What are Toxic People?

Many of us have had experiences with people in our lives who dislike and antagonize us regardless of how much we try to please them.  When we take the high road, they seem to take the low road. They don’t want our best. They seek to tear us down. These are the toxic people in our lives. For most, this is a difficult situation to handle whether it be a spouse, boss, co-worker, or family member. In fact, some people go to any length to have ALL people in their midst like them. This can be an exhausting approach to relationships as not everyone is going to like us. To be clear, a toxic person is not going to like you know matter how much you try to win them over. Thus, we are faced with the question of how to cope with these types of people in our lives.

What about Narcissists?

The classic example of a toxic person is the narcissist. A simplified definition of a narcissist is someone in which conversation, activities, and attention need to be all about them. These are the people that will have difficulty celebrating your victories as they are preoccupied with having your attention upon theirs. These are the people that have internalized a belief that others in the world are exclusively there for their needs. These are the people that will expect you to like and comment on their social media posts but will routinely ignore yours. These are the people that will seek to be the center of attention in all circumstances.

How to Deal with Toxic People?

In dealing with toxic people, it is important to step back from the situation to evaluate if we’re contributing any negativity to the situation. If we’ve done something harmful in the situation, we need to take steps to make things right. If we find that we have not done anything to contribute to the situation and that the other person persists in negativity, then it is time to take some important steps.

  1. First, set boundaries with this person and limit your exposure as much as possible. If you have a toxic coworker or family member, you may have to set time limits related to your interactions. Spending an inordinate amount of time with toxic people can often leave you feeling drained. The ultimate boundary, which may be necessary in some situations, is to completely discontinue interactions with the toxic person.
  2. Second, stop blaming yourself or doubting yourself as to why the relationship does not work and is not positive. In some situations, you can expend as much effort as possible and the other person has already made the determination and decision that you are unacceptable, unlikable, distasteful, or other negative attributes. For example, with narcissists, you can invest countless hours in paying attention to their stories and issues with little return or interest on their part to invest in you.
  3. Third, intentionally choose healthy relationships when selecting whom to spend time with outside of your family, professional, and obligatory relationships. A wise neighbor once said, “Lee, I have learned in life that I get to choose to spend my free time only with the people that I truly want to.” It is important to understand that we have a choice in regard to the relationships that we invest in. There is no surefire way to avoid toxic people in our lives. However, we can take the steps above to mitigate toxic situations and focus more of our energies and time in relationships which are life-giving.

Want to learn more? Check out the latest video from Dr. Lee Hildebrand on his Tips for Coping With Toxic People.