors because that was really important. And just a side note, Melinda, all hijackals are passive aggressive, but not all passive aggressive people are hijackals.
So I specialized in passive aggressive behavior leading to talking about these things. And then I developed the term hijackals, and then I went deeply into that. So I’ve been podcasting since 2002. I’ve had several different podcasts during that time, of course. And now I have just the one with two episodes a week, and I have another one, Emotional Savvy that ended a year ago and has 170 episodes there for people, which is The Relationship Help Show. But Save Your Sanity: Help for Toxic Relationships, very, very specific.
It was my background, my interest, and my predilection for doing radio that turned into podcasting and then saying, “Ah, my target person is that person who has been isolated and marginalized in a relationship, any relationship and is sitting up in the middle of the night, chewing their fingernails down to their elbow, wondering what to do to. Is it just me? Is anybody else experiencing this? Is there something wrong with me? No, no. Let’s change that paradigm.
Melinda Wittstock: Absolutely. And along the way as you’ve built this very successful business, very successful podcast, even 16 books, you’ve been very, very busy. What are some of the business lessons that you’ve learned along the way, other than the niching or niching one, which I think everybody needs to learn at some point?
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes. That would be the first one, narrowed as much as possible. I know is counter-intuitive, I struggled with it. Don’t struggle, just take our word for it.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Just do it. Yeah, exactly. Because you can be very specifically helpful and you can always add new, in tech speak, new verticals.
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes, yes.
Melinda Wittstock: … new markets, whatever. But yes, get really good at one first. Yeah.
Rhoberta Shaler: And tell people about it, know why you’re in it. What I find now, Melinda, is that I was talking to my team yesterday and said, “Really, I don’t do the whole journey. I do this part of the journey and it keeps refining.” That’s an important thing to understand is how you niche in your niche. That’s one. And secondly, if you’re going to be a podcaster, if you’re going to get up in the morning and do anything, endeavor to be consistent.
It’s not like, “Let’s try this today and then let’s try something else next week.” Do some planning, do some research, find out where you really want to land and then build from there so that you can be consistent. Sure, we’re going to try new things, but we’re going to try them because we see them and research them as leveraged from what we’re already doing. But I find that with podcasting, we all know the statistics, people get excited about podcasting, they don’t hang in for the long haul because they don’t get the return on investment, or life intervenes, or something happens.
But if you are going to be a podcaster, be consistent. If you are going to be a human, try being consistent because that’s how you become known for who you are and what you do. People want to be able to say, “Oh, this is what you’re up to,” and then they know to turn to you, or turn to your podcast, or turn to your service because you are so clear and you are consistently present in that marketplace.
Melinda Wittstock: Podcasting is one of the most amazing forms of communication. It’s actually the fastest growing media of all time, but it’s also not a transactional medium. It takes time and consistency to really build the audience, build your, I guess your tribe or your community around that audience. Figure out how it fits with how it’s going to sustain around your lifestyle, how it’s going to support your business or lead to a business. It does really take time, but I can’t tell you the benefits that have accrued to me from doing this podcast.
It’s not just the number of revenue streams that have emanated off it, or the fact that I’ve created a podcasting network as a result of it, or any of those things. It’s conversations like these. Every single time I do an interview with anyone on my podcast, I’m learning something, my audience is learning something. I’m developing amazing relationships with amazing women. There’s so many benefits, but it’s not that just instant gratification.
Rhoberta Shaler: No. And that’s the point. I follow so many podcasting groups on Facebook and people will say, “Oh, I’ve put out eight episodes and I only have 400 downloads. I don’t know if this is for me.” And I’m like, “Girl, eight episodes? You don’t even have [crosstalk 00:45:43].”
Melinda Wittstock: Exactly. Exactly. I remember I was getting to about 400 and I’m like, “Yeah, okay. I think I’ve got this.”
Rhoberta Shaler: Yeah. With Emotional Savvy and this one now, I’ve got like 400 episodes and I’m like, “Yeah. After podcasting for 20 years almost, I should know a thing or two about this.” And the number one thing I know is it’s slow, and you have to grow. And you can only grow by being consistent, putting the word out, having a niche that people relate to, they resonate with. That they are looking for. And then you have to do all the backend stuff. You have to know your SEO, your keywords.
You have to know who you’re writing for, how to do everything that supports that. I’m happy to say that aside from what I do on Facebook, which is usually Facebook, but other social media things, my clients all come to me from my YouTube channel and my podcast.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Exactly. And if you really think about that, there’s so many different business models with podcasts. I created the podcast I wish I had had as a female entrepreneur in a tech world where I was starved of mentoring from other women or being able to connect with other women.
And it wasn’t really tied to any specific business I was doing, But it led to a whole bunch of other business lines and whatnot. And yes, ultimately to Podopolo. There are other folks that have a business and a podcast becomes a marketing arm, but it’s not just a marketing arm, it’s a product, which needs its own marketing arm. Right?
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes. And it’s a product with great potential for leverage. Now, if you’re going to do a podcast, I don’t do anything that doesn’t have three uses. That’s my rule.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, I love that. A lot of people call it repurposing, I call it pre-purposing.
Rhoberta Shaler: I like that.
Melinda Wittstock: Great. Because every single transcript of this podcast can spin out 10 blogs, a whole bunch of social media posts, become a coffee table book. It could become an actual book. There’s so many different ways to do that, and that’s really smart with content.
Rhoberta Shaler: Absolutely. Immediately that the transcription is made of my podcast, I don’t do the guest ones in this way, I do the solo cast in this way, it goes to the person who cleans up the transcription. And then it goes to somebody else who turns it into an article. So the words that I said and everything that I did is all there, the gist is there, my language is there and other people do the rest. And so then I have those articles. Those articles not only can go out on YourTango and all the other places where I’m an expert, but they also then can be collected into a book. They could be collected into an ebook.
They can be submitted to other places. It can be a guest blog, could be so many things. And so it’s important for us to see the uses of a podcast or the uses of writing an article and how can this be turned around. When I started to Save Your Sanity in order to save my sanity, the first solo casts were me riffing off articles I’d written so that I could get a good start on the basics of things. I wanted to talk to people about hijackals without reinventing the wheel.
Now I do something a little bit different is the solo cast, what I do is I use StreamYard, and every Monday night at seven o’clock, I tell my subscribers what the topic is going to be at noon. Then at seven o’clock, I do the podcast on StreamYard live, going to Facebook, and Facebook groups, and YouTube, and all. And then everybody knows that after I’ve done the podcast, I leave a space and then we have a conversation.
Melinda Wittstock: See, that’s so smart, because you’re building audience at each of the different places you are. You have a number of different, say if they’re coming in through an article, or they’re coming in through YouTube, or Facebook or Apple podcasts, or Podopolo, or wherever, they’re coming in from all these places. They’re discovering the full body of your work and then why they need to become a client of yours.
I think that’s really, really smart.
Rhoberta, as we wrap up, do you have any advice specifically for female entrepreneurs who have had some version of hijackalism in their lives, how it might be affecting them in business? How it manifests in terms of the way they’re running the business and whatnot or holding them back in business from that perspective?
Rhoberta Shaler: Yes, I do. If you have had these kinds of people in your life, maybe today you’re beginning to hear this and realize that, oh this has a way of getting out in all corners of my life. Like I often say, Melinda, that hijackals put tentacles around your soul. So you have to find where all those millions of tentacles have gone. And so in your business, you may find that you are hoping someone else is going to do something for you.
You are giving your trust to people that you may not have researched enough, because you were, “How do you like me so far? Maybe we could do this. Oh, isn’t this great.” And then you start to feel like I’m doing more than my share. This is not just something that happened last week, it’s happening every week. I don’t feel good when I’m in the presence of this person, because I’m on edge that they’re going to find fault with me. Things start to manifest in there.
I have a course that people could take called Seeing The Cycles. And that’s important because it takes you through a bunch of exercises, as well as looking at the videos to see the 10 hallmarks of hijackals so that you have a clear way of identifying them. So, that helps you. But in businesses, hijackals are very clearly the most persuasive people that you will meet. They will also be the most manipulative, they’ll also be the most deceitful. But they shine and they may seem like a bright, shiny object to you that you want to attach yourself to. And it may be a little while before you put on your shades and realize that shine, not so much.
Melinda Wittstock: So true, and it can manifest in terms of the people that we’re attracting as team members, or vendors, or whatever, but just being really aware. Just like at the very beginning of the conversation, how is your body feeling? Are you in dread of talking to them? How do you feel afterwards? We go right back full circle.
Rhoberta, I want to make sure that everybody knows how to find you, listen to your podcast, connect with you if they want to work with you, what are all the best ways?
Rhoberta Shaler: My website’s the best starting point is forrelationshiphelp, F-O-RrelationshipH-E-L-P.com. You can find my podcast on there. It’s also on every pod-catcher that I can find, so wherever you like to get your podcasts. And the podcast is called Save Your Sanity: Help for Toxic Relationships. But if you go to the website or you go to the YouTube channel, which has also called For Relationship Help, you’ll find over 550 videos there to help you.
Remember, you can always search on that. You can get my books on Amazon. Just put my name in, Rhoberta. Remember to spell it with an H, R-H-O-B-E-R-T-A Shaler, S-H-A-L-E-R. Those are the ways and I offer new clients a very special offer, which is one full hour session for $97 so we can find the fit and they get great value in the first hour. They can find that on the website or at beaclient.com.
Melinda Wittstock: How wonderful. Thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Rhoberta Shaler: Thank you. It’s been my pleasure and my wings are not all tired, they are lifted up.
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