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How to deal with toxic people

Vintage gas mask and headphones
If you are older than 20, and haven’t spent your entire life isolated on some island in the middle of nowhere, chances are that you have first hand experience with toxic people. You know… the types that seem to drain your energy and zest for life when you’re around them for too long. These types of people are all around us in many forms… co-workers, bosses, girlfriends, boyfriends, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, cousins, TV personalities and so on. Although all toxic people seem to share some common characteristics, my journey through life has taught me that toxic people can fall into certain broad but distinct categories. Below are some examples of the categories of toxic people. Please feel free to mention any other types that I might have left out in the comments section if the mood takes you.

  • Toxic type #1: The drama king or queen
  • These types find a way to make a big dramatic deal of every little tiny issue. Classic case of making a mountain out of a molehill

  • Toxic type #2: The perpetually jealous
  • Almost all of us have a bit of a jealous streak. When we see someone who has what we want, we can’t help but wish we were in their position. Under normal circumstances, this feeling is usually just a fleeting part of human nature. However, there are some people in whom this jealous streak is seriously amplified. These types cannot stand to see other people succeed so they try to find ways to obstruct or at least delay the success of others. This particular form of toxicity can be very confusing because these folks will never admit that they are jealous. Rather, they’ll find some other more “socially acceptable” way to harm you.

  • Toxic type #3: The Complainer/Victim
  • For this type, no life circumstance is ever good enough. There is always someone who did them wrong, or some life circumstance that has “unfairly” put them in a less than desirable position. We all complain from time to time but for these types, complaining is their natural state of being.

  • Toxic type #4: The Anger Prone
  • Everyone gets angry… but these types are particularly prone to violent anger outbursts (screaming, throwing things, etc) with little or no provocation.

  • Toxic type #5: The Manipulator
  • These ones are basically ultra skilled sociopaths. They understand the laws of human interaction very well and use all the emotional tools (nagging, shaming, guilt tripping, irritation, worry, and fear) to manipulate people into positions that will eventually serve their agenda. A really skilled manipulator is actually capable of sometimes successfully convincing you that you deserved whatever incredibly mean thing they did to you even though the truth is that you of course didn’t deserve any of it.

Regardless of what type of toxic person(s) you meet in your life, you have to find solutions to counteract their harmful behavior if you don’t want to be drained of all the emotional energy you will need in order to eventually become your best self. So what is the solution? Well, there are a couple of different strategies that you can use to deal with the toxic people in your life. We’ve expanded on some of these strategies below. You should note that the strategies that you will be able to implement will depend on where you currently are in your life.

  1. Cut people

  2. My philosophy on toxic people is simple. Life is already very difficult and challenging so why on earth would you make it even more difficult by allowing these sorts of people to linger in your life for any extended period? Allowing these people to stay in your life for too long will mean one of two things: either you will have to continually work incredibly hard to counteract all their negativity, or you will eventually get sucked into their “negativity vortex” and be pulled down with it.

    Taking all of the above into consideration, the best strategy for dealing with toxic people (in my opinion anyway) is often to simply cut them out of your life like a surgeon would a cancerous tumor. This is such a simple solution that I think most people forget that it is actually an option. If someone in your life is acting in a toxic way, you can try to sit them down and have a conversation where you clearly lay out your beef. In some cases, this will actually lead to a reform especially if the person was previously oblivious to how his/her behavior was adversely affecting you. In most cases however, some folks simply cannot help themselves and will indefinitely continue along the destructive path. For these people, you must wield your proverbial axe without mercy and simply cut them out of your life. Delete and block their emails, text messages, facebook messages etc. You should be warned that these folks are often super persistent so you will have to be just as persistent in making sure they stay out of your life… file a restraining order if you have to.

  3. Limit your exposure

  4. In some instances, we might not be able to completely cut people out of our lives. For example, it is difficult to completely cut off a co-worker or a boss at work especially if you really need your paycheck because you have kids in college and/or a mortgage. It is also sometimes very difficult to cut off your family members especially if you are still very young and cannot really make enough money to fend for yourself yet. In such cases where you cannot completely cut the toxic person off, you should do your best to limit your exposure to them. You can limit your exposure to these folks by only interacting with them when you absolutely have to, and avoiding them like the plague when you don’t. This includes doing your best to completely put them out of your mind when you are not physically in their presence.

  5. Re-engineer your life

  6. This is a follow on from the strategy immediately above. Sometimes, it just so happens that you cannot completely cut someone out of your life because you are in a vulnerable position. So a good example of this would be if you are working at a job in which your boss is a jackass but you can’t exactly cut him out because you need your paycheck. Well, the root cause of this pickle is that you allowed yourself to be in a vulnerable position in the first place. I didn’t type that last sentence to prompt you to start emotionally “beating yourself up”… rather it is to encourage you to see that you have the power to re-design your life so that you interact with people on even ground. This way, if people keep behaving badly after several warnings, you can simply just cut them off and move on.

  7. Master your emotions

  8. OK so let’s say you are stuck in a marriage or a job that you cannot immediately get out of and there is a whole lot of toxicity going on. Insults are flying, the other person is screaming at the top of their lungs, etc. What do you do? If he or she physically touches you, you have to either defend yourself if you are physically strong enough to do so, or call the appropriate authorities as soon as you can get to a telephone. If there is no threat of physical violence, you must try to stay calm and not feed into their toxicity. I know from personal experience that this is a super hard thing to do especially the longer you have to do it. If you can however, just try to maintain that equanimity of mind until they eventually run out of gas, or you can get up and remove yourself from the situation.

To be honest, it is very difficult to completely remove every single toxic person from your life. Unless you are Floyd Mayweather Jr, Elon Musk, or someone with that type of money and clout, it is almost impossible because there are too many of them to avoid. That being said, every time you can cut off or limit your exposure to a person who brings toxicity into your life, you create time and space to go and be of good service to the rest of us. Regardless of who you think you are, you are important because I am pretty sure you have some unique talent that some random person in the universe can benefit from. For that reason, it is all the more important to free yourself from unnecessary toxicity so that you can get to work because we (the people of the world) need you. Or do you just want to sit around taking up space because the toxicity of other people is weighing you down? Man, when I asked myself that question at the turn of the millennium many years ago, it really woke me up. I hope that question has the same effect on those of us who need it. From all of us here at take care of yourselves and each other.
Without Wax
Oyolu B.C. Ph.D.
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2 thoughts on “How to deal with toxic people

  1. I love this post and how you broke it down.. I do my best to surround myself with less “toxic” people.. it is hard especially in situations where you have to interact like work, school and those lovely family members

    1. Yep… it’s a struggle, but I think the key is to do our best to minimize the negativity in each of our lives. I hope you’re doing well, and thank you for stopping by.

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