Toxic people are difficult to understand. One minute they are fine and getting along with everyone, and the next minute they are manipulating the facts, creating unecessary drama, doubt and hostility. They seem to thrive on chaos, misunderstandings and creating divisions between groups and between people. And most of them have no clue why they are behaving this way. But the stress and emotional distress they cause you and other people is palpable and may affect your sleep, your relationship with others, anxiety or show up as physical problems.
Here are a few learnings about Toxic People and how to neutralise their poisonous effects.
- Accept the fact that they are blind to their behaviour or faults.
You cannot change them, point out their behaviour or rescue/heal them when they are in the midst of a toxic episode. They may be reacting out of their own past experiences of trauma leaving them wounded. And well, wounded people will wound others. Unless and until they realise it for themselves, they will deny anyone or anything that points them to the mirror.
2. Recognise and heal your own stress response to a toxic person
According to recent studies done by the Friedrich Schiller University in Germany, exposure to toxic stimuli has the ability to drive our brains to an extreme stress response. Similar to what would happen when we are engaging with a toxic person. Be it listening to their negativity or being subject to their mental or verbal abuse. If you know someone can drive you to despair, anger or an equally toxic response, distance yourself and focus on finding inner calm. Eventually with self awareness you’ll recognise that you’re becoming too negative in their company and start taking steps early on.
3. Set Boundaries and Limits
In many cultures, we learn to put with their behaviour because of family ties or age or duty. Some toxic people cannot be avoided. It could be the manipulative aunt who calls you up to take sides in a drama she’s created among other family members. Or the childhood friend who makes you feel guilty because you’re not calling them enough. Or the employee who keeps complaining about the rest of the team and plays the victim. The key is to lending a sympathetic ear without getting sucked into their drama. Limit conversations with them. Excuse yourself politely. Don’t linger too long in their company.
4. Self Care SOS
Toxic people don’t care about your opinion or your feelings. Many of them are poor listeners and will interrupt you or minimise what you’re saying. Most of the time it’s about them and very little about how you may be affected by their behaviour. Your wellbeing is in your hands. Time to make YOU a priority and bring back the levels of peace. Be it a walk outdoors, meditating, blocking their calls or surrounding yourself with positive influences. Do what is best for you and don’t expect them to understand you.
5. Say No to Replay
It’s normal to replay a toxic interaction or conversation for long after it’s over. But it shouldn’t consume you. Avoid talking about it to too many people, and limit your conversations to a trusted few. Replaying the horror invites more negativity and worse still, turns you toxic too. Practicing self awareness is key.
If this resonated with you, just remember to be patient with yourself while dealing with a toxic person or situation. Awareness and self care is just the first step but speaking from experience, it takes multiple attempts and many trials and errors before we reach a maturer and calmer state with a toxic person or situation.
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Mita Bhan 2022