7 Top Tips for Dealing with Toxic People

7 top tips for dealing with toxic people

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It’s not only Harry Potter who encounters ‘dementors’, soul-sucking monsters who drain you of good feelings!

In real life, we come across all manner of toxic people.
The perpetual victims, complainers, control freaks, judgmental people and gossips.
Habitually pessimistic people can be emotionally draining.  Negativity can be contagious.
The best ploy would be to avoid these ‘mood hoovers’, cut them out of your life completely.  Of course, this isn’t always possible with work colleagues or family.
So here are my top tips for dealing with those toxic people you can’t cut out of your life.

1.  Listen

Listen to them, try to empathise, you don’t know what is going on in their lives.   Avoid giving advice unless they ask you, remember it’s not your job to make them happy.
Stephen Covey says of empathy
When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative in solving problems.
Once you’ve listened, ask some questions.  Try to move them onto a more positive train of thought. 
Try asking ‘what are the good things that came out of the situation’ or ‘what would you like to happen next’?

2.  Be boring!

Be boring in your responses to their tirade.  Don’t fully engage, simply say ‘OK’ or ‘I understand’.
Use non-committal language, don’t react or get into an argument.
If they do say something positive then become more enthusiastic, engaged and animated.

3.  Limit exposure

Try to limit your exposure to the person.  Take a break and leave when you start to feel drained.
If you can’t physically walk away, try changing the subject to something you know they enjoy.  Ask them about a hobby or their upcoming holiday.

4. Look for the positives

The English psychologist Peter Watson coined the term ‘confirmation bias’ in the 1960s. Confirmation bias is our tendency to only see what confirms our pre-held beliefs.
There have been many experiments which reinforce Watson’s findings.  A fun example of this is an experiment carried out by Hansen involving pictures of bananas.
Participants were shown a picture of a banana. The banana in the picture was grey.
Participants were asked to change the colour of the background to match the colour of the banana. They consistently changed the background to a yellow tinge. 
This supported their pre-conceived belief that bananas are yellow.
Imagine that you encounter someone who has had a negative outlook in the past. Does your heart sink a little as they approach?  This is confirmation bias in action.
Try making a conscious effort to notice and build on anything positive that they say.
Then tell them to read this blog!  Here is a post they could start with.  11 Guaranteed Ways To Feel Positive Today

5. Meet in a group

Try to avoid being in a one to one situation with that toxic person. 
Being with them one to one means that you alone are in danger of absorbing all their negative energy.  A group setting can spread the load and dilute the negativity.
Try to meet with the person along with others who you know have a more positive outlook on life.

6. Change the subject

Switch the topic of conversation to a lighter one. Find something positive the person is interested in and this can shift the conversation to a better footing.
Give them a compliment or do something nice for them.  It is harder for someone to be negative if you kill them with kindness!

7.  Don’t take it personally

Above all, don’t let them make you doubt your own abilities.
I used to think someone’s negative reaction was somehow my fault.
Observe the behaviour of people who have a negative outlook and you may well notice that they also behave this way with others.
Now I can see that it’s the person’s own view of the world that is leading to their negative thinking. 
I recognise that whilst I can’t change their behaviour, I can control how I react to it and how I let it make me feel.
I hope you find these 7 tips for dealing with toxic people useful.  Let us know in the comments if you have tried any of them. Or share any other tips which you use when you encounter negative individuals.
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  1. Chloe chats

    Some great tips here! I always try to listen because as you said I don’t know what they’re going through but it’s always important to remember that it’s not your job to make them happy. But if it does start to get too much then you do have to walk away.

    Chloe x

    1. Alison

      Hi Chloe, it is hard sometimes to remember it’s not our job to make others happy. I’ve consciously tried to listen more lately and not to jump in and fix things! I think it has been appreciated and it is also less stressful!!

  2. Lavrax

    I definitely know that I’m dealing with a toxic person on the day to day and I somehow don’t let it get me down so I think I’ve subconsciously been doing these. But I had never heard that quote from Gandhi and I love you!

  3. Abby

    This post calmed me down just reading it. These tips are very chill and make you think things through instead of starting to feel the way the other person feels. I really love what Stephen Comey said about replacing the energy with positivity. Great post!

    1. Alison

      Thanks Abby. Glad you are now feeling chilled out! I’ve definitely found that applying these strategies in real life helpful!

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