Disclaimer: Hey Psych2goers, a friendly disclaimer, this article is not made to attack anyone who may display these signs or anyone who’s toxic, but rather to understand them and bring more awareness to the topic! This article is a self-improvement guide for those of you who have been feeling a little stuck.
Psych2goers, have you ever been in a relationship with a romantic partner, friends, family members, or co-workers which leaves you feeling emotionally drained and miserable? Everytime you interact with them, you would feel empty, down, and frustrated. You try your best to respectfully clarify your position or to “clear the air”, but your attempt is reversed, and instead they accuse you of being the aggressor.
If you say yes to the above question, most probably you are actually dealing with a toxic person in your life.
Perhaps you wake up one beautiful morning and you have an epiphany that you actually have to do something about it. You realize that the relationship is unhealthy because you are getting hurt…however you are feeling trapped and unable to figure out what is the best way to deal with such negative people in your life (Streep & Hagan, 2016).
Below are 7 intelligent ways you can use to deal with people who somehow enjoy making you feel lousy of yourself, or simply without a valid reason, like to rain on your parade:
- You establish your physical and emotional boundaries
You are happily doodling in your notebook in your classroom, when all of a sudden a group of three male friends come to your table. They are talking about a girl in the next class, (not in a healthy way). You have your own set of values that you stand up for and you refuse to engage in such conversation, thus you excuse yourself and walk away from them.
A psychotherapist, Amy Morin LCSW (2018) gives practical advice in dealing with toxic people – you need to set your physical and emotional boundaries. For example, when your peers start gossiping about people, you can always refuse to join the conversation and walk away. It is indeed difficult to completely avoid interacting with toxic people, especially if they are your co-workers, professors, bosses, peers, or even your own family. However, you can always limit the emotional energy that you allocate to them. Avoid complaining or thinking about them during your resting time, and don’t let them dictate the type of day you are going to have.
- You avoid playing into their reality
Have you encountered a situation whereby your friend is making a mistake in the workplace, but they refuse to own up to their mistake? Instead, in order to save themselves and shed them in a more positive light, they accuse someone else of messing up?
What will you do if you are in that situation?
You can always disagree respectfully. It’s actually healthy to agree to disagree. You can confront them without being confrontational, privately take the person aside, avoid accusations, and say, “I had a different take on the situation.” (Brito & Raypole, 2019).
Perhaps they will feel upset with your disagreement, but at least they know now that you actually have a voice of your own and refuse to engage in the drama.
- You don’t share secret with the gossipers
You are attending your cousin’s wedding ceremony, and you realize there is a group of older ladies talking at one of the tables. You approach them to give them the door gifts and you overheard them talking, analyzing, and complaining about the ceremony. They then dish out juicy tidbits of information about the groom, in which you are not even sure of the truth of that gossip. What will you do?
First and foremost, what is gossip?
According to a board-certified child/adult psychiatrist, Dr. Ned Hallowell, gossip is “sharing information – real or imagined – without permission.” People have the tendency to spread rumours about unpleasant episodes in someone else’s life rather than talking about the joy that one is experiencing. They are inclined to delight in other people’s pain and enjoy knowing that someone else is having a level of misery (Reynolds & Hagan, 2021).
Gossipers always like to gossip. If you are not in that circle, they will most probably gossip about you too. Therefore, it will be best to just avoid sharing secrets or venting problems to such people. They are not trustworthy enough for you to spill your secrets.
- You focus on solutions, not problems
Do you realize that when you are with a toxic person, they always focus on the problems, rather than finding the solutions? Their modus operandi is to make you feel sorry for them and for you to take accountability of what befalls them. Toxic people tend to make you emotionally drained and when you lend them their helping hand to solve the problem, there is inevitably another one to solve. So Psych2goers, if you encounter such people, remember to not be sucked into their drama, instead focus solely on the solutions. Avoid being overly willing to give your time and energy to such a person (Brenner, 2016).
- You spend time with loyal friends
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends.”
Psych2goers, let us reflect on our lives, do we have friends, or at least one of them, someone who we can really count on when we are down?
A real friend is the best gift that keeps on adding to our lives’ fulfillment. They are the ones who will always have your back, in this journey called life. Therefore, stop associating yourself with toxic people, instead look out for real friends who are loyal to you. Loyal does not mean that they only praise you (even if you mess up), but instead they always want to see you become the best version of yourself by motivating and giving sincere advice.
Have you wondered what loyalty is?
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy stated that : “Arguably, the test of loyalty is conduct rather than the intensity of feeling, primarily a certain “stickingness” or perseverance—the loyal person acts for or stays with or remains committed to the object of loyalty even when it is likely to be disadvantageous or costly to the loyal person to do so.”
- You recognize the insults, ignore them, or toss up a joke as an icing on the cake
You receive terrible insults from your superior. You know you have done your best, but your boss is still nitpicking on you.
When someone hurls insults and put-downs at you, undeniably it can lead to low self-confidence and self-esteem. It is also common to feel pent up rage. Yes, indeed being angry is an appropriate response to such a situation, however when we react based on that emotion it can actually be a weak response. It suggests that we take insults and toxic people seriously. First and foremost, learn to recognize the physical cues when you feel the rage build up inside of you. Perhaps your heart races, jaw or neck stiffens, or you get a queasy feeling in your gut. Do your breathing exercises. Next, remember to not take their harsh words to your heart. Don’t let the insults get to your head. Most of the time a toxic person only wants to stir up a drama to trigger you and to see your reaction. Sometimes it’s better to just ignore and realize that their bad words and actions are a reflection of their own character, not a deficiency on your part. It will be even better if you can toss up a joke. Humour can diffuse the tension of the situation. For instance, if a person insults you about your height, say, “Yeah, I tried platform shoes, but my fear of heights kicked in.” (Burton, 2013).
- You change your routine
Have you ever been in a situation where your toxic family members always hinder you when you are trying to study for an important examination? Perhaps they are making loud noises and refuse to respect the boundaries that you have set.
In an ideal situation, the family members are supposed to respect your boundaries, however, this does not always happen. Yes, it seems unfair that you are the one who has to switch up your routine, however this strategy is often worth it for your own well-being. It may be hard to avoid your family members, but perhaps you can choose to study early in the morning when they fall asleep, or maybe you can go out of the house and study in the library instead (Brito & Raypole, 2019).
Sometimes for the sake of our own peace and sanity, it’s best to completely cut off the toxic person from our lives. However, this is not always feasible, especially with your family members or your colleagues at work. Therefore, you can consider getting professional help from a licensed mental health provider if you have to stay involved with the person. They can provide you judgment-free support that is appropriate for your situation.
Brenner, A. (2016, August 29). 8 Traits the Most Toxic People in Your Life Share. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/in-flux/201608/8-traits-the-most-toxic-people-in-your-life-share.
Burton, N. (2013, February 13). How to Deal With Insults and Put-Downs. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/hide-and-seek/201302/how-deal-insults-and-put-downs.
Morin, A. (2018, December 3). 7 Better Ways to Deal with Toxic People. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201812/7-better-ways-deal-toxic-people.
Raypole, C., &; Brito , J. (2019, November 21). How to Deal With Toxic People: 17 Tips. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-deal-with-toxic-people.
Reynolds, J. L., &; Hagan, E. (2021, March 4). Rumor Has It: Why People Gossip and How You Can Cope. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/human-kind/202103/rumor-has-it-why-people-gossip-and-how-you-can-cope.
Streep, P., &; Hagan, E. (2016, December 14). 8 Strategies for Dealing With the Toxic People in Your Life. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201612/8-strategies-dealing-the-toxic-people-in-your-life.
Wilson Jr. , R. E. (2019, January 15). Who Deserves Your Loyalty? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/201901/who-deserves-your-loyalty.