We’ve all fallen into the path of a toxic person at some point in our lives, and even when you feel wise and awake you might still deeply desire to seek out the good in them, irrespective of the level of pain they’re creating.
Now is the time to realise that you must care more for yourself than for them, or what they think of you. Now is the time to reclaim your sanity.
If you aren’t sure what a toxic person is or how they show up check out this post
Toxic people will bully, harass, and prey on anyone they believe they can dominate, that doesn’t mean the office recluse; often the person they’re sucking energy from is highly successful, vibrant and thriving in life. The toxic person will target them because he or she has one up on them, in some way he or she believes she has the Ace card whether that’s knowledge about a secret affair, a minor discretion, or the ability to affect a relationship cherished by the other person.
It’s important to stand up to toxic people, not just for yourself but for others. One day the toxic person just might wake up to the chaos they’re creating, but that’s not why you have to do it.
Skilful toxic people will arouse powerful, unstable emotions within you. You might suddenly feel angry, despondent, irritated or powerless. You might start lashing out at other people in your life who don’t deserve it because you are losing power to this toxic vampire.
The toxic one is toying with your emotions and they will wreak havoc if you give them an inch. Their main cravings include significance, connection and drama – when you don’t respond they’re like a kite blowing in a hurricane. They may escalate the volume or intensity of their petty attack, or find a childish way to get their own back again. They like to try to make you feel guilty or at fault.
Research from the Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found “that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, victim mode, or just plain craziness, toxic people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.”
When it comes to dealing with toxic people, you need to develop a strategy that enables you to step back, and recognise what you can and can’t control.
Toxic people are all about point scoring; they have a little leader board in their head that dishes out punishment when they’re losing. Punishment might include being ignored (though often that’s to be savoured), being denied access to something you really want, trying to dent your confidence by pointing out what they see as your flaws, or taint your reputation through seemingly harmless conversation ‘oh, she just does what she wants all the time.’
Here are my top 12 ways to deal with toxic people:
- Pick your battles wisely. Some of what the toxic person comes up with will be important to you and some of it will be your ego based determination not to lose power to this person again. Don’t waste your energy with a fight. If you’re reading this now (unless you’re a toxic person just reading this so you can roll around laughing and try to outwit the strategies) then the chances are you’re more interested in personal growth and self-preservation than petty points. Instead of retaliating choose to conserve your energy. You will know when to stand your ground and when to brush them off.
- Resist the immediate urge to respond to interaction. Your toxic person is prone to mood swings and if he or she is going off on one now they’ll probably go find another target if they’re not getting their conflict fix or significance from you. Plus, why waste your time with their ramblings? You choose when to respond; do not be dictated to.
- My yoga teacher always taught me to ‘taste my words’. Is this how YOU would choose to speak without provocation? Don’t lower yourself to their standards, ever. And if you have then now’s the time to choose to rise above. Toxic people are irrational, it’s part of their make-up. Don’t get sucked in. As soon as you engage at their level you too are toxic. Quit trying to reason with them, their level of interaction is emotionally stunted.
- Step back. A great NLP technique is to imagine yourself flying high in the sky and looking down at the problem from above. Is it really so important to you from up there? Will it matter in 5 years, 10 years? I know you want to beat them at their own game but seriously, the LESS interaction you can have with them the better. Yoga, meditation, mantra – all help you to master your mind and to respond rather than react. Use them.
- Notice the emotion their behaviour is generating in you. Let’s face it we all know toxic people are like snappy little dogs with zero credibility so it’s not what they’re saying that hurts you, it’s what you’re making it mean. Does their jibe about how you’re dressed make you feel like you might have got it wrong or that someone else is also laughing at you? Does their comment about how on earth you got that job bring you back to a childhood moment where you didn’t feel good enough? Are you worried that they will take something away from you that is precious? Notice what you notice – be MORE interested in your OWN response to what they’re saying than to what they’re saying. They’re just irritating noise like an out of tune radio.
- Create clear boundaries. Now we know that toxic people don’t respect boundaries but it’s imperative that you learn to set and respect your own. Give up trying to control how THEY are, and trust that you can control how you respond to any toxic stink bomb they fire your way. When you pay attention you’ll start to notice their triggers (perhaps when you’re doing really well for yourself, got engaged or have bought a new house or car for example). For toxic people jealousy is a catalyst to attack. People who are confident and happy in themselves do not go out to attack or create havoc or harm. Ask anyone.
- Pay attention to the pattern. Over time you’ll recognise that there is a pattern to the abuse from the toxic person. It might be hormonal, money related, work stress, a special occasion, or it might be as casual as someone mentioning to them that they saw you and you look great and are doing well for yourself. You’ll get to know their pattern long before they do and you can prepare for it in advance. Toxic people are at their best – unstable. They’ll be scaling mountains one minute and flat out in bed popping pills the next. They are quick to meltdown or burnout.
- Trust that you are growing as a person. Whilst this constant nipping at you used to wear you down you’ve now got useful resources. Next time a toxic person presents themselves as sweetness and light you’ll be able to see beyond the words and give them the bodyswerve. Use the experience for your own spiritual and emotional growth.
- Sleep – without your phone. Seasoned crazy makers (aka toxic people) lack stability in their life. Chances are they’ll be texting or emailing you on multiple platforms well after dark and early morning. They’ll be anxious, prone to insomnia, restless and unable to be at peace with themselves. So what do they do? They reach for their favoured device and launch a bomb at someone else to try to find an outlet for their own pain. They have an incessant inner critic that screams at them to the point that they have to redirect it (duck). Do not get caught off guard by picking up the phone when you’re half asleep. It’s a strong boundary for you. Adhere to it. And, sleep has been proven by scientists to be your own personal reset button. It enhances your ability to respond to stress. Make sure you have enough sleep without hearing the ping ping ping of ‘oh and another thing’ rant. Sleep increases your emotional intelligence. It’s not up to you to try to fix the toxic person.
- Don’t take any of it personally! If there’s only ONE rule you adhere to make it this one. What the toxic person spews your way is more than likely NOTHING to do with you. They need an outlet and bam, you’re it. If you retaliate they’ll milk the interaction with all they’ve got. Did you ever see Bam Bam in the Flintstones? That’s your toxic person. They’ll go on and on and on and on about anything they can to get attention, significance and to get themselves into an interaction that feels familiar to them even if it’s poisonous. By all means scan their diatribe to see if there is any truth in it you need to act on, and quickly remember who sent it to you. If you respected their opinion and considered it noteworthy there’s every chance you wouldn’t be considering them toxic. They’re toxic to you for a reason. The attack isn’t really about you, though for whatever reason chances are your success, attractiveness, natural charisma or charm has riled them. They want something that you have.
- Get the support that you need to deal with it. This might be through family, friends, or a fully qualified professional. When you try to tackle toxicity on your own you get caught in a tiny perspective and it’s easy to start to believe the nonsense pouring forth. Toxic people are persistent, it’s part of their obsessive personality. Find a therapist, a coach or at the very least a good friend and avoid getting into ‘their behaviour is a disgrace’ type commentary because that is feeding him or her energy. BE WAY more interested in what it’s bringing up in you. Is it highlighting your values in a way you haven’t seen them before? Does it make you reassess who you choose to spend time with? Does it fuel your determination to climb higher or make the long awaited house move to get away from their needy grasping? Have you been blaming yourself for letting them into your life? How do you move forward? Use their rants to spur you on; you’ll go far.
- What do you need to believe to walk away from the toxic person and the dynamic created between you? If you’ve been at the mercy of their confused ramblings for a while now there’s a chance that you feel they’ve got one up on you and it’s not safe for you to walk away. Know that this is what the toxic person is relying on. If their lifelong pattern has been that ‘people eventually abandon me’ then they’ll keep pushing you to test if you do too. This is particularly true for partners or ex partners who believe they have owernership over something you cherish whether that’s a child, a car, a house, a business, the majority of your once mutual friends etc. Do what you need to do to self-nurture and trust that the truth will always come out. Toxic people rely on you keeping quiet and feeling ashamed or embarrassed about the issue. It’s so easy for a toxic person to attack a genuine, caring, well respected person; they rely on the fact that they will not speak out publicly about it. That can change in an instant. With the hefty stash of poisonous texts or emails you’ll have in your possession right now know that whatever you are scared of losing can be presented with all the evidence they need to see exactly what’s gone on (when the time is right).
Know that whenever you fixate on the toxic person’s level of crazy, how unfair or disgusting their behaviour is you’re giving them power over you and your life. Let their attempts at crazy-making be water off a duck’s back. If they want your attention, interaction with you, or something from you, let them learn that they need to do their best to communicate with you as an adult. They are addicted to perpetuating the drama triangle of swinging between persecutor, victim and rescuer. You will frequently be propelled into any of the three points.
If you’re in any doubt whatsoever about whether or not a person is truly toxic ask yourself ONE question – do they bring out the absolute worst in you? This is not about projection or shadow work, this is heartfelt recognition that this person creates instability and contempt within you like no other and there is rarely a solution. Walk away or create distance any way you can. Protect yourself.
Without your energy the toxic person will do what they’ve always done, crash and burn or move on to someone else. Here’s hoping that the one you’re experiencing wakes up, sees the harm they’re causing to self and others, and seeks their own professional support. There’s no point suggesting it – they’ll only take it as an assault and malign you for it.
Whatever you choose to do come back to control that which you can. Learn to master your mind – the above will help you do that.
Sophia Lennox is the founder of creating confidence, with soul. As a professional coach and mentor she helps women to overcome their confidence issues, get over unhelpful thoughts and create the life they want. She’s learned about toxic people the hard way – through firsthand experience and through her clients. She’s still shining, and you can too. Sign up here for a five day Create Confidence Now programme. It’s time for you to take back control.