Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.
While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when dealing with toxic people, what follows are twelve of the best. To deal with toxic people effectively, you need an approach that enables you, across the board, to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realize. You can:
- Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)
Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself.
- Don’t Die in the Fight
Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual.
- Rise Above
Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?
- Stay Aware of Your Emotions
Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.
- Establish Boundaries
You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.
- Don’t Let Anyone Limit Your Joy
When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
- Don’t Focus on Problems—Only Solutions
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them.
- Don’t Forget
Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.
- Squash Negative Self-Talk
Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.
10. Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry person.
11. Get Some Sleep and Rest
When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative, and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.
12. Use Your Support System
Tap into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.
Summary: Bringing It All Together
Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you’re going to have to pass some tests. Most of the time, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.
Blessings to you as you apply these techniques that work. Remember to surround yourself with loving, supportive people.