How to Handle Toxic People

“Misery truly does love company.” These words resonate when you have a toxic person in your life. If someone doesn’t leave you feeling good and makes you miserable, you need to break away from them. You don’t need to cut them off completely, but you can slowly start minimizing interactions. This toxic person may be a friend, partner, co-worker, boss, or family member. Also, cyberbullying has become a concerning issue. Dr. Erin Leonard has written several blogs about draining and demeaning people. In her book Emotional Terrorism: Breaking the Chains of a Toxic Relationship, Dr. Leonard goes into depth about the dynamics of having a detrimental person in your life. She lays out case studies and gives professional advice on how to handle toxicity.

Toxic people often have something within themselves causing inner turmoil. Leonard states they “project” this turmoil onto others. You can point out someone’s toxicity to them, but they need to see it and become more self-aware. A toxic person can only change once they see their negative attributes and work on them. You cannot change them at the end of the day and will only stay on the receiving end of their projection. You can take action to step back and eventually away if the negativity remains. If you are in a relationship, individual, couple, or family therapy may help. Some toxic relationships can progress from emotional to physical abuse. Getting professional help and resources may be the best exit strategy.

You can cut down communication with a toxic friend who leaves you feeling tapped out. They may drain you from chronic complaining or passing judgment. You do not need to be their sounding box and available all the time. Over time, they make you feel totally miserable. The negative attitude spreads like wildfire, and you may even feel trapped. You can mute notifications from them on social media or when they text you. By doing this, you will feel more at peace and have a sense of freedom. You will also see that you have a more positive outlook on life.

Toxicity in the workplace often manifests into your personal life. A toxic work environment can be challenging to manage. You may even have a manager who makes you feel poorly. Depending on company policies, you may be able to speak with someone in HR or call an EAP line. Every situation differs; some companies offer sensitivity training. Never vent down or across the chain of command; only voice concerns to management. If you feel you cannot confide in personnel or have no resources, you have two options. You can quietly keep working or look for another job.

Sadly, so many people believe that they cannot walk away from a toxic family member. Family dynamics differ with everyone. You may not get along with a sibling or struggle with a parent. Try to work on it and let them know how you feel. If they do not understand, you can shrink your presence around them. Stop answering calls, texts, or spend the holidays elsewhere. You can even take extreme measures and cut them off for good. Look at Elon Musk and his relationship with his father.

As for cyberbullying, you can block or mute the aggressor. All social media platforms have privacy settings you can update. Also, you can anonymously report it to the site where the bullying occurs. Parents should check on their children’s social media to address any issues. Your child may be a victim or engaging in harmful conduct. The internet makes it easier to handle bullies but also leaves us more vulnerable in many ways.

You need to prioritize your own well-being. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good and laugh. We all have bad days but cannot let someone who has a “bad life” dim our light. You can change bad habits to improve your mental health, as well.