Life is stressful enough by itself. And when you add a toxic person to your life, it can wreak havoc on your physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Our physical health is highly affected by our emotional health. And our emotional health is most certainly affected by our relationships.
So, it stands to reason that dealing with toxic people and their behaviour in a healthy way is vital to your overall health. But how do you detect these toxic individuals?
They may be charismatic when you first meet them, so it’s difficult to see them coming. But gradually they start making you feel uncomfortable and drained on a regular basis.
They can be subtle and great at manipulating, making you wonder whether you are overreacting. They may be constant complainers, making you do everything to make them happy and convincing you that everything is your fault.
They can be controlling and do things that hurt you, telling you that it’s for your own good. They are pessimistic downers, they may lie and over-dramatize things, and often never feel the need to apologize.
They can drag you down and make you feel worthless. They can even turn you into a toxic person if you aren’t careful. So how do you deal with toxic relationships, read on to know more:
- Set your boundaries. People who constantly complain and whine about their life fail to focus on solutions. They play the victim as they want others to focus their attention on them so that they can feel better about themselves. You may listen to these people, as you don’t want to be rude or mean. But it’s better to set your limits when necessary. For instance: If you are with a person who is always complaining about a problem, ask them how they intend to fix it. This will force them to either end the conversation or take it in another direction.
- Defend your boundaries. Show them through your words or actions that you will not take their insults or belittling lightly. If you allow them to pollute your mind, they will take advantage of your situation. So, it’s always better to let them know that no subtle digs or mind games will be tolerated from your side. If they persist in the insulting language, it may be the best to end the conversation.
- Become aware of your emotions. You can’t stop someone from pushing you until you become aware of when it’s happening. If you are aware of your emotions, you will be better able to calm down before responding. Always give yourself some time to think before responding in the spur of the moment.
- Distance yourself. If your words are not helping to deal with a toxic person, try physically distancing yourself from that person.
- Limit your exposure. If you have a friend who is toxic, you can stop meeting them. But if it is someone with whom you live, schedule your day so that you spend less time with them.
You can go for a walk or to a library when they come back from work. You can retire to bed early if they tend to go to bed late. If nothing works, simply opt to interact less with them.
- Speak up. Stand up for yourself whenever possible. Most of the time when you speak up, toxic people will back down as they realize the negative impact of their actions. But there may be times when some may respond negatively to you or may use anger to influence you. Use direct statements when talking to them. Say something like, ‘You seem to be angry. Did something that I said upset you?’ or ‘Your behavior is upsetting me. Is this what you want?’
- Don’t allow them to feed on your energy. Toxic people crave your attention and energy. Don’t give them the leeway. Learn to react less to their opinions.
- Don’t expect things from them. Expectations can cause pain and disappointment. Don’t expect them to have your back if they have proven over and over that they don’t. This will protect you from being let down by your own expectations or hopes.
- Don’t let them have power over you. When you fall for a toxic person’s manipulation, you may blame them for the choices that you make in your life. When you blame them for your choices, you are giving them power to rule your life.
- Don’t let their toxicity creep into your other relationships. Toxic behavior is contagious, so have control over your emotions and thoughts.
Don’t yell at your kids to release your tension. Don’t start an argument with your spouse because you came home in a bad mood after dealing with a toxic individual. If you're not careful, a toxic person’s unhealthy behavior could creep into your other relationships and cause them to suffer.
- Don’t let their words affect you. Toxic people often enjoy being rude and mean, and they gain satisfaction from seeing you fall apart. If you allow this to happen, it will lower your self-confidence and you will start limiting yourself in many ways. Sometimes subtle belittling remarks can sting, when you think about it later.
Remarks like, ‘This is far too complicated for you to understand,’ or ‘You look so much better today,’ can start damaging your self-esteem, if you are not on guard. Remember the source of these comments and put them into context.
- Don’t resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Pouring yourself a drink or indulging in comfort food to combat the stress caused by the toxic individual in your life can prove to be detrimental to your health in the long run. These quick fixes can make you feel good in the moment, but can set you up for a ruin.
Instead, try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation to release stress and tension.
- Don’t be their victims. Commit to yourself that you won’t be anyone’s victim.
Set your boundaries, be strong and smart, and own the power to make your life’s decisions. Don’t bend to a toxic person’s will.
- Choose your battles wisely. Conflict is the only way toxic people feel important, so they are always up for it. But you should choose your battles carefully. Save your energy for issues that really matter and are worth fighting or arguing for.
- Stop trying to please them. If you had an argument with a toxic person, stop tiptoeing around them or making special pardons for their behavior. They will not change if you reward their irrational behavior. Ask once, talk about it and if need be, apologize. Don’t offer help, you don’t need to explain why, justify your decision or make excuses.
- Don’t take it personally. Toxic people are not toxic to only you. They are likely the same to everyone. Accepting this will help you deal with them easily, and you won’t take their actions or words as personally.
- Avoid negative self-talk. Certain times you tend to absorb the negativity of other people. It’s human to feel bad if someone is treating you poorly. But your negative self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can deepen the negativity. Avoid negative self-talk as it is unrealistic, unnecessary and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral.
- Empathize with toxic people. When people are rude or mean to others, they project their own insecurities. They are fighting their inner demons. Their toxicity is the symbol of how they treat themselves. Be practically compassionate to them. Be sympathetic to toxic people whom you know are going through a difficult phase in their life. This will help you understand their attitude and will help you to be less affected. Tell them, ‘I can understand what you are going through and it seems so painful.’
- Forgive but don’t forget. When you empathize and forgive people for what they are doing, you are letting go of what happened so that your mind can be freed of the burden of thinking about it. Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or giving the toxic person another chance, it just means that you are not letting yourself get bogged down by unnecessary things. At the same time, be assertive in protecting yourself from future harm.
- Focus on the solution rather than the problem. Don’t waste your time ruminating about the faults of the toxic individuals in your life.
Instead, focus on practical solutions that will help you to deal with them effectively. This will put you in control and will reduce your stress.
- Take time for yourself. If you have to live with a toxic person, try to introduce positive things in your day to counter the negativity they throw at you. Take time to relax and rest. If you do not do this, their toxicity can infect you. Find a new hobby, read inspirational books, watch positive programs. Do anything that will lift your mood.
- Reach out for help. You may need help to deal with negativity. Everyone has someone who they can count on when in difficulty. Reach out for their support.
They may help you gain a different perspective on the toxic individual. They may see a solution that you are unable to.
- Develop a thick skin. Growing a thick skin means developing the ability to remain calm in the face of adversity. Thick-skinned people know what criticism needs to be taken into consideration and what needs to be discarded.
- Focus on your growth. If one person is very dominating in a relationship, the other person has to be submissive or passive. Instead of changing the other person or challenging the other person’s nature, you should focus on growing yourself. Speak up about your needs and values. Usually toxic people are attracted to the submissive version of you and when you start healing and growing, the entire dynamics of your relationship changes.
- Protect yourself from abuse. Sometimes toxic relationships are abusive ones. If you are being physically or emotionally abused, it is simply not OK. You are encouraged to reach out to local shelters and behavioral health professionals to receive the support you need and deserve.