If you’re looking for tips to help you deal with toxic people at work, at school, in your friendships, or in a romantic relationship, we’re sharing 8 strategies to help. Whether this person only exhibits a few toxic traits, or has an underlying condition like narcissistic personality disorder, interacting with them can be emotionally draining. These individuals lack empathy and like to play the victim, and their need to always be right makes them master manipulators. Recognizing the signs of toxic people can help you understand the reasons why they behave they way they do so you don’t take the things they say personally, allowing you to strategize more effective ways to interact with them.
9 Traits of Toxic People
- They leave you feeling emotionally exhausted
- They always need to be right
- They withhold/twist information to benefit themselves
- They play the victim and don’t take responsibility for anything
- They find fault in everyone and everything
- They don’t listen to understand – they listen to reply
- They cannot apologize or admit when they are in the wrong
- They have no empathy for others
- They are always negative
How to Deal with Toxic People: 8 Tips
1. EDUCATE YOURSELF
If you want to know how to deal with toxic people, the first thing you need to do is educate yourself. It can be so easy to take the actions of others personally, and toxic people are particularly skilled in deflecting blame from themselves onto others. Take the time to really dig into the traits of toxic people, and consider the reasons behind their behaviors. This will help you see their behaviour through a different lens, and while it won’t change how they treat you, it will help you understand why they act the way they do. Educating yourself on the traits of toxic people will help you see that this behavior isn’t normal or something to be accepted, and will empower you to find ways to cope.
2. DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
The things people say and do to us are usually a reflection of how they feel about themselves and very rarely have anything to do with us. This is especially true of toxic people. When a toxic person in your life says something hurtful to you and you feel yourself getting defensive, do your best not to react. Take a deep breath and count to 10, and then take some time to consider why the other person may have been lashing out. Are they mocking your healthy eating habits because they feel insecure about their own weight? Did they make a negative comment about your haircut, makeup, outfit, etc. because they feel uncomfortable about their own appearance? Did they criticize your parenting because they’re worried you’re a better mother than they are?
It takes some practice to see your interactions with others this way, but it’s a great skill to learn, especially if you’re trying to figure out how to deal with toxic people. If you refrain from personalizing your interactions and dig deep enough, you’ll almost always find a reason why someone is treating you the way they are, and 9 times out of 10, it will have nothing to do with you.
3. PICK YOUR BATTLES
Toxic people like to argue, always need to be right, have no empathy for others, and cannot apologize or admit when they’re wrong, which can make interacting with them very challenging. While your immediate reaction may be to argue or defend yourself, try to remember that anything you say will be irrelevant. Even if you know in your heart of hearts that you are right, a toxic person will go out of their way to prove you wrong. Save yourself the heartache and only pursue battles that are of particular importance to you.
4. ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES
Learning how to set boundaries can be challenging at the best of times, but it can be especially difficult when it comes to toxic people since they are notorious for ignoring and violating boundaries. They fail to see other people’s points of view, and have no empathy for how their words or actions impact others. If you want to know how to deal with toxic people, you need to learn how to create boundaries. Be clear and concise in communicating the things you will not tolerate and always follow through. For example, you may tell a toxic friend or relative that you will no longer tolerate negative comments about your spouse, and when this person proceeds to violate that boundary, you must end the conversation and hang up the phone, leave the room, etc.
5. REMEMBER THAT MISERY LOVES COMPANY
Toxic people always have something – or someone – to complain about, and interacting with them can leave us feeling emotionally spent. Misery loves company, and when someone spends all of their time complaining, it can be very easy to jump on the bandwagon. Another great tip for those who want to know how to deal with toxic people is to avoid getting sucked into their toxicity in the first place. Use neutral comments (‘I’m sorry to hear that happened’, ‘It sounds like you’re having a bad day’, ‘Oh wow, that sounds tough’) and then change the subject. Don’t engage in negative dialogue to avoid adding fuel to the fire.
6. HAVE AN EXIT STRATEGY
Another great tip for dealing with toxic people is to create an exit strategy to limit the amount of time you have to interact with them. There are many different ways you can do this, and you will probably need a few strategies up your sleeve for different scenarios. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Be upfront about time constraints before engaging with them. Say something like, ‘I only have 5 minutes to chat before I have to do XYZ’ and then check your watch a couple of times before apologizing for cutting your conversation short.
- Ask if you can discuss something in more detail later. This is a great way to feign interest in a respectful manner. You can then come up with a believable reason to avoid the follow-up conversation at a later time if needed.
- Set an alarm on your phone ahead of time. Explain that you have to run to another meeting, with the promise to finish the conversation at a later date.
- Establish a safe word/look with an ally. This will help you signal to them so they can intervene when needed.
7. SUGGEST THEY GET HELP
If you are in constant communication with a toxic person who is important to you and he or she is bringing you down, sometimes one of the best things you can do for them (and you) is to suggest they get help. You will need to approach this carefully and tactfully, but it could change their life (and yours) for the better. Toxic people enjoy being the victim and the centre of attention, so try to find a way to use that to your advantage. Avoid belittling them or pointing out their faults and focus on reinforcing their grievances instead. For example, you might say something like, ‘wow, you have been going through a tough time lately and I hate seeing you struggling like this. How can we get you the help you need to feel better?’
8. ACCEPT THAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP MIGHT CHANGE
My last tip for those who want to know how to deal with toxic people is to come to terms with the fact that your relationship will likely change as you start to stand your ground. Toxic people enjoy painting themselves as the victim, and are skilled at twisting the truth to benefit themselves, so once you start establishing boundaries and sticking up for yourself, they will attempt to manipulate you to gain control over you. Your relationship may become more superficial, and some may decide that ending the relationship is the best course of action for their own emotional well-being. Trust the process, allow yourself to grieve, and seek help from a therapist if needed.
If you’re trying to figure out how to deal with toxic people, I hope the tips and ideas in this post prove useful to you! Remember to educate yourself on toxic personality traits, try to pick your battles and avoid taking interactions with these people personally, establish boundaries, have an exit strategy, and accept that your relationship may change.
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