Dr Travis Bradberry has run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when dealing with toxic people, what follows are 12 of the best. To deal with toxic people effectively, you need an approach that enables you to control what you can and eliminate what you can’t. The important thing to remember is that you are in control of far more than you realise.
- They set limits (especially with complainers).
Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral. You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.
- They don’t die in the fight.
Successful people know how important it is to live to fight another day, especially when your foe is a toxic individual. In conflict, unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right.
- They rise above.
Toxic people drive you crazy because their behaviour is so irrational. The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps. Quit trying to beat them at their own game. You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.
- They stay aware of their emotions.
Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. This is fine and you shouldn’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to do so.
- They establish boundaries.
This is the area where most people tend to sell themselves short. They feel like because they work or live with someone, they have no way to control the chaos. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you’ve found your way to rise above a person, you’ll begin to find their behaviour more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t.
- They won’t let anyone limit their joy.
When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.
- They don’t focus on problems—only solutions.
Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you. Quit thinking about how troubling your difficult person is, and focus instead on how you’re going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control, and it will reduce the amount of stress you experience when interacting with them.
- They don’t forget.
Emotionally intelligent people are quick to forgive, but that doesn’t mean that they forget. Forgiveness requires letting go of what’s happened so that you can move on. It doesn’t mean you’ll give a wrongdoer another chance. Successful people are unwilling to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so they let them go quickly and are assertive in protecting themselves from future harm.
- They squash negative self-talk.
Sometimes you absorb the negativity of other people. There’s nothing wrong with feeling bad about how someone is treating you, but your self-talk (the thoughts you have about your feelings) can either intensify the negativity or help you move past it. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary and self-defeating. It sends you into a downward emotional spiral that is difficult to pull out of. You should avoid negative self-talk at all costs.
- They limit their caffeine intake.
Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favour of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised in the hallway by an angry co-worker.
- They get some sleep.
I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. A good night’s sleep makes you more positive, creative and proactive in your approach to toxic people, giving you the perspective you need to deal effectively with them.
- They use their support system.
It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To deal with toxic people, you need to recognize the weaknesses in your approach to them. This means tapping into your support system to gain perspective on a challenging person.