12 Ways to Handle “Toxic People”
Posted by solitaireparke
It’s hard to believe we’re at the close of November, heading into December – The Christmas Season. Where does the time go? Way too fast, that’s for sure. I was thinking about the pros and cons of the holiday season which triggered a subject that we all have to deal with, not only during the month of December, but all year long. That issue we call “Toxic People.” This season seems to bring them out of the woodwork more than any other time of the year. I guess when you take the hassle and stress of everyday life and then add the hustle and bustle of the holidays on top of it; you get very disgruntled and often malevolent people. You’ll find them everywhere – at home, at work, at the shopping mall, driving down the freeway, or at the grocery store.
How do we deal with these exhausted, exasperated, furious, and anxious human beings? Well, I came across an article that was very enlightening. It was written by Dr. Travis Bradberry, who is the award-winning co-author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional. Intelligence 2.0. Here is some of the information from that article.
Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all stress.
Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus—an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your life success—when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.
You need to manage your emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control. 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 realize. These are the things you need to master:
Set Limits (Especially with Complainers)
Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves. 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. Think of it this way: if the complainer were smoking, would you sit there all afternoon inhaling the second-hand smoke? You’d distance yourself, and you should do the same with complainers. 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.
Don’t Die in the Fight
Victorious 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.
Toxic people drive you crazy because their behavior is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix? 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. Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project (or you’re their shrink, if you prefer the analogy). You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.
Stay Aware of Your 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. Think of it this way—if a mentally unstable person approaches you on the street and tells you he’s John F. Kennedy, you’re unlikely to set him straight. When you find yourself with someone who is engaged in similarly derailed thinking, sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod. If you’re going to have to straighten them out, it’s better to give yourself some time to plan the best way to go about it.
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 behavior 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. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members. You can establish a boundary, but you’ll have to do so consciously and proactively. 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 difficult 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.
Don’t Let Anyone Limit Your 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. While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
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 you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces 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.
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. Don’t be willing to be bogged down unnecessarily by others’ mistakes, so let them go quickly and be assertive in protecting yourself from future harm.
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.
Limit Your 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 favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re surprised by an angry person.
Get Some Sleep
I can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. 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.
Use Your 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. Everyone has someone at work and/or at home who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as explaining the situation can lead to a new perspective. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation.
Bring It All Together
Before you get this system to work brilliantly, you will find yourself tested by touchy interactions with problem people. Thankfully, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mold and change as you practice new behaviors, even when you fail. Implementing these healthy, stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people will train your brain to handle stress more effectively and decrease the likelihood of ill effects.
So there you have it. Maybe by using some of these techniques we can keep the stress levels down and make it through the holidays and even our lives!
Have a great day and don’t forget to check out the information and books on my website. Reading is a terrific stress reliever and books make a wonderful gift!
If you have any helpful ideas, please let us all know. We can always use another stress reliever or way to deal with those toxic folks out there.
About solitaireparkeSolitaire Parke is an author of Science Fiction/Urban Fantasy, Poetry and Larger World books. He is a lover of dragons, the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, and has a large collection of science fiction books and movies. After becoming an award winning photographer and earning a degree in music theory, he worked in graphic and web design, but he always returns to writing. When he is not writing, you can find him reading, watching a sci-fi television show or movie, or researching a new “techno gadget” on the internet. He now resides in Arizona with his family and is the proud owner of Tairobi, his Manx cat, who has been an enormous help in the writing process by lying on the computer keyboard - always willing to lend a paw or two!
Posted on November 28, 2016, in author blog, emotional intelligence, Holidays, toxic people and tagged Christmas, Dr. Travis Bradberry, emotional intelligence, holidays, people solutions, solitaire parke, stress, stressful situations, toxic people. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.
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