10 Ways To Deal With Difficult, Toxic People

by wordscribe

Tips on dealing with people who are difficult and even toxic. Learn methods to protect yourself, set boundaries and communicate effectively with them.

If you have a difficult or even downright toxic person in your life, rest assured you are not alone! Some people have family members that are next to impossible, others have co-workers they avoid like the plague, while others have friends they just can't seem to set free. In order to stay sane, there are some methods to dealing with the madness. Read on to find out how to deal with them in a productive and healthy manner.

Frequent anger is one sign of a toxic person
Frequent anger is one sign of a toxic...

Who Are These People, Anyway?

We've all run across difficult people, right?  You know the ones; they may be belligerent, manipulative, rude, dishonest, bossy, conniving or just plain high maintenance.  Trouble comes when we can't actually break free from these people for one reason or another.  If they're family, chances are they're not going away any time soon.  Or perhaps you have the misfortune of working with someone impossible.  Or maybe the difficult person is actually a friend... You might really enjoy this person the majority of the time, but want to go running for the hills when he or she is in "one of THOSE moods". 

One of the most beneficial ways to improve your interactions is to work on your OWN perceptions of the people you are having trouble with.  If you can arrive at a place of understanding, and perhaps even sympathy, you may find your tolerance may increase and your communication may improve. 

So what might make a person so hard to be around?  Generally speaking, bad behavior doesn't develop in a vacuum.  Chances are past experiences or even chemical imbalances in the brain have set the stage for acting out.  This individual might only be responding to how he or she was treated in the past.  Being "difficult" might only be a symptom of a coping mechanism developed in the past for self-preservation and protection.  At the root of the problem may be feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, lack of trust, fear and negative self-image.

Others might be suffering from a myriad of mental health disorders. If your brain chemistry is out of whack, it may be a colossal feat to have positive interactions with others.  

You may never get to the root of this person's maladaptive behavior, however recognizing something is going on under the surface may give you the necessary patience, tolerance and sympathy to improve your own reactions to the challenges in the relationship.  Changing your mindset is a powerful tool!



Ten Tools for Staying Sane in Insane Relationships

The following are all tools you can use when dealing with a variety of challenging people. Obviously it's not possible to address every type of situation/person, so I encourage you to find the tips that work for you in your particular situation.

  1. Set healthy boundaries

Setting boundaries is important in all relationships, but crucial when you're dealing with challenging people.  After they are set, you must be consistent in adhering to them.  For example, you are on the phone with your impossible mother-in-law and she's in one of her moods.  You start to see signs the conversation is deteriorating when she takes it to the next level and pulls out one of her many personal insults.  SET BOUNDARY HERE!  You might say something like, "I don't want to hang up on you, but I cannot continue this conversation with you when you speak to me that way."  If the verbal abuse continues, you must follow through by ending the phone call.  And, you must do this every time she treats you with disrespect.  By every time I mean 100% of the time, not sometimes or even most of the time.


   2.  Don't stoop to their level

You may find yourself wanting to lash out after you've been pushed to your limit time after time.  But, keeping your cool and not stooping down to their level is your best defense.  Stay out of any manipulation or 'tit for tat' games; it's really not worth it.  Continue to communicate honestly and directly.  Problems in relationships can escalate very quickly when there are two people with ulterior motives. 

If you feel yourself becoming irrational, take a breather.  You may need to physically walk away, excuse yourself to the bathroom to calm down, or simply state you will not discuss the topic any further.

  3.  Practice healthy communication

Avoid seeming accusatory and instead share your feelings.  You've probably heard this before, but I'll say it again:  use feeling words.  It may take some practice to get in this habit, but it really is an effective communication tool.  You want to say:  "When you do (or say) X, it makes me feel Y."  For example, "When you talk behind my back, it makes me feel unloved."

  4. Do not participate in certain conversations

If you are dealing with a toxic person who gossips or bad mouths people, do not participate in the conversation.  Stay quiet, leave the room, do whatever you need to... just don't add to the conversation.

  5.  Learn to stay detached

Some toxic people will try to lure you into their lives or drama.  They may be needy, dependent, manipulative and even deceitful.  Stay out of the drama... you may listen, but embrace an air of detachment.  In other words, don't become emotionally involved in the drama. 

  6.  Learn to say "No!"

Some toxic people may make unreasonable demands of you.  You will need to learn to say "No!" 

  7.  Follow your gut and stay true to your own values

Listen to your gut.  When something doesn't feel right, it probably is not.  Always keep your own personal value system in clear sight.  If you begin to feel you are being tricked or lured into something unhealthy, be firm in your convictions.

  8.  Stick to safe subjects and activities

There are some topics or activities that may be more prone to bringing out "the bad side" of difficult people.  Over time you may begin to see these patterns emerge, so stay away from the instigating subjects and activities.

  9.  Brevity is best

Keep conversations short and sweet.  You can exchange pleasantries, but there's nothing wrong with excusing yourself from a conversation.

  10.  Stay positive even around bitter negativity

Keep the conversation as positive as you can and don't feed into the negativity.  You can insert details about positive things that happened in your day.  Be mindful of your body language- a smile can go a long way in turning a negative person around.




Clearing your mind helps maintain mental health

writing in the journal
writing in the journal

Remember to Practice Self Care

Negative people are draining!  At the end of the day, you may feel like you've lost a piece of yourself.  You may be in a bad mood, depressed, overwhelmed or you may even feel guilty about something.  Toxic people have an uncanny talent at eliciting guilt in others.

It becomes your job to take care of yourself.  You may need to find some sort of release.  Here are some tips on self-care when you're in the throes of an unhealthy relationship:

  1. Take a nice walk and release those natural endorphins.  Or go to the gym.
  2. Talk to a trusted friend about your challenges.
  3. Keep a diary or journal to record your feelings.
  4. Write an angry letter but don't send it.  

Good luck in your journey- because it IS just that.  These skills take time to master... and time for the other party to accept.

Updated: 10/11/2012, wordscribe
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wordscribe on 10/13/2012

Wow, Arlene... that's probably the hardest type to deal with. Those who aren't outwardly challenging just might take the cake. I know what you mean about the slow "feed". I've run into that before and it's not pretty. Good for you that you moved on... I refuse to let these people occupy real estate in my head anymore.

wordscribe on 10/12/2012

You and I are a lot alike then. I've become much choosier about who is in my life now that I've gotten older. Thanks for coming by!

katiem2 on 10/12/2012

Great list and video, the sum of your life or your personality mirrors the top five people you surround yourself with. I'm like Oprah, I carefully select who's on my team, in my life and that makes all the difference. Besides, negative people don't tend to like me as I'm habitually positive. :) It works for me. :) K

wordscribe on 10/12/2012

Oh how true, Sheri. Boundaries are important for every relationship. Thanks for stopping by!

Sheri_Oz on 10/11/2012

So important to define out boundaries. Also important to be around people who don't drain our energies.

wordscribe on 10/11/2012

Don't we all, Ragtimelil! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Ragtimelil on 10/11/2012

Oh, yeah. I have a couple of those. I do my best. Thanks for the encouragement.

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