Toxic people and how to deal with them

Anger Management Personal Development & Growth

Toxic people and how to deal with them

The four steps for easy and effective interactions with toxic people

Today’s blog is about toxic people and how to deal with them.

As much as I don’t like words such as toxic, negative and the like, I sometimes can’t help using them. To be perfectly honest, some times, when I am triggered, I can’t think of my word of choice, incompatible. (Click here to read a funny take on Emotional triggers and how they affect our lives). Some other times, on the other hand, I use them to get the attention of people who haven’t replaced them with the word incompatible yet.

Toxic interactions

Some of you may not recognize some people as toxic for various reasons. Nevertheless, I am certain that, no matter how good you are at avoiding “toxicity”, you sometimes feel drained, frustrated or exasperated after interactions with certain people. This is a sign that you find interactions with some people toxic.

Thus, if you are uncomfortable with the phrase “toxic people and how to deal with them”, feel free to say toxic interactions.

Types of toxic people

There are many types of toxic people and we may label them using a different word but, from where I stand, here are some characteristics that may render someone difficult to deal with for some.

They can look like bullies always intimidating you to feel in control. Others may present themselves as victims needing to be saved draining you with their constant complaints or appeals for help never to actually take your advice or lift a finger to get our of their unpleasant situation. There are always the “martyrs” guilt-tripping you into putting aside your own needs in order to “repay your dept to them”. Not to mention the egocentric narcissists who make everything about themselves while belittling you so that they can feel even more important. I could go on and on about them and I will, actually, in a future blog.

The four steps for easy and effective interactions with toxic people

The four-step guide that I am sharing with you in this blog is a very easy to follow. There is one prerequisite though and that is, mature awareness.

What is mature awareness?

Mature awareness allows us to see our shortcomings with compassion and, at the same time, be vigilant so as to avoid repeating unhealthy behavioral patterns. More importantly, mature awareness helps us see through others and acknowledge and accept who they truly are. Therefore, mature awareness is pivotal when it comes to toxic people and how to deal with them.

For instance, it is really difficult to acknowledge our parents’ shortcomings for many reasons. One of them could be that, since we they raised us, whatever behavior they demonstrated appeared as normal to the eyes of an innocent child (click here to read my blog on unacknowledged past trauma and triggers). Another reason could be that, if we acknowledge our parents’ shortcomings, we might feel vulnerable and unprotected. What is more, in most cultures there is a universal commandment to respect one’s parents. As a result, it is taboo to attribute any negative traits to them. This is a whole other topic for a future blog.

Here are the 4 steps:

1. Observe in a detached way

Try to replace reactivity with detached observation. Instead of protesting, explaining, complaining etc., just observe the toxic person. What does their posture reveal about them? How about their tone of voice or their choice of words? How might they actually be feeling? What might they be trying to avoid with this behavior?

You might not get all the answers just by observing and, as a matter of fact, you don’t need to. Detached observation helps you stay in the present moment. If you start feeling overwhelmed with the situation, it means that you have been “sucked in” the reactivity. Do whatever works for you so as to get out of it; mentally go to your “happy place”, be conscious of your breathing, repeat to yourself “observe, observe, observe”.

Do whatever works for you.

2. Express yourself with no expectations (optional)

Step 2 is optional. You can decide whether expressing yourself or your feelings about what is going on will be helpful or not. If you feel that it will not aggravate an already bad situation and will make you feel better, go right ahead.

If you decide to express yourself, you should remember that you are doing it for you and without expectations. Don’t expect the toxic person to understand you or change. Express yourself without any expectations.

“Gauge the ambience” and act accordingly.

3. Focus on your goal

This is perhaps the most important step for effective interactions with toxic people. Focus on your goal! Remember! What is the goal of your interaction? What do you need to achieve? Don’t get sidetracked! No matter what the other person is saying or doing, no matter how they are acting, be firm and bring the focus back on what you are trying to achieve by the interaction. You may need to repeat the same question over and over again. Keep your calm and ignore all the drama that may come from your interlocutor whether it be threats, tears, mocking etc.

When it comes to toxic people and how to deal them, remember that you are a person with a mission. Put your mission above all else and you will succeed. If the difficult person is faced with your unrelenting determination, they will concede.

4. Manage your interactions with them

Another very important step for your peace of mind is managing your interactions with the toxic person.

Make sure you don’t put yourself in situations that you can’t get out of. For example, don’t go on a boat ride with them. There will be nowhere to go. No way to end the interaction the minute you start feeling uncomfortable.

Choose places you can easily step out of. Make up an excuse and leave the room or the place altogether. Inviting them into your home, for instance, might be a problem with someone who feels entitled and does not know how to respect boundaries; a relative for instance. If you are at work dealing with a difficult co-worker, take an “urgent” restroom break. If you are on the phone with them, politely tell them that you have to go and that you will call them back as soon as possible. This does not create a time sensitive obligation and gives you the time you need to regroup.

The new paradigm

When you think about toxic people and how to deal with them, know that it is not easy nor pleasant but following the aforementioned 4 steps with mature awareness can certainly help. Don’t be discouraged if your first attempts at implementing the four steps are not as successful as you would want them to be. They are a new paradigm both for you and for the difficult person. All you have to do is persevere. After all, practice makes perfect!

If you need help implementing the steps and are seeking further personalized guidance,
Click here to book a complimentary session now!

Photo by Julien L on Unsplash

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