Identifying the toxic people in your life is usually pretty straightforward. But depending on your coping skills, their desire to change (or not), and the type of relationship you have with that person, how you deal with the situation may differ. Here are three suggestions for handling these challenging relationships.
1. Change your usual response.
Sometimes, people just want to draw you into their ongoing drama. If you refuse to participate, they can’t get the payoff that they crave.
Your old reaction may have been to attack them back, or on the other side of the spectrum, you may have cowered. Choosing a different response may just change how they interact with you.
The dynamic cannot exist if you don’t play the same part. This works best with people who are selectively toxic and only dump on specifically chosen targets. Simply stated, don’t be the perfect target.
2. Be completely honest with them.
Some people revel in their negativity, but there are also those who are unaware of how much they're affecting everyone around them. They don't consider how their behavior is being interpreted and received and only see things from their perspective. Their toxicity has become a bad habit and shedding light on it may be just what's called for.
Lay out exactly how their energy makes you feel. This can be done without losing your head over their actions. Put them on notice that you're not going to tolerate their behavior any longer.
You don’t have to be hostile. A simple reminder such as, “you’re taking your anger out on me again," may help them recognize and subsequently modify their own behavior. This only works with people who have the desire to change their way of being.
3. Love them from a distance.
If someone’s toxic ways are taking a toll on your self-esteem and you have tried all else unsuccessfully, you have to back away for the sake of your sanity. Even blood ties are not enough to justify the voluntary deterioration of your well-being.
Granted, there are exceptions such as a sick parent for whom you are the caretaker. But if, for example, your sibling is being controlling and abusive, staying around them is not going to help anything.
If you can’t swim and the other party doesn’t want to be saved, there is nothing else to be done. It’s harsh, but it’s true. You simply can’t force someone to change. Their motivation has to come from within. Sometimes, distance is the precursor to that motivation. Either way, you shouldn’t have to pay the price with your peace of mind. That helps no one.
In conclusion, remember that most negative people are negative for a reason. Perhaps they have been deeply hurt in the past and now use their venom to keep others at a distance. Perhaps their toxicity is a power play to boost their own lack of confidence.
We all have walls we put up. Just remember that with toxic people, the walls are thicker but are painfully obvious.
Keeping an eye on our own state of mind will help inform the best strategy for your situation.