One morning you wake up and realize that some of your relationships are problematic. You might recognize that you keep on getting hurt over and over again, and you're not sure what to do. Need some help? Here are six strategies for dealing with toxic people:
1. Discover what makes you easy prey
Reflect on why some people in your life mistreat you. Is it your need to please others? Or your fear of upsetting others? Think about the interactions you've had with people that make you unhappy and see if you notice a pattern. This will help you to avoid toxic people moving forward.
2. Explore your reactivity
Analyze the degree to which you overreact and under-react in relationships that you view as problematic. A controlling person may regard your under-reaction as permission to keep on treating you poorly. Work on managing your emotions, and set some goals for yourself in terms of handling the relationships differently.
3. Trust your judgment
One reason why people stay in hurtful relationships is that they don't trust themselves or their judgment. If you're used to rationalizing toxic behavior or giving the person the benefit of the doubt, you should examine why you're doing the excusing. Try not excusing behavior in the future.
4. Set and enforce boundaries
If a toxic person is someone you can't avoid coming into contact with, be sure to set boundaries for behavior and the kind of contact you're going to have. Someone people don't know what healthy boundaries look like, and don't know how to negotiate them. You don't have to be rude -- instead, be firm and decisive.
5. Anticipate pushback
The toxic person in your life probably loves controlling you. So, as soon as you start setting firm boundaries, you might begin to notice that they will redouble efforts to keep the dynamic going. Remember to stay strong during this time.
6. Don't normalize abusive behavior
While you may have been exposed to toxic people all your life, as you're breaking out of the dysfunctional cycle, it's essential not to normalize abusive behavior. Being critical of you, ignoring you, being negative, overwhelming you with communication, and lying to you are all signs of abuse. Emotional and physical abuse is never okay.
It takes time and practice
Cutting out toxic people from your life requires a lot of time, energy and practice. You have to be able to recognize abusive behaviors and understand why you tolerate such behaviors. As you begin to rebuild your self-esteem and set firm boundaries, you'll notice it becomes easier to stay "no" to others.
- "8 Strategies for Dealing with the Toxic People in Your Life," Psychology Today, December 14, 2016.
- "If You Must Work, Learn How to Deal with Toxic People," Medium, January 31, 2019.