ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

10 Healthy Ways to Cope With Toxic People

Updated on August 9, 2019
Madeleine Clays profile image

Madeleine Clays is a survivor of childhood abuse. She has learned to cope with toxic people in healthy and productive ways.

Who Are Toxic People?

The word toxic means poisonous. Toxic people are people that are harmful to be around because of their negative impact on you. They will manipulate, control, or otherwise hurt you, and may at times appear to be oblivious to the damage they cause you and others.

Behaviors They May Engage in Include:

  • verbal, physical or emotional abuse
  • fits of rage
  • very controlling or manipulative actions
  • lying or spreading rumors about you
  • being overly critical—making you feel like you’re never good enough
  • being highly negative—having a glass half-empty rather than a glass half-full mentality
  • narcissism—not seeming to realize or care about how much they hurt you or others by their selfish actions

For your own well-being, learn how to respond effectively to toxic people.
For your own well-being, learn how to respond effectively to toxic people. | Source

Harmful People in Our Lives

Growing up, I spent a number of years living with abusive people, at the hands of whom I experienced deep trauma.

I did not have the capacity at the time to cope with my situation in a healthy manner, and often blamed myself for what had happened.

It took me a very long time to learn that I could take steps to minimize the impact these harmful people had on me. This was very empowering for me and I honestly don't believe I would be who I am today had I not learned this.

Toxic people are all around us. We often can’t avoid seeing them or interacting with them on some level. They are in our office and in our families. They can make our lives very unpleasant if we allow them to.

We sometimes feel that we are at their mercy. But we aren’t. We can learn strategies to cope with them in ways that are healthy and productive.

Healthy Ways to Cope With Toxic People

1. Don't Justify Their Behavior

Stop making excuses for their behavior, such as “She had a difficult childhood” or “He has a mental illness.” Recognize that, regardless of the cause, their behavior is wrong. You need to acknowledge this.

For example, my stepmother was abusive to me, both verbally and physically. For years, I told myself that she acted this way out of jealousy of my dad’s love for me, and I felt sorry for her. I also knew that she grew up with an alcoholic father, and I felt badly for her about this, too.

However, her jealousy and difficult childhood did not justify her actions. I needed to acknowledge that although her behavior had an explanation, it did not have an excuse. There was no justification for the way she treated me. It was wrong, period.

Toxic relationships are dangerous to your health; they will literally kill you. Stress shortens your lifespan. Even a broken heart can kill you. There is an undeniable mind-body connection.

— Bryant McGill, Human Potential Thought Leader and Best-Selling Author

2. Recognize the Damage They Are Causing You

This is really important. We live in a culture that tells us to have thick skin, be the bigger person, or “keep calm and eat a cupcake.”

While this advice may have its place and time, it’s okay to acknowledge that you experience stress and other physical symptoms by being around a difficult person.

More than likely, these symptoms are a red flag that you need to create healthy boundaries with this person or sever ties altogether.

Don't ignore or feel guilty about the anxiety, stress, or emotional roller coaster you experience when you're with a toxic person. You are important, and your feelings are important.

3. Stop Blaming Yourself for Their Toxic Behavior

It's not uncommon for victims of abuse to believe that, in some way, they are responsible for their abuser’s behavior.

For example, children sometimes believe they are to blame for their parents’ constant fights. A wife may feel she should have been able to prevent her husband’s alcohol addiction.

You may feel that you deserve the ongoing taunts you get at family gatherings, because, unlike everyone else in your family, you are very quiet and usually don’t have much to contribute to the conversations.

It is never okay to hurt others by our words or actions. As adults, we are each responsible for the choices we make, which includes the way we treat others.

Stop blaming yourself for others' hurtful behavior.

Is there a toxic person you have to interact with every day?

See results

4. Stop Trying to Fix Them

It is not your job to psychoanalyze or to try to fix a toxic person. Moreover, you probably won’t succeed, so stop trying.

I confess this has been my greatest challenge when dealing with abusive people in my family. I have spent hours thinking about what could have led them to become the way they are, and what I could do to help them heal and change their actions.

However, my attempts to help them have usually resulted in frustration as I realized my efforts didn't seem to make a difference in their behavior.

I have learned that the only thing I can control is the way I respond to them .

If you haven't forgiven someone, it does not hurt that person. They're sleeping at night. You're holding onto that, and all the damage is being done to you internally.

— Tyler Perry, Author, Actor, Producer, Director

5. Stop Thinking About Them

When you dwell on toxic people and their behavior, you give them power over you.

When a friend of mine realized how much I still held on to deep hurts from my past caused by my stepmother and my father, she advised me to not give my abusers any more mental real estate.

It took me a while to understand what my friend's words meant. She was telling me to not allow these harmful people to occupy my mind. She was advising me to move on and not think about people who had already taken away so much of my life.

Probably the main way I have been able to release my abusers from my thoughts is by forgiving them for the pain they caused me. This has been a process for me. Sometimes I still remember what they did to me and I become angry. I then remind myself that I choose forgiveness over resentfulness.

Forgiveness does not mean that you okay the actions of your offenders, but rather that you relinquish your right to retaliate or to hold a grudge against them.

When you free yourself from the negative thoughts related to toxic people in your life, you make room for pleasant thoughts to take their place.

6. Consider Talking to Them About Their Behavior

Let them know how their behavior affects you.

Perhaps they were genuinely unaware of how their actions were impacting you. They may even apologize and thank you for being honest with them.

You will know their apology is sincere when they change their behavior on a consistent basis.

Unfortunately, some people may not respond as well when you approach them with your concerns. They may not be interested in listening to you and may refuse to acknowledge that they're doing anything wrong.

Or they may relish knowing they are getting to you, and they may step up their game by trying to make your life more miserable.

Think before you decide if you want to have this conversation with them.

7. Don't Expect Them to Change

If you keep expecting different behavior from them, you will only be frustrated.

Accept them as they are.

This doesn’t mean that you condone their actions or that you don't believe they can make a turnaround at some point in the future. It certainly doesn't mean you think they are beyond help.

It only means that you realize they are who they are.

Recognize that they may never change, particularly if they've been operating in this dysfunctional manner for a long time.

Creating healthy boundaries with toxic people is a significant way to minimize their negative impact on you.
Creating healthy boundaries with toxic people is a significant way to minimize their negative impact on you. | Source

8. Create Healthy Boundaries

Don’t give them anything to chew on. Don’t share personal information with them, thereby giving them an opportunity to criticize you or gossip about you.

They may gossip about you anyway, but it’s less hurtful if what they say about you is completely false rather than half-true. If it’s completely false, at least you can sort of laugh about it. After all, eventually people will probably find out it’s a total lie.

If it’s half-true, you’re likely to be upset because you’ll realize you should have never shared personal information with them to begin with.

Minimize interactions with them. Learn to do this in a natural manner, so it doesn't appear as if you’re deliberately trying to avoid them.

For example, if you have a difficult coworker you dread having to interact with, don’t arrive early to office meetings. Arrive right on time or just a minute early so that you don’t have to be in the same room with this coworker longer than necessary.

For family gatherings, try to sit away from a toxic person if you can. If you must be near them, limit the conversation to superficial topics or try to focus on their lives rather than yours.

If necessary, cut ties with them. In some cases, it may be best to cut ties with a toxic person so that you can heal from past wounds this person has caused in you, and so that you can ensure they do not continue to hurt you. This may mean separating yourself from them temporarily or permanently.

The book Boundaries, by Henry Cloud, was very instrumental in helping me recognize that it was okay and even necessary for me to pull away from people I loved in order to heal from past hurts they had caused me. This book also helped me understand that creating boundaries with others is a healthy strategy rather than a selfish one. Grasping this was very liberating for me and gave me peace and confidence to do what I needed to do.

9. Be Kind to Them

It has been said that kindness can melt the coldest heart. I like to believe this is true.

However, sometimes people will continue to treat you in a painful manner regardless of how you treat them. In some cases, their behavior towards you may become worse when you are kind to them.

But it doesn't hurt to try. You never know the difference your kindness may make in their lives.

Sometimes God is the only One who can change a toxic person's behavior. Don't underestimate the power of prayer.
Sometimes God is the only One who can change a toxic person's behavior. Don't underestimate the power of prayer. | Source

10. Pray for Them

If you are a person of faith, perhaps you have already experienced changes in your relationships when you have prayed about them.

Only God can heal deep wounds in people which often lead them to adopt toxic behaviors.

We can never know what people are going through or what they have experienced in their past.

Pray for the difficult person in your life. Ask God to bring healing to him or her.

Responding, Not Reacting, to a Narcissist

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Madeleine Clays

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      7 months ago from UpstateWestern,New York

      Madeline....Bravo! I truly enjoyed reading this excellent article. I was interested in reading this because many years ago, as with so many other personal behaviors, I established my own rendition of successful ways to deal with toxic people. I was eager to see how my ideas compared to yours. Well, Madeline, I can tell you that we pretty much think a lot alike. Some of my ways to dealing with toxic people differ slightly from yours but I'd bet they work well for both of us.,

      I have to admit I was happy to see that my friend, dashing scorpio left a comment. I am a fan of his and usually agree with his blatant common sense responses to most issues. I actually appreciate getting quickly to the root of a problem and dealing with it as ideally as possible, without a lot of stressing. Yes, if at all possible, I agree with Dashing when he says to simply "cut the toxic individuals out of our life." I also realize that in terms of family, it may not be feasible. We do have to consider other family members and their feelings within the situation.

      Thank you for sharing your wealth of info, Madeline and for the instructional video as well. Peace, Paula

    • kiddiecreations profile image

      Nicole K 

      8 months ago

      This is a good article. Thanks for sharing. I have some people in my life who, while I wouldn't consider to be 100% toxic, do exhibit negative behaviors that bother me. One of them is very negative in general much of the time, complains a lot, and can be very critical and makes hurtful comments on occasion. I can't really limit my interactions with this person too much because they are in my family, but I do try to just pray for them and not expect too much. For example, I've come to expect that I probably won't be able to please this person all the time or make them happy, because they will always find something wrong with whatever I do and find a way to criticize me. If this person is in a bad mood or acting negative, I'm learning to just realize it probably has nothing to do with me and that I shouldn't bend over backwards to try to fix the situation. Like you said, we can only focus on the positive, pray for the person, and watch how we react, making sure we are reacting in a godly and loving way.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 

      8 months ago from Chicago

      Life experience has taught me you don't (deal) with toxic people.

      You remove them from your life. Just like a cancer you cut it out.

      Life is too short to be trying to change water into wine.

      Each of us gets to (choose) who we spend our time with.

      No one is "stuck" with anyone! Suffering is optional.

      "Never love anyone who treats you like you're ordinary."

      - Oscar Wilde

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)