How to deal with toxic people: 9 powerful tips

Surrounded by toxic people in life? Know the signs of negative people. After spotting them, learn how to deal with toxic people.
Ways to deal with toxic people
Know the most effective ways to deal with toxic people. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Updated: 18 Sep 2023, 16:33 pm IST
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Imagine having a family member who is always pessimistic or a friend who exudes negative vibes all the time. Feels heavy on the mind, doesn’t it? But you can’t always ignore toxic people, can you? Be it a manipulative boss or colleague at work, or a family member, it is not always feasible to cut ties. You’ve got to manage conversations and experiences with them smartly. So, know the signs of negative people and learn how to deal with toxic people.

What causes someone to become a toxic person?

Toxicity in people may have a lot of different reasons, and it’s often a complex interplay of various factors, including personal experiences. It varies from person-to-person, and sometimes some people can’t help being toxic due to certain experiences that led them down this road, says psychotherapist, life and business coach Dr Chandni Tugnait.

Toxic relationship
Know the signs of toxic people. Image Courtesy: Freepik

Here are a few reasons why some people are toxic:

1. Past trauma

People who have gone through some kind of trauma in their past find it difficult to move past it and accept the loss in life that it bears. Being toxic becomes a coping mechanism and a means of self-preservation so that they would not have to go through the same thing again.

2. Low self-esteem

People with low self-esteem often tend to put others down in order to feel good about themselves. Manipulating others and making them feel inferior compensates for their own sense of inadequacy and boosts their self-worth.

3. Personality disorders

People with personality disorders like narcissistic personality disorder or borderline personality disorder may engage in toxic behaviour which prevents them from forming healthy relationships, says the expert.

4. Unresolved issues

People with a lot of unresolved issues turn out to be bitter in life, and so, they lash out at others due to their own past unresolved psychological issues such as unresolved grief, anger and resentment.

Signs of toxic people

There are some common signs and behaviours to look out for when identifying toxic people.

• They make everything about them, and conversations tend to steer back to them and their issues.
• Nothing is ever their fault. They always blame others and play the victim.
• They invalidate your feelings and tell you that you’re wrong for feeling the way you do.
• They are so emotionally draining that you feel exhausted after interacting with them.
• They’re manipulative, using guilt trips, lies and threats to control people.
• They’re critical and judgmental. They always find faults in others.
• They lack empathy and cannot understand or share in other people’s emotions.
• They’re passive-aggressive. Instead of communicating their issues in a healthy way, they make snide comments.
• They are unreliable. You can’t count on them to follow through or be there for you.
• They betray your trust, break confidence, and use sensitive information against you.

Ways to deal with toxic people

Once you identify toxic people, do the following –

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1. Set boundaries

Establish clear boundaries regarding the actions you will and will not put up with from them. If they cross the line then leave or apply penalties when boundaries are crossed.

2. Limit contact

Reduce contact with toxic people by spending less time with them and sharing fewer details about your life. Only interact with them when required and do so briefly.

3. Don’t take it personally

Their internal problems are reflected in their toxicity and the way they behave. So, don’t take their words and behaviours to heart, suggests Dr Tugnait.

4. Be assertive

Be forceful and defend yourself. Don’t allow them to exploit you, so be assertive when you don’t like something and you feel the need to say “no.”

5. Embrace self-compassion

When toxic people make you feel bad, combat it with self-love and a reminder of your value. Stay away from their criticism and look at the positive things in life.

6. Make connections that are encouraging

Spend more time with people who are upbeat, kind and who make you feel good. Stay social, but choose the right people to hang out with.

7. Use strategic empathy

You should be compassionate for their underlying issues, but also avoid tolerating poisonous behaviour. Establish compassionate but firm boundaries, says the expert.

toxic colleague at work
Know how to handle a toxic co-worker. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

8. Don’t expect change

You can’t compel or expect a toxic person to change, so don’t hold out hope for them too. You should only be in charge of your reaction.

9. Avoid escalation

Avoid escalation by not lowering yourself to their level. When they try to provoke you, just remain calm and composed and do not respond to their toxic behaviour.

Ultimately, it is all about protecting your peace of mind. Don’t increase toxicity, instead reduce exposure. You might not to want hurt the other person, especially if it’s a friend or family member, but you need to put your mental and emotional health first.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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