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Unavoidable Toxic Encounters: Strategies to Handle Toxic Individuals You Cannot Avoid

Updated on September 16, 2016
Dana Lovrek profile image

Having experienced and recovered from toxic relationships, Dana writes relationship advice pieces to help others thrive and find happiness.

Being confronted by toxic people can prove to be an incredible challenge, especially in compromising situations where confrontation is unavoidable, such as a situation with family or a colleague. Unlike situations with a toxic friend, acquaintance, or partner, you can’t just simply walk away. These people are permanent, or at least long term, figures in your life that will inevitably have an impact on your life.


How is it even possible to avoid these negative situations when you can’t avoid the toxic individual to begin with?


It’s difficult to deal with these situations because there are so many emotions and negative side effects that come as a result of toxic people in our lives. When you know you’re going to encounter a toxic individual, it’s easy to feel consumed by dread, which can lead to loss of appetite, physical illness, or depression. When you’re around a toxic individual, you will feel attacked, threatened, defensive, tense, or frustrated. The effects of being around a toxic individual could continue to linger well after your encounter.


Overall, toxic people have such a negative impact that it could affect many aspects of your life, both physically and mentally.


So how does one deal with an unavoidable toxic encounter and get over the negative repercussions that follow in the wake of such encounters?


Unfortunately these encounters, because they’re unavoidable, can be difficult to deal with. It’s easy to feel trapped because unlike the aforementioned option of just walking away from the toxic individual, such a gesture in the event of an unavoidable situation may come off as irrational, is a solution that won’t stick, or may even make the situation worse.


There are, however, some alternative solutions to alleviating the impact that toxic people have in our lives.

Find Your Happy Place

In the event that the dread is starting to set in at the thought of encountering a toxic individual or if you’re dealing with the aftermath of a negative encounter, find something that brings you to a happy place. Doing exercise is a great way to positively release energy and natural dopamine that will make you feel calmer. Meeting up with someone you feel safe around is also a great way to mentally psych yourself and surround yourself with positive vibes and love. Whatever it is, doing something to bring happiness and peace is a great way to overcome the negativity that comes with encountering toxic people.


Talk With the Toxic Individual About How They Negatively Affect You

Now, I’m not saying this is a logical option for many people dealing with toxic people in their lives and I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for all situations. Gauge the personality, possibility of a negative outcome, and the reason the individual is toxic to determine if talking with them will result in positive behavioral changes. Some toxic individuals very well may be reacting or lashing out based on their own experiences, so broaching the subject may have a positive outcome. If the toxic individual you’re dealing with lies without consequence, has personally attacked you or your character maliciously, is dealing with substance abuse or other addiction while in denial, or habitually behaves negatively despite declaring they would stop, I’d tread cautiously with this solution because you may be giving them power over you or rearing up for negative consequences.

Avoid Direct Contact

If you don’t have to, then don’t converse one on one with a toxic individual. If you’re at a family function and are able to, talk with other family members, especially because they’re more likely to be happy to talk to you anyway. At work, try to avoid a toxic colleague, and whatever you do, do not work with them directly.


Make Friends, Family, or Colleagues Aware About What You’re Dealing With

Letting friends, family, or colleagues know your situation could help with lessening the opportunities for a toxic person to cause harm to you. Be mindful of how you approach this, because you’re not trying to get others to pick sides, initiate confrontation, or alienate anyone. If others are made aware of the situation, they could aid in alleviating a situation when it arises, such as pulling you aside if they notice you’re uncomfortable or just not creating situations that would put the two of you alone together. Those who care about you the most will certainly do their best to help you through these tough situations.


Create Firm Boundaries for Yourself

Know your limits when it comes to toxic individuals and determine what you need to do for yourself in the event that a toxic individual crosses those boundaries. Ask yourself how far can you remain calm and collected before you start to feel turmoil, anxiety, anger, or frustration? Respect yourself and know that you shouldn’t have to endure a situation that brings negativity or anxiety. Maybe politely excuse yourself to step outside for a moment to gather your thoughts. Maybe get away for some alone time to take a few deep breaths. Whatever it is you need to do, do it, because there is only so much that we can deal with before we react in ways we may regret or find ourselves in a place where the effects become unbearable.


Always Stay Positive

Toxic people tend to use tactics that try to put others down for their own personal gain. Toxic people will say things about you in a negative fashion in order to make themselves look better. It may be difficult to remember, but toxic individuals are trying to feed off of putting you down, so try not to let their hurtful words and attempts get to you. Try to stay positive and remember that the problem is the way they are choosing to act towards you, not you.


Avoid Stooping to Their Level

Toxic people tend to practice very negative behaviors. Many toxic individuals will lie about others, manipulate people or situations, or just act very mean. When you’re the target of a toxic individual, it’s easy to want to behave towards them in the same manner that they behave towards you, but doing so makes you a toxic individual as well. Additionally, if you feed into that negativity, you give the toxic individual a reason to feel victimized, giving them even more power to target you. Remember to maintain moral behaviors that make you who you are.



Try Not to React to the Behaviors of a Toxic Individual

Toxic individuals are usually toxic because they feel powerless, that they have no control, or that they have nothing going on in their life, so they will find a way to attain power through toxic and negative behaviors. Toxic individuals gain pleasure from putting others down to make themselves look better. When you react to toxic individuals trying to put you down, you give them power over you and you enable the behaviors to continue. If you feel bad about the actions of a toxic individual, this person may try to make you feel worse because they are getting the reaction from you that they want. It may be difficult, but try not to react to the negative way a toxic person treats you, and they may even stop over time.


Make Peace With the Situation

Making peace with situation doesn’t mean that you have to like it. It just means you accept the situation for what it is. Making peace isn’t always the easiest thing to do, but once you find that peace, it’ll be easier to deal with confrontation from a toxic individual. After all, we cannot control the behaviors of others, but we can choose how we deal with and react to negative and toxic behaviors.

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