How To Deal With Toxic People – 10 Ways

Written by Harini Natarajan , Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner

We have all come across at least one toxic person in our lives. What we have not figured out yet is how to deal with toxic people. People who do not care about others, pit one friend against the other, gaslight people, spread rumors, manipulate, and try to control you – these are all toxic personality traits. Anyone can be toxic – a partner, parents, adult children, relatives, colleagues, bosses, and even friends! These people leave you emotionally drained whenever you talk to them. But before you label them as toxic, it is good to understand what such behavior entails. This post takes a deep dive into the signs of toxic people. Read on to get all the information you need.

Who Is A Toxic Person?

A toxic person is someone who is abusive, emotionally unhealthy, and unsupportive. It is not easy to spot the toxic person. The danger lies in their subtlety – and the way they use that classic response, ‘It is not their fault, it’s mine.’ They will have you questioning your ‘oversensitivity,’ your ‘over-reactiveness,’ and your ‘tendency to misinterpret.’ If you are the one who’s always getting hurt or continuously adjusting your own acts and behavior to avoid them being ‘attacked,’ chances are that it is not really your fault – it is very much theirs.

Being able to recognize their harmful behavior is taking the first step to minimizing the damage they can create in your life. You will not be able to change how they act, but you can surely change how you react to it. There are many things a toxic person does to manipulate other people to his or her advantage. Here are 12 of them. Knowing them will help you to avoid falling under the influence:

Signs Of A Toxic Person

Signs Of A Toxic Person


Toxicity in a person can show up in a lot of ways. You may already have a toxic friend and not even know it yet. Here are a few signs that your friend is a toxic person:

  • They are needy and demand your attention.
  • They are unwilling to try to change or seek help.
  • They create and are always surrounded by interpersonal issues.
  • They try to manipulate and control you.
  • They are always distrustful of others.
  • They are unnecessarily negative towards others.
  • They are always cynical and bring you down.
  • They make you feel drained emotionally.
  • You are always walking on eggshells around them because you are afraid to say the wrong things.
  • They make you feel smaller and less important.
  • They often interrogate people with hostile questioning.
  • They often use strong, intense language.
  • They are constantly angry.
  • They are extremely disrespectful and always seem to get their way.
  • They shout at people when things don’t go their way.
  • They threaten people.
  • They exaggerate things.
  • They are judgmental and condescending.
  • They complain about their life endlessly.
  • They never forgive and forget.
  • They are never satisfied with how you behave with them and will always find it disrespectful.
  • They fail to contribute anything positive to any relationship.
  • They never apologize.

Now that you know the signs, here’s how you can manage the fallout of the toxicity you encounter.

10 Ways To Get Rid Of Toxic People

1. Recognize What Makes You An Easy Prey

Is it often your fear of rocking the boat or the need to please them that keeps you tongue-tied when your “friend” takes it out on you. Use rational thinking to process the interactions you have had with the friend that made you unhappy. Focus on why you felt what you did, not what you felt, and try to decipher if you can get a pattern.

2. Move On Without Them

If you know a friend who always destructively dictates the emotional atmosphere, be sure of this – they are toxic. If you are suffering because of a person’s attitude, and your patience, advice, compassion, and attentiveness do not seem to help them, and they don’t seem to care a bit, ask yourself, “Do I really need this human in my life?” When you remove toxic people from your life, it becomes way easier to breathe.

3. Put Your Foot Down

Put Your Foot Down


Your dignity may be ravaged, attacked, and mocked, but it can never be taken away from you unless you surrender it willingly. It is all about finding the self-love to defend your boundaries. Make it clear that you won’t allow anyone to insult or belittle you. You can effectively end conversations that are putting you down with plain abruptness or sickening sweetness. The message should be clear – you will entertain no games.

4. Stop Accepting Their Toxic Behavior

Toxic people often use their moody and loud behavior to get preferential treatment. You may find it easier to quiet them down by giving in to their demands than listen to their nagging. Don’t be fooled into doing this.

Short-term comfort will equal long-term headache for you in a situation like this. Toxic people won’t change if they get rewarded for not changing. Don’t be influenced or affected by their behavior. Stop making special pardons for their continued misbehavior or tiptoeing around them. Constant negativity and drama are never worth putting up with.

5. Speak Up

Stand up for yourself. Some people can do anything for their personal gain at the expense of others – take your money and property, pass guilt, cut in line, bully and belittle others, etc. Do not accept this kind of behavior. These people know what they are doing is wrong. They will back down considerably quickly when confronted. In most social settings, people tend to be quiet until one person speaks up. So, speak up!

6. Don’t Take The Toxic Behavior Personally

It IS them, not you. You need to know this. Toxic people will always try to imply that it is you who has done something wrong. And because the “guilt” button is installed into most of our brains, even the implication that we are the one who has done something wrong can unsettle our resolve and hurt our confidence. Do NOT let this happen.

Remember that there is an exhilarating sense of freedom that comes to you when you decide to take nothing personally. Most people who are toxic behave negatively towards not only you but with everyone they interact with. Even when you feel that the situation has gotten personal – even if you feel insulted directly – it has got nothing to do with you. Their opinions are based completely on their self-reflection.

7. Explore Your Reactivity

Explore Your Reactivity


Without taking the blame for everything, you should look at whether you overreact or under-react in a situation. You may be unwittingly intensifying the dynamic and keeping the conflict going. A bullying or controlling person will regard your under-reaction as approval to keep treating you the same way.

People who have an anxious attachment style are often hyper-vigilant about things that go wrong and often become angry when they feel threatened. This kind of overreaction makes a toxic person feel powerful. It can also inspire them to keep playing mind games.

8. Practice Practical Compassion

Sometimes, being sympathetic to a toxic person you know, who has an illness or is going through a hard time, can better the situation. There is no question about this: some toxic people are genuinely depressed, distressed, or even mentally or physically ill. However, you still need to separate their personal issues from how they behave with you. If you let people misbehave with you just because they are distressed, depressed, or have a medical issue, you are making it too easy for them to start using their unfortunate situation as an excuse to treat people like shit.

You aren’t really helping someone by accepting everything they do just because they have issues. There are a lot of people who go through extreme hardships, but they are not toxic to others around them. We can only be genuinely compassionate when we set respectful boundaries. Making too many allowances and pardons is not healthy for anyone in the long-term.

9. Anticipate Retaliation Or Push-Back

It is very likely that the toxic friend in your life has their own agenda in the relationship — they like to control you or cherish the high their power over you gives them. Once you start confronting the individual and set some boundaries, don’t expect them to accept your decision gently or graciously. They will definitely try to redouble the efforts to keep that same dynamic going by gaslighting, manipulating, or spreading mean rumors about you, just to gain the upper hand.

10. Take Time For Yourself

Take Time For Yourself


If you are forced to work or live with a toxic person, make sure you get enough ‘me’ time to rest, relax, and recuperate. Having to always take up the role of a “rational adult” in a toxic relationship can be exhausting. If you are not careful, this toxicity can infect you and even affect your personality.

Always remember, even people with clinical illnesses or legitimate problems can comprehend that you may have your own needs as well, which means you need to politely excuse yourself when you feel things are getting out of hand. You deserve this ‘me’ time. You deserve to live peacefully, free from toxic behavior and external pressure, with no boundaries to uphold, problems to solve, or people to please.

Some people cannot be pleased, no matter what you do. Make sure to always say no to unnecessary drama. Be confident, and don’t get bogged down by craziness. Own your faults and quirks. You do NOT need anyone else’s approval. If a toxic person is trying hard to manipulate you, it is probably because they need your attention. You don’t have to give it if you don’t want to. But if you decide to, don’t let the cost be so high that it leaves you emotionally bankrupt.

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