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.
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.
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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 –
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.
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.