There is a great line that says “some people are like clouds, and when they disappear the day becomes brighter”. We all know who they are. They are the ragers, nay sayers, the problem fixated, the complainers, manipulators, the rude, the interrupters and the just plain bad-tempered or even abusive. Toxic people bring us down, pollute our lives and head space, and take up emotional and physical energy.
Toxic people are unlikely to change. However they should react to the changes that you make to your own responses and attitudes towards them.
So how do we handle the difficult people in our lives?
A quick look on Pinterest will find you any number of little homilies about respecting yourself enough to walk away – but what, if anything, can you do before then?
Here are 5 great strategies to deal with them
“When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” Dale Carnegie
1. It’s not about you
When these types of people shift into negative behaviour, remember it’s because they can’t get what they want, in the way that they want. This is about them, not you. It is an inability to communicate their needs effectively and constructively and suggests some inner, possibly long standing, unresolved issue. Understand well that it is not your problem.
2. Adjust your expectations
Reframe any previous experiences and create some distance. They are not going to change. In your thought processes, make it about the business and stay neutral, rather than making it personal. Many of us have to interact with toxic people all the time. We can drive ourselves crazy with self-blame. In personal relationships let them go. But even then it can be difficult, especially if others are involved.
3. Give them time
Trying to cut an angry or emotional person off mid-flow, very often makes things worse. Unless they are out right yelling at you, let them finish. How often you do this depends on your level of tolerance. At some point you have to draw your line in the sand.
“Could you repeat that, because you were so agitated, I haven’t really understood your point”
To neutralise the mood you can also calmly say “This issue seems to make you (describe emotion : upset, angry, frustrated, sad) … what’s going on for you?
If this doesn’t work, remove yourself by firmly telling them: “This is not an effective way to communicate. I am going to return to my office and when you have calmed down, call me then.”
4. Confront repeat offenders
This is easier said than done, especially if the toxic person is senior in the hierarchy. If the toxic behaviour is from an immediate boss or colleague the best way is to ask to schedule a meeting to discuss communication expectations, in relation to the impact on the business you are both in. It could be lunch or coffee if being more informal will work better. Sometimes it’s better to keep things low key. In a personal relationship, then it would be to discuss the impact of this behaviour on your relationship and any other potential fall out.
When x happens (yelling, whining, complaining, venting, criticizing) this impacts our business (or relationship) because I find this xxx (define your reaction)
Often times toxic people are taken aback and genuinely don’t realise their default communication settings are upsetting or alienating anyone.
5. Leave or exclude
There comes a point when you may have no choice but to follow that bumper sticker advice and sever the connection totally if needs be. You are the only one who knows when things get to that point. In professional settings this could involve a transfer or even leaving your job. In a personal context it could ending a relationship or friendship.
What do you do?
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