Dealing with Toxic Personalities
By Thao Nguyen
I’m a firm believer that there is no one who is truly bad through and through. When I witness someone behaving badly, I always hope that it’s by accident or that they have no idea what it is they’re doing, and not that they are indeed a bad person. However, more and more, I’m starting to see that there are some people who are consistently demeaning and rude.
I usually prefer to forgive people over and over in the hopes that they’ll see the error of their ways eventually. But in most cases, when there are toxic people in our lives, the final course of action should be to cut ties with them, especially if they are causes of stress or depression. However, sometimes there are people we can’t be rid of them. Maybe they work with us, maybe they’re family, maybe they’re dating your best friend; whatever the case, there are certain things we can do to make dealing with these people easier and in some situations, beneficial.
Don’t let it ruin your kindness. Admittedly, the whole “be the bigger person” thing hasn’t always been my go-to for dealing with toxic people. I’ve seen myself become bitter and angry. Even worse, I’ve seen myself take out my frustrations on others on the person who had been rude to me. Did this help me feel better or change the actions of the other person? Not at all. It only brought me down to their level and validated their behavior towards me. Which is why the number one rule for dealing with toxic personalities is to not let them change you for the worst. Let it make you stronger, let it make you stand up for yourself, but never let it continue the cycle of horridness. Take it from someone who wasted too much time taking passive aggressive revenge out on others, it never works out in your favor in the end.
Don’t blame yourself. You might fall into the trap of believing that you deserve to be mistreated, or that something you are doing warrants the toxic behavior from the other person. Do not let thoughts like these linger. Unless you are kicking the person’s dog or actively planning their demise, you do not deserve to be treated badly.
Be honest and kind. Sometimes staying quiet, swallowing our pride, and dealing with disrespect seems like the most peaceful way to deal with negativity. However, this only perpetuates the problem and makes it harder to follow rule number 1. This doesn’t actually make you the bigger person, it makes you the spineless person. Anyone who sees that they can get away with mistreating you will continue to do so. Likewise, reacting dramatically or with lots of anger will just make the other person feel more powerful, they’ll see that they have the ability to make you lose control. Instead, be honest and kind with the person. Let them know exactly what it was that they said or did that was hurtful and how it made you feel. Once that’s out in the open, you can start setting up boundaries and expectations for how you should be treated.
Don’t expect an overnight change. It’s very likely that the toxic person in your life gains some kind of personal pleasure from messing with you. Furthermore, having been called out on their sh*t is sure to make them want to either cover their ass or retaliate in some way. Stand firm. Even if they double-down on their horrible treatment of you, continue to be the bigger person. If this is someone you work with, elevate the complaint to a manager or HR. Make sure to keep good documentation of their misbehavior in the chance they try to turn the tables on you. If this is someone from your personal life, try to find a mutual third party to mediate the issue. This person probably isn’t going to start baking you cookies as soon as you call them out, but with enough patience and with the right mediation, the tension can be mitigated over time.