We all have those people in our lives, the people that just drain our energy every time we see them, the ones who start conflicts, who make your life harder just by being present. With some of them it might be a little easier, as we can simply walk away from them and keep the out of our lives while we continue our positive stride through life.
But what about those people that we can’t really walk away from, the ones who are part of our family or the ones we work with or even worse we work for? Yes, in theory we can walk away from those circumstances and those people too, but in reality it’s not as easy as we may think. Yes blood doesn’t make family, yet we are tied to those people more than we are to anyone else in this world and no matter how much we complain about them, we still want them around. As for co-workers or supervisors, we also have the option of just simply finding a different job, but most of the times it’s not like snapping our fingers.
In reality, we all have to deal with toxic people at some point or another in our lives. We can either absorb their toxicity and allow them to take us down or we can stand strong, keep our positive attitude and at the end of the day remember that all that toxic behavior usually comes from tremendous pain so maybe they also need someone to be compassionate to them. Here are a few things we can all do to better deal with the toxic people in our lives.
- Understand that their toxic behavior is about them not about you. Sometimes it’s hard not to take things personally, not to get hurt when someone unleashes all that toxic behavior on us. We all love to be praised when we do a good thing and encouraged when we have fallen short, so maybe this is one of the toughest things to do, but once we understand and remind ourselves over and over again that it’s not about us, and then we can actually have a non-emotional response to it.
- Have a little compassion. Toxic behavior doesn’t come from happy people. Happy people just want everyone around them to be happy. That type of behavior comes from people with an immense amount of pain inside them. They’ve either been hurt or have endured a lot of pain that they’re having a hard time letting go of. So once we understand that their behavior is not about us, then we can try to have a little compassion for the pain inside their hearts. The last thing they need is another person to judge them and make them feel unwanted.
- Listen to them. Sometimes the toxic people are like that because they feel no one is listening to them or taking their opinions into account. You don’t have to agree with them, you don’t have to do what they say, but just listening to their point of you, even if you end up disagreeing goes a long way.
- Set clear boundaries. Remember boundaries are different from walls. Walls have the purpose of keeping blocking people out and boxing you in. Boundaries are permeable while rigorous. They set the groundwork for a different kind of relationship and they also allow for the much needed flexibility. So instead of setting up a wall that will only frustrate you when it’s not respected, try setting clear boundaries. Try to deal with these people on your own terms. If they are members of your family, gently tell them the new rules. You don’t have to be harsh about it as nobody likes to have conditions put on them, especially people who feel like they’ve been mistreated. If they are coworkers, then maybe set up “toxic free times” when you focus on your work without being disturbed by anyone.
- Go to your happy place. We all have a happy place, whether that’s a real place that we go to in our minds, a person, or a completely fictitious place. But for all of us it serves the same purpose – to take us away from a reality that does not currently serve us. If things get so challenging that you find it hard to have any compassion for them or hard to understand that the toxicity is about their pain, not about you, then it’s time for a mental break. If you can take a physical break at the same time, even better, but if you cannot, just remember that your mind is a powerful tool and your mind can allow you to thrive in a happy place even when the reality looks grim.
- Show them a different way. When we do something consistently for such a long time, we forget there are different ways to do them. Sometimes these people need to be consistently shown the positive side of things (without having it thrown in their face), to finally shift their perspective. Involve them in the process, ask for their opinion or support, make them feel like they are part of something.
- Forgive them anyway. These are the people who will rarely, if ever apologize for something even if they know in their heart they did something wrong. They will always find excuses and explanations for their wrongdoings and maybe even throw the blame on you as if what they did was only in direct reaction to something you did…so it’s somehow your fault. Forgive them anyway. You don’t have to sacrifice for them or give in to their unreasonable demands, but just don’t hold on to the anger and resentment.
- Don’t get trapped in defending yourself. State your point of you, be clear about it, but make sure you don’t get trapped into an emotional war. Try to be objective as best as you can, even when all you want to do is explode. Rise above the situation and always remember that the irrational behavior you see in them is not really about you and it may completely change 10 minutes later.
- Focus on the solution. Have you noticed how toxic people don’t put any emphasis on finding a solution? The toxic behavior comes from focusing on the problem and most of the times making it bigger and definitely more important than it actually is. And most of the times there is a solution to that problem. They might not be willing to accept initially, but if you keep focusing on the solution instead of getting trapped in focusing on the problem, then you have a better chance of keeping your sanity.
Dealing with toxic people is never easy. You will be tested, you will have moments when you get trapped in their negativity, and realize too late that they’ve tricked you once again and they’ve taken the joy out of your day. Just like with everything worthwhile in life, it takes practice, it takes your every day commitment that you will try over and over again until you master a system that works for you, the commitment that you won’t let anyone steal your joy.