Toxic People: How to Deal
Unless you are a real pro at spotting an neutralizing toxic people, you probably have one or two you have to deal with on the regular. Here are 5 steps to dealing with toxic people that have worked for me.
There is a toxic individual in my life, that I have to deal with on a daily basis. This person is dear to me and wasn’t originally toxic. However, she’s had some challenges in her life and has become toxic over time. This person will randomly decide I’m angry with her. No reason, just decides. She’ll finally say “I know you are mad at me.” I’m all “Huh? I’m not mad at you!” She’ll immediately say “I know you are mad at me.” Again, I tell her I’m not. She’ll say “I worried about it all weekend”. Again I’ll repeat myself. After about the 5th round of this, she eventually decides maybe I’m not mad and goes along her way. Now, this may seem like a fairly simple interaction, but it left me feeling super anxious and uncomfortable. The problem here is, that she is making me responsible for how she feels, and I’m letting her do it. It’s up to me to tell her 15 times that I’m not angry. When she comes to me and tells me I’m mad, and refuses to believe me when I say I’m not, she’s making me responsible for her emotions. Guess what? You are never, ever responsible for how another person feels. The fallacy here is that I can control how someone else feels. As long as I tell her 7 times that I’m not mad, I can make her feel better and stop feeling anxious and worried. That’s total bullshit. She’s the one that is responsible for making herself feel better, not me. She’s the one that needs to tell herself that she has no evidence that I’m mad at her, not me. I slow-walked myself through the following steps, and they worked.
Step 1: Identify Toxic People
The quickest, easiest way to identify toxic people in your life is to pay attention to how you feel after interacting with that person. Are you smiling and laughing? Do you feel uplifted or motivated? Do you feel cared-for? Or, do you feel worried? Overwhelmed? Anxious? Like you want to eat everything you can find? Need a drink really bad? People that trigger these things in you may be toxic.
Step 2: Observe
Now that you think you’ve got this person/persons nailed down, let’s just watch. The next time you interact with the person you’ve identified in step 1, take note of how you both feel and behave after spending time with this individual. Do you feel tense? Nervous? Angry? Have you squeezed your shoulders until they are up near your ears? Suddenly eating ALL THE THINGS?
Step 3: Make a Plan
This step can be overlooked, but it’s essential. Now that you’ve identified this person, and had a good look at how the two of you interact, you can decide how to handle their toxic behavior in the future, and be better prepared next time. Is this an issue you can address directly? Using phrases like “I don’t like it when….” or “I’m not comfortable with…” may help you take the bull by the horns. It doesn’t even have to be that formal. Try this: “Girl, your gripe more than anyone I ever saw!” or a simple “It makes me nervous when…”.
Can you physically move away from the toxic individual? Getting out of the same space as a toxic person helps me to re-center and not feel so affected by their behavior.
Step 4: Take Action
Now you’ve identified the individual, seen what happens between the two of you, made a plan on how to deal with it, it’s time to implement. That may mean telling a pushy relative that you don’t feel comfortable discussing your marriage in detail. That may mean asking a complainer what they are going to do about a situation, rather than just listening to them complain while their negativity rubs off on you. Whatever the plan is, give it a shot.
Step 5: Assess
Now that you’ve implemented your plan. Have a look at the results. Did walking away make you feel calmer? Did addressing the complainer directly shorten the bitching session? In my case, I told the toxic person that it upsets me when she insists I’m mad when I’m not, and it’s insulting when she doesn’t believe me. She’s not told me I’m mad since.
Another (Less Successful) Example:
There is another toxic person in my life. She’s always been toxic, bless her heart. I’ve done all the above named steps, several times. Unfortunately, she is unable to respect any boundary I set. I now avoid this person like the plague. I strictly limit my time with her, and steel myself before I go. If I do see her, I also make sure that there are others around, and prepare myself to leave at a moments notice. Not everyone can or will respect your boundaries, and this is no reflection on you.
Do you have toxic people in your life? How do you deal with them? I’d love to hear how you handle difficult interactions with difficult people.
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