6 Steps for Dealing With a Toxic Person
Toxic friends and family can wreak havoc during the holidays.
Kim rolled her eyes in the staff breakroom when everyone was chatting about their Christmas plans. “It’s at my sister-in-law’s this year. I think I’m going to volunteer to work on Christmas” to which everyone laughed. Kim has a toxic sister-in-law.
Many of us have a toxic person in their life. Toxic people can be anyone-relatives, co-workers, patients.
How to Recognize a Toxic Person
One way to recognize a toxic person is through your feelings. Your emotions are valid and serve as red flags. But you begin to think that maybe you’re the crazy one when dealing with a toxic person. You may feel:
- Confused, and experience self-doubt
- Manipulated and trapped
- Guilty and resentful
- Frustrated, angry, and hurt
- Humiliated and powerless
Toxic people manipulate others and violate boundaries. They are (seemingly) oblivious to the chaos they cause. Like tornados, they suck people in and leave devastation in their wake.
They do not take responsibility but prefer to twist reality and blame others. They don’t really care about you because they are incapable of caring for anyone except themselves.
Sound like anyone you know?
How to Deal
Kim can’t divorce her sister-in-law, and she certainly can’t change her, but she can change how she responds to her.
Instead of spending emotional energy dwelling on the toxic person, change your responses to them. This puts you in control instead of them.
- Acknowledge your feelings. Identify them.
- Set boundaries and distance yourself from them. If you choose to maintain a relationship or can’t avoid one, with enough distance to keep them from hurting you. In some cases, you may choose to end the relationship.
- Plan for success. It can be scary, so start slowly with small steps and think it through. What will their reaction be?
- Do not argue or reason…because they do not respond to reason. State your position. Re-state as needed, but do not engage in argument.
- Do not veer from your plan
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest and renew yourself through being in nature, and being around healthy people who love you.
When you change your behavior, be prepared for escalated maladaptive behaviors from the toxic person. For example, if they are used to you immediately texting back when they contact you, and you don’t- they will barrage you with texts. But it’s temporary, while they test the limits. Stick to your guns.
It takes time for your thinking to clear if you have been deeply involved or enmeshed with a toxic person.
But ultimately having a toxic person in your life is an opportunity for personal growth and healing.
You can learn to set healthy boundaries and to be in control of your own emotional well-being.
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Until next time friend,
Come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at allnurses.com for all kinds of entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question