Jerry, often described by his co-workers as toxic, is someone who is difficult to be around. He is that person who seems completely unaware of the chaos and negativity he brings to relationships.
Like Jerry, toxic people thrive on pushing your buttons and seem to be involved in drama all the time. Most times, we just want to distance ourselves from someone like Jerry. Other times, we need strategies to deal with him.
Here are a few tips to take on a toxic person.
Conflict: The most difficult part of dealing with a toxic person is when conflict comes up. Toxic people see you as the conflict, not the issue as the conflict. Their unchecked emotions make the conflict so unpleasant that you leave the argument feeling drained and hurt. You think, “I don’t want to do that again.” Toxic people don’t live to fight another day, they live to fight! So, you have to be able to stand your ground on conflict issues and not be distracted by all the drama. In my book, “We Need to Talk”, I have a section dedicated to dealing with difficult people and conflict.
Boundaries: They are important when dealing with people in general, but they become especially important when you’re dealing with toxic people. This is because toxic people often take advantage of people with poorly defined boundaries and those who have problems asserting themselves.
To establish a boundary with a difficult person, you have to be intentional. If you let things happen naturally, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a toxic person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them… which they will.
Boundaries are important because toxic people are usually unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions, thoughts and emotions. This means they are going to blame you for their problems. And if they don’t respect boundaries, you will need a plan of action if things escalate.
Limit contact if you can: If the difficult person is a friend or coworker, limit your contact or walk away when things feel too tense. This is easier to do in a work setting, unless the person is your boss, and harder to do with a family member.
Forgive: If the toxic person hurts you, forgive, but be smart about moving forward with that person. You don’t need to keep putting yourself in harm’s way with a toxic person if they aren’t willing to adjust their behavior. Forgive and then watch how they respond in the future.
Get professional help if needed: Now, if the toxic person is your spouse, you need to address this in the relationship. Tell your spouse that his or her behavior is hurting the relationship. And while you are always willing to forgive, there needs to be change in order to for the relationship to grow. To make changes, you will need the help of a professional therapist for couples counseling.
Bottom line is that you can’t control another person, but you can control your reactions to the person. Do not passively allow a toxic person to define you or the relationship. Set those boundaries, minimize contact and if the toxic person is a family member, get help and support in terms of how to hold boundaries and push for change.