How To Deal With Toxic People

I’m sure, like me, you’ve come across people who always seem to be negative.

I’m not talking about someone having the odd ‘bad day’, because we all have those. No, I’m talking about people who are consistently negative, where their energy spills over to such an extent that it affects the people around them.

They’re never happy. Even a seemingly positive situation is picked apart until something bad is found. They may seem to attract, and feed off of, drama.

How To Deal With Toxic People

What is it like to be around a toxic person?

Over the course of a number of years I knew such a person and had a lot of contact with them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m normally quite good at feeling the ‘energy’ in a room. Almost like, if you walk into the middle of an awkward conversation and you can just ‘feel’ that you should probably turn round and walk out again!

And it was pretty much like this. I kind of knew what was coming even before anything was said, because the energy this person gave out was so pervasive and infectious.

What impact can it have to be around a toxic person?

Unfortunately, there were reasons which I can’t go into that made it difficult for me to break away from this person. What I will say is that it had a detrimental impact on my well-being. I ended up feeling things such as:

  • Anxious at being around the person
  • Fearful of what mood they would be in
  • Frustrated that I couldn’t do much about the situation
  • Feeling like the situation was my fault
  • Believing that I might be imagining the situation and I needed to ‘get a grip’
  • Guilty that I didn’t have more empathy for the person

Only now that I’m away from the situation am I able to reflect on it properly. I tried to step away mentally while I was still in contact with the person but I think that’s hard when you’re still trying to deal with it.

How can you deal with a toxic person?

1. Try and speak to the person.

I guess one step is to try and talk to the person about how their behaviour is making you feel. Be careful here though. You don’t want to say things like “You make me feel X when you do Y”.

The bottom line is that no one can make us feel anything unless we allow them to. It’s more a case that what we think about someone’s behaviour dictates how we feel (more on this in a little while).

So, to rephrase it slightly, it might be better to say “When you do Y, I feel X”, and then you are owning your feelings but highlighting that they’re connected to something this person is doing.

Whether or not you confront the person is up to you. You’ll probably have an idea of how they’ll react.

In my situation, I knew that no amount of speaking to this person would work, that they would turn it round onto me, say it was my problem and that I was the one being negative. How did I know this? Because I’d seen someone else try and speak to them. In that sense, I knew it wouldn’t have solved the problem.

How to deal with toxic people

2. Offer the person support.

It might be difficult but I like to try and show people empathy. Even though their negativity may be difficult to be around they’re obviously suffering to some degree, which can’t be nice for them.

In that sense, I might be inclined to sit down and try and help them come up with ways they can work through their situation.

However, I place a caveat on this. If they’re unwilling to take responsibility for themselves and make changes, but expect me to wave some sort of magic wand and do the hard work for them, then that is not going to happen!

I’ve also been in situations where I’ve had the same conversations multiple times and it’s made no difference because the person has decided not to do anything about their situation. At this point it’s also a good thing to consider whether you’re putting in more effort than you should.

3. Just not be around them anymore.

If you don’t want to see them, and if you have a choice not to see them, then make that break. If they want to know why, then it’s up to you whether or not you respond.

I’ve sometimes found that toxic people have only ever wanted to speak to me about their problems, so sometimes I just decided to stop asking how they were and they never contacted me again. It’s sad that some people only want to know you when they have something to moan about!

4. If you cannot change the person/situation then look at how you react to it.

Changing your way of thinking and reacting will help your mental well-being far more than trying to change something/someone you cannot change, which will just leave you extremely frustrated.

Why should I change ‘me’ when the other person is the problem?

This isn’t about changing ‘you’, and whilst the other person’s negativity is a problem for them it need only be a problem to you if you allow it to be.

I was talking to a good friend a few years’ ago about another toxic situation I was experiencing (I seem to attract them!). She helped me to think of it as an analogy, which has stayed with me ever since.

She suggested that I imagine the toxic situation/toxic energy as being in the form of an object. For me, the toxic situation was contained in a pretty, pink box wrapped up with a big pink bow. Whilst this box looked lovely on the outside, it had a lot of nasty stuff inside.

My friend said it was as though the toxic person was giving me the box, which contained all their negativity, and I was holding onto it. She told me that I had a choice not to hold onto it. In other words, when someone tries to give you the responsibility for their sh*t, you don’t have to carry it. You have a choice to say “no”!

What did I learn?

People who are consistently negative are difficult to be around, and it’s only too easy to end up taking on their negative energy and ending up being dragged down by it. Like I said, it was easier to learn from the situation once I was out of it. I found it too difficult to try and reflect when I was stuck in the middle of it.

How to deal with toxic people

But what I learned, and what I intend to put into practice in the future, is that another person’s negativity is not my problem. To go back to the analogy, that is their box of stuff, their responsibility, and I do not  have to carry it for them.

If I come into contact with similar people again, I feel more confident that I can separate myself from the energy they’re giving out.

The bottom line is that it’s important to look after yourself in these situations. By all means offer support if you think it will give the person the ‘kick-start’ to work through their problems, but don’t take responsibility for their emotions.

Have you ever come across toxic people? How did it affect you? How did you deal with it?

64 thoughts on “How To Deal With Toxic People

Add yours

  1. Great post! In my experience, I’ve always viewed toxic people as a sponge. They take your energy, time, emotional strength, support etc, and absorb it. I’ve been left ego depleted and damaged. Doing the hard thing and cutting them out is the only real way to deal with it. That’s hard sometimes, but in the long run, what’s best

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  2. Great post and actually something I’ve been very aware of since my Leukaemia diagnosis as I had a lot of toxic people in my life. It made me sit up and take notice to people who were treating me badly and so I cut them from my life…I’d already tried all the things you mention in your post, and now I feel so much better and happier! Thank you!

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  3. I have a friend whose partner has affairs. I hear the gripes, see the photos, hear about the arguments but in the end I can do nothing. It brings me down. Nothing changes. I have advised they seek counselling etc. but stop short of advising divorce – not my place to do so. I hate the tension. I have taken a break from going out with them.

    Good article.

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  4. You make amazing points here. I’ve only ever had a few toxic people in my life. Some of them were very dear to my heart, but it can be too much and there is a point where you just have to say “enough” and remove them from your life. I feel that most everyone can benefit from this post!

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  5. I love this! Having dealt with an incredibly toxic individual a few years ago I realised I followed your steps without ever realising it. I tried so hard to be a support to them but in the end I walked away. It was the best decision I could have made. 🙂

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  6. Toxic people can bring you so down… nut sometimes they are cleverly disguised as nice, posituve folk too… their overly sweet nature can bring you down too x

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      1. I am one who always has a smile on my face, but if things aren’t right, I never cover them, I talk things through and then the smile gets pasted back on! Hopefully my eternal optimism doesn’t grate on people!

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      2. I think optimism is great! I think it’s the people who cover things up which I find difficult. Life can be tough, it’s not all smiles. But then, perhaps they may feel too vulnerable to share when they’re struggling. I need to re-charge my empathy levels!

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  7. Most thought-provoking. I have a habit of attracting such people also; I It must be the empath in us! I’ve recently detached myself from a toxic person although funnily enough, this one is overtly positive and was therefore much more difficult to spot. It was painful being sucked in and spat out, but the biggest lesson for me was definitely number 4. Trying to do more to control how I deal with negative situations is really helping to lessen the impact. Sue x via The Suzie Speaks Blog Party

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    1. Yes, I really think it’s about how WE react to toxic people. I’ve know really positive people too, who never seem to have bad days. I cannot believe that they never have things which get them down; makes me suspicious!

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  8. Nice to see you at Suzie’s party…. I agree with you on this. It’s important to support these people but you don’t want these negative thoughts and feelings rubbing off on yourself. An important post here, thanks for sharing. Lorelle. 🙂

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  9. I’m getting better & better at removing toxic people from my life. They’re just not worth it. I have lots of nice friends who make me feel great and I’m a nice person, so so I just deserve their toxicity. Life is too short. In my experience, I find they rarely change and if they do it’s because time has passed.

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  10. I loved the analogy your friend gave you. I find it best to stay away from toxic people. But as your friend pointed out its on us how much we do get affected. Great post with a great take-away.

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  11. You did a great job of analyzing toxic people. As you found, it is more difficult to find your way through this when you are in the middle of it. You do have to make a choice to disassociate yourself from the person or figure out how to live with them without it making you crazy.

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  12. I find this extremely well written. I personally don’t believe in toxic people, only toxic behaviour. I understand there are circumstances which make people behave the way they do and that goes a long way towards making me think kindly towards them when they are on one of their trips.

    That said, I especially liked your tips because it’s important to practise self-care and work on our well-being , sort of like the ‘put on your oxygen mask first’.

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  13. Hi,
    1. I like your blog name. Great play on words.
    2. I was just talking about how to change a toxic person we know this morning. I asked if I should talk to them, one of your tips; they said it wouldn’t help. The woman is 80. Does age make a difference?
    3. I met you at Suzie’s blog party. Maybe you can check out my blog if you need any blogging tips. That’s what I blog about. I also have blog parties like Suzie.
    Janice

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    1. Hey Janice, thanks! What I would say is that we cannot change the toxic person, that is down to them. What we can do is try and change our reactions to them. I’d never say never, but I suspect if someone is in their 80s their behaviours are very entrenched and it might be more difficult for them to change. It’s not impossible, I guess it depends on their willingness to change and to recognise if their behaviour is a problem. I’ll be sure to check out your blog, thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Mind Over Meta,
        Thanks for the opinion on changing older people and for your reply. I appreciate you checking out my site. How did you find that rather old social media article?
        Janice

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      2. Thanks Janice. The article was helpful, thank you! I’m always looking to see if there are things I’m not doing! I’m still looking round your blog as I think there’s much more for me to learn 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Hi Mind Over Meta,
        Thanks again for your reply. I appreciate your interest in my articles. I love to help bloggers. I hope you will consider becoming a permanent reader.
        Janice

        Like

  14. This is a beautifully inspiring post Simon. It not only alerts us to toxic situations but gives us a heads up as to whether we create drama and discomfort for others. You’re a fine man and genuinely good person. Much love to you. ♥️

    Like

  15. Very well written post. I have been around Negative/Toxic People where I had to say ‘enough is enough ‘ but it was not easy , it opened up some earlier wounds for me, which was good, because it helped me heal. You are spot on , their emotional baggage theirs to carry. Thank you very much for this post. I would reblog it on my blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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