How to Deal With Toxic People

When you think of your family gathering, does your tummy churn at the thought of having to be around that certain relative?  They just rub you so wrong, and you dread spending ANY amount of time with them, but you do it because you’re expected to show up and engage?

I had someone like that in my life.  No need to name names, but I would dread seeing her.  Then I would HATE my time with her.  Then I would feel awful for days after seeing her.  I honestly believed she was toxic to me. defines toxic as: Acting as or having the effect of a poison.

Did you know there’s no such thing as a Toxic person?

If you think about something that is actually toxic, like a spider, snake, or some type of poison, it cannot affect you until the toxin physically enters your body.  You have to either breathe something in, or have something injected into your bloodstream in order become poisoned.

We think people are toxic, but there is no physical way for them to rub off on us.  The only way they affect us is with OUR OWN THINKING.

If we took a blood test after you were around this certain relative, we wouldn’t find any toxins in your system at all.

So why do we believe they are toxic?

When we interact with other people, there are three components involved.

  1. What I think of that person.
  2. What I think of me.
  3. What that person thinks of me.

We have control over two of these, the things I think about the other person, and the things I think about me.  But our brains want to spend all of their time thinking about what the other person is thinking about us.

*Are they judging me?

*Are they thinking rude thoughts about me?

*Do they think I am inferior because they said that mean thing?

*How dare they act like that, -who do they think they are??

Our brains go absolutely nuts forming all kinds of judgements about this person, and THAT is why we feel so awful.

So what’s the solution?  How can you be around this person without feeling like you drank a vat of poison?

First, we have to remember what we have control over.  

 ***What I think of me, and what I think of that person.**

Is it true that they are rude and don’t like me?  Maybe.  

Now what?  What do I think of me?  Am I inferior? How can I have my own back here? (When we are bothered about someone else’s thoughts, it’s usually because we believe, on some level, that they’re true.) We have to clean up our thinking about ourselves.  That’s OUR job.

Some of the thoughts I like to practice are:

 “I’m okay with people being wrong about me.”

 “I’m not for everyone, and everyone is not for me, it’s totally fine.”

Maybe it’s even true that everyone else thinks this person is obnoxious too. 

Now what?  What do I want to think of them?

If we don’t want to feel the poison of judgment, we have two options:

1.   Get curious!  Here are some helpful thoughts:

“So interesting that they behave that way, I wonder why?” 

“Hurt people hurt people, I wonder who hurt her / him?” 

“I’ve been rude before, what was I feeling when I behaved that way?” 

Seeking to understand can change your entire experience of this person.

2.  Stay home. You might just decide that there are times when you don’t feel like working so hard to manage your thinking around this person, and you choose to stay home. Isn’t that the joy of agency?  You are the one responsible for your emotional health, so you are the one who gets to decide.  And you can allow everyone else to manage their thoughts and feelings about your decision.  It’s ALL good!

There is no perfect family.  As long as there are people and personalities, there will be conflict.  I believe that God made us this way so that we can learn to flex, manage ourselves, and grow.  

Our family is the perfect classroom for us.  

So, this holiday season, rather than feeling dread, perhaps you can embrace the test. This is a wonderful opportunity to practice becoming the very best version of you.

You’ve got this my friend!  And if you need help, I’m here for you.

Work with me.