Where the Science of Psychology Meets the Art of Being Human

Toxic People: 16 Practical, Powerful Ways to Deal With Them

431,801 views

Toxic People: 16 Practical, Powerful Ways to Deal With Them

Even if toxic people came with a warning tattooed on their skin, they might still be difficult to avoid. We can always decide who we allow close to us but it’s not always that easy to cut out the toxics from other parts of our lives. They might be colleagues, bosses, in-laws, step-someones, family, co-parents … and the list goes on.

We live our lives in groups and unless we’re willing to go it alone – work alone, live alone, be alone (which is sometimes tempting, but comes with its own costs) – we’re going to cross paths with those we would rather cross out.

With any discussion of toxic people, it’s important to understand that you can’t change anybody, so it’s best to stop trying. Save your energy for something easier, like world peace. Or landing on a star. The thing is though, when you do something differently, things can’t help but change for you. If it’s not the people in your radar, it will be their impact on you.

Personal power is everything to do with what you believe - and nothing to do with what they think. Click To Tweet

Co-existing with toxics means going around them to set your own rules, then accepting that you don’t need them to respect those rules to claim your power. Here are some powerful, practical ways to do that:

  1. Be empowered by your motives.

    Sometimes toxic people will trap you like a hunted thing – you know you don’t have to give in to them but you also know that there will be consequences if you don’t. The secret is to make your decision from a position of power, rather than feeling controlled. In the same way there is something they want from you, there will always be something you want from them (even if it is to avoid more of their toxicity). Decide that you’re doing what you’re doing to control them and their behaviour – not because you’re a victim of their manipulation. Personal power is everything to do with what you believe and nothing to do with what they think.

  2. Understand why they’re seeing what they see in you.

    Toxic people will always see in others what they don’t want to acknowledge about themselves. It’s called projection. You could be the kindest, most generous, hardest working person on the planet and toxic people will turn themselves inside out trying to convince you that you’re a liar, unfair, nasty or a slacker. See it for what it is. You know the truth, even if they never will.

  3. They might get worse before they leave you alone.

    Think of it like this. Take a little human who is throwing a tantrum. When you stand strong and don’t give in, they’ll go harder for a while. We all have a tendency to do that – when something we’re doing stops working, we’ll do it more before we stop. Toxic people are no different. If they’ve found a way to control and manipulate you and it stops working, they’ll do more of whatever used to work before they back off and find themselves another target. Don’t take their escalation as a stop sign. Take it as a sign that what you’re doing is teaching them that they’re old behaviour won’t work anymore. Keep going and give them time to be convinced that you’re not going around on that decision you’ve made to shut them down.

  4.  Be clear about your boundaries.

    You can’t please everyone, but toxic people will have you believing that you can’t please anyone – so you try harder, work harder, compromise more. It’s exhausting. Toxic people will have your boundary torn down and buried before you even realise you had one there. By knowing exactly what you’ll tolerate and what you won’t – and why – you can decide how far you’re willing to let someone encroach on your boundaries before it’s just not worth it any more.  Be ready to listen to that voice inside you that lets you know when something isn’t right. It’s powerful and rarely wrong (if ever). Whether someone else thinks it’s right or wrong doesn’t matter. What matters is whether it’s right or wrong for you. Let that guide your response and when you can, who’s in and who’s out.

  5. You don’t have to help them through every crisis.

    The reason that toxic people are often in crisis is because they are masterful at creating them. It’s what they do – draw breath and create drama. You’ll be called on at any sign of a crisis for sympathy, attention and support, but you don’t have to run to their side. Teach them that you won’t be a part of the pity party by being unemotional, inattentive, and indifferent to the crisis. Don’t ask questions and don’t offer help. It might feel bad because it’s not your normal way, but remember that you’re not dealing with a normal person.

  6. You don’t need to explain.

    No is a complete sentence and one of the most powerful words in any language. You don’t need to explain, justify or make excuses. ‘No’ is the guardian at your front gate that makes sure the contamination from toxic people doesn’t get through to you. 

  7. Don’t judge.

    Be understanding, compassionate, kind and respectful – but be all of them to yourself first. You can reject behaviour, requests and people without turning yourself into someone you wouldn’t like to be with. Strength and compassion can exist beautifully together at the edge of your boundaries. It will be always easier to feel okay about putting up a boundary if you haven’t hurt someone else in the process.

  8. Own your strengths and your weaknesses.

    We are all a messy, beautiful, brilliant work in progress. Once you are aware of your flaws, nobody can use them against you. Toxic people will work hard to play up your flaws and play down your strengths – it’s how they get their power. If you’re able to own your strengths and weaknesses, what they think won’t matter – because you’ll know that your strengths are more than enough to make your flaws not matter, or at the very least, to make them yesterday’s news.

     

  9. Don’t expect change.

    You can’t reason with toxic people – you just can’t. That’s one of the things that makes them toxic. Decide where you stand, and then stand strong. You don’t need to do any more than that. They will try to make you bend, flex and break at the seams. Because you have an open heart, the thought that someone might misunderstand you, disapprove of you or dislike you might get to you, but remember that you’re not dealing with someone who is motivated by what’s good for you or your relationship. It’s always about them and it always will be. Decide that sometimes you’re going to make it about you. It’s what you deserve.

  10. Choose your battles wisely.

    Dealing with toxic people takes an enormous amount of energy. You don’t have to step up to every battle you’re called to. For many toxic people, conflict is the only way they can connect. It’s the way they feel alive, noticed and important. Save your energy for the people who matter.

  11. Don’t be the victim.

    People can be a pity sometimes, but you’re not one of those. Decide that you won’t be anyone’s victim. Instead, be the one with the boundaries, the strength, the smarts and the power to make the decisions that will help you to thrive. Even if they’re decisions you’d rather not be making, own that it’s a move you’ve made to get what you want, rather than to bend to someone else’s will. You’re amazing, you’re strong and you’re powerful – which is why you’re nobody’s victim. Nobody’s.

  12. Focus on the solution rather than the problem.

    Toxic people will have you bending over backwards and tied with a barbed wire ribbon to keep you there. What will keep you stuck is playing over and over in your head the vastness of their screwed up behaviour. It will keep you angry, sad and disempowered. If you have to make a decision that you’d rather not make, focus on the mess that’s it’s cleaning up, not the person who is making your life hell. Don’t focus on their negative behaviour – there’s just too much there to focus on and it will never make sense to you anyway.

  13. Surround yourself with people who will give as much as you do.

    You might not have as much freedom in certain parts of your life to decide who’s in and who’s out but when it comes to the ones you open your heart to, you absolutely have the choice. Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to let them know what they mean to you. 

  14. Forgive – but don’t forget.

    Forgiveness is about letting go of expecting things to be different. You’ll never be able to control the past but you can control how much power it has to impact your future. Forgiveness doesn’t mean accepting the behaviour or approving of it – it means that you’re not going to be controlled by it any more. It’s something done in strength and with an abundance of self-love. Don’t forget the way people treat you – for better or worse – and use that to help you live with clarity and resolve.

     

  15. Understand the cycle.

    There is a pattern many toxic people follow. First they’re charming. This is when they’ll get you. They’ll be attentive, loving and impressive – but all of it will be to get you into position. Next, when they have your trust you’ll start to see the cracks. There will be mounting demands and a rising pull on your emotional resources. Then there will be the crisis – the test. You’ll feel stuck – whether or not you give them what they want, you’ll feel compromised. Finally, you’ll do what they want – because you don’t want to be ‘unreasonable’ or cause more drama – and then they’re back to charming you and giving you just enough of what you need to make you stay. The problem is that this never lasts for long and always comes at a cost. Be aware of the cycle and use it to build your boundaries on an even more solid foundation. If you can’t get out of the relationship, know that you’re not staying because you’ve allowed yourself to be fooled or blindsided, but because you have your eyes on something bigger that you need.

  16. You don’t need their approval. You really don’t.

    Don’t look for their approval or their appreciation – you won’t get it unless it comes with conditions, all of which will dampen you. You’ll constantly feel drained because they’ll draw on your open heart, your emotional generosity, your reasonableness, your compassion and your humanity – and they will give absolutely nothing back. Give what you need to, but don’t give any more than that in the hope of getting something back. There will never be any more than minimal, and even that will come with conditions. Whatever you do, know why you’re doing what you’re doing and make sure the reasons are good enough.

The world is full of people whose behaviour is breathtakingly damaging. That doesn’t mean that we have to open ourselves up to the damage. The secret to living well means living deliberately. Knowing the signs of toxic behaviour and responding deliberately and in full clarity to toxic people will reduce their impact and allow you to keep yourself whole and empowered – and you’ll always deserve that.

Like this article?

Subscribe to our free newsletter for a weekly round up of our best articles

344 Comments

Rhonda G

This article was right on point.
I went no contact with toxic family who always oppressed and disrespected me, and betrayed me over and over again.
They would do better when I stayed away and used manipulative tricks
to get me back. I finally learned they hadn’t changed.

I decided to stop trying to gain their respect. This article has empowered me to continue to take care of myself.
Most of them are begging me to let them back into my life.

I hate to come across as stubborn, but
I have no respect for them and will never trust them with my heart again.

Thanks for such a great article.

Reply
Nancy

My ex toxic partner stops out of the blue with his new girlfriend. I blocked them both on my social media, contacts, and other apps. And the gal stills seems to get through. I finally reported her to Google, TextNow, messenger, and other browsers. Once again I have asked her not to come over and here they come. Up my drive way. So this time I closed the blinds in front of their faces and headed to my back bedroom. 2 seconds later they were half way down the driveway. Thank Gosh. When they learn to treat me the way I want to be treated. Will I consider opening the lines of communication.
Sometimes you can’t run fast enough from toxic people that you get in your own way.
Loved the 411
Dig-n-my-heels-in

Reply
Anne S

My yonger sister uses her adopted daughter as a pawn. She always has. my sister is a narcissist without a doubt and since I wont do what she wants she takes away my niece and wont let me see her. My husband and myself are the only family my niece has. We have not saw her since April My sister takes her away for months at a time. This makes 3 times she has taken her away. She is 11 years old. She this time told my niece a bunch of lies to turn her against us. We have always been good to her and haven’t as much as raised our voices to her. We miss her so much and I cant stop thinking about all the evil things my sister is and has done in front of my niece she is mentally and emotionally abusing her. How do I deal with this situation Please help

Reply
Jane

I feel as though I’m in a toxic relationship now. I’m dealing with a addict that doesn’t stop and it had been 7 years of me giving giving giving and continuously given while he wouldn’t even take 2.00 and buy his own son a sandwich and fry from McDonald’s I’m tired of this shit I’m tired but why do I continuously listen to the lies that they. Continue to tell me my life is always better without them but I continue to keep dealing with the destruction. I’m tired I’m so tired I can’t fo this anymore I will do so much better without him. I know because I do. And whenever they are back my life gets worst i just want out i can’t do this anymore i need to let go. I don’t know how. Things are not going to get better things are just going to get manipulated to you thinking that it is and I’m the dumb nitch that keeps believing that it will and it wont.

Reply
Loni

It’s disappointing to read , especially when we feel we have been taken for a ride☹️ My bf of 9 months was so good to me , did and said everything right. Was always there for me , but overtime I started to see things, like him having a tantrum if things didn’t go his way or if I didn’t agree. He would get a thought in his mind and attack me , was always very random and usually after many of drinks but even if not drinking he came across as very insecure.it did become exhausting . We all have things going on in our lives and it’s hard To find balance, so a bit of understanding is required But he over stepped a boundary one night when he said my daughter was controlling the night , like sabotaging us spending time together , he got very angry and up and left.. I was speechless , I tried to make him see sense but he carried on. Then the week after what I thought was a casual night of holding hands and watching tv , once we went to bed he mumbles something about no sexual passion.. he went and slept in the couch , this was happening way too often . I told him I felt like a stranger, I’m going home . He told me to take my things and then blocked me in every way . It’s confusing and obviously not a heathy relationship if you choose to cut all communication . Heart broken but trying to make sense of it all.

Reply
Valak

This is indeed one of the best articles I read on the topic of toxic people..hands down to the writer !!!

Reply
Jasmine

My younger sister and I used to have such a great relationship together. We would play, go outside, draw, laugh together and we did have our fair share of fights. But now my sister and I don’t have that kind of sisterly love anymore. She would constantly bring me down, talk bad about me, never appreciates me or let alone support me, she will verbally or physically abuse me every single day which makes my personal life and school life stressful and since I’m two years away from graduating and going to university, the stress and self doubt piles up. I try to stick up for myself, calmly talk to her or just walk away but it doesn’t work much. I’m just waiting to leave home for uni or after uni to cut ties with her/distance myself from her cause not being around her makes me feel better. But for now I don’t know what to do.

Reply
Elise

Hi Jasmine- you are not alone. I’m not a perfect person by any means but I try to be kind and generous with people. I also have a sister (we are both in our 20’s)who I have done nothing but try to be kind/loving/generous towards but every time I see her I’m left questioning my sanity. She has nearly drained my savings account (thousands of dollars)promising me she would pay me back-years later and still owes me. Then she goes behind my back bad mouthing me saying things that are completely false and she knows nothing about because we live in different states and rarely see each other. Again I’m not perfect but I really do try to be a nice person. She is hands down the most manipulative two faced person I have ever known (and I’ve known many). She makes me feel like I’m some crazy witch that is unlovable when all I have done is be kind and loving and supportive to her. Here’s the thing. Your SISTER is the problem. Not you. Love her, try to be kind to her, but don’t spend a lot of time with her if you can help it. Surround yourself with people who love and support you and don’t cause you to feel bad about yourself. You are worthy of love!

Reply
JJ

I’m looking for advice. You’re article was great but I need a little bit more. I have a co-worker who I became close with. We were going through a lot of similar stuff at the time. She started dating a guy who I was Leary of at first but then my fiancé and I grew pretty close to him as well. My fiancé is from St Louis and still doesn’t know that many people up here so when he and this other guy bonded it was great! My co-worker and he broke it off and we’re cordial for a while but in the past few weeks he decided to cut of her off completely and now she’s in an out of control spiral. Just wanting to get back at him. Anyways we already invited them both to our wedding in July saying they are both welcome to bring a date. I’ve been hearing about her saying things behind our backs about how we shouldn’t invite him and she’s telling other coworkers they better not speak to him at the wedding and numerous other things. We have already told the guy if he or his guest starts drama they will be asked to leave. I’d like to say something similar to my co-worker but she’s super dramatic so I don’t know how that would play out. Any advice on how I can tell her to knock of her crap or she’ll be uninvited to our wedding?

Reply
Toastybaz

Nice and insightful article, I needed to read it. I recently put together a list of toxic people in my mind. Family members and friends..

The most none toxic person is my girlfriend who helped me get a job I really wanted. These other people have been mentally taxing.

I got so tired and upset my mother by saying who’s been angering me. I finally said no I need my own time.

It was really reassuring reading this, thanks.

Reply
Sally

Great article.
Full of clear, precise, practical advice.
My new neighbor appears to want my attention whether it be positive or negative. I kinda lucked out because they told me a bunch of wild stories about the neighbor before me and gave me something I had to say “no” to early on. My gut was giving me a lot of information (like, just say “no” to their unreasonable request #6) but I needed a plan because their goal of getting me to think about them was working even tho I wasn’t responding to the stuff they’re doing to try and get my attention.

Reading this affirmed the decisions I’ve already made and helped me devise a strategy and mindset going forward.

Thank you!

Reply
Angie

I came across this information after hitting rock bottom with my daughter & her “TOXIC” husband a week ago. It feels like it was an answer to my prayers as I was grasping for something. Anything to help put this horrible situation in some sort of perspective. My 32 yr. old daughter has never been the kind, soft hearted type and for yr.s we struggled to keep our relationship on a healthy level. Since the day she met her, now husband, he has brought her to a low I didn’t know existed. Prior to meeting/marrying him, I was her “Rock”, everything good in her was because of me, she couldn’t have asked for a better mother or childhood (even though I was a single mom) and she hoped she would be half the mom I’d been. In just 3 short years, he has opened her eyes to the fact that none of that about me is true. I am a horrible mother, every mistake or screwed up choice she’s made, can be traced back to me failing to be a good enough parent so it’s all my fault for not having set a good enough example. The level of disrespect is at such a high, heaped on me with no warning, for no reason that I’m aware of, my 9 yr. old granddaughter has left the room crying. She’s told me many times that she doesn’t know why they are so mean to me for no reason. I’d always attempt to smooth things over for my granddaughters sake before leaving & always while hiding the emotional toll their treatment took on me, then I’d explain to her that I didn’t know either, but even when someone is having a bad day, it’s never okay to treat someone you claim to love and care about, disrespectfully or cruelly. Their switch turns on or off instantly depending on what they want or need from me. If I shed a single tear from their emotion cruelty, it infuriates them to no end. The very last straw was them threatening me with physical harm and calling me the worst name you can imagine (in front of my granddaughter). I’d had enough and decided to leave and keep my distance until there is a noticable, long term change. I have since been informed that I am not allowed to see, talk to or visit my granddaughter, they have told her that my only reason for visiting them was to start trouble between them & disrupt their family and that she needed to accept the fact that I was no longer part of their family and never would be again. This information has described them to a “T”. How can “Good, Loving Parents” justify doing that and not care that it hurts my granddaughter, who is clearly devastated? I am hopeful that in the length of time
necessary for me to keep my distance, she won’t be poisoned against me. I know it would only be to keep her mother from being angry with her for continuing to love her nana. I could never blame her for wanting to please her mother at any cost, since that’s what children forced into these situations do. The fault lies with the parent who put them there to begin with for their own selfish gain. It is most unfair for any adult to use their child as a pawn between individuals they love, to get (what they feel is) the upper hand in a situation. I have no intention of forcing my way into their lives, but they will NOT keep me from my granddaughter, come hell or high water. Fortunately, her biological father lives an hour away and he will do anything he can for me to maintain my relationship with my granddaughter. After all, she is his daughter too. I can’t thank you enough for such helpful information. I feel like I can breathe a bit.

Reply
Alice U

After reading your article, I believe my husband and I is in a toxic relationship. Whenever we get in an argument, if it leads to him realizing he is unreasonable or wrong, he will call me names such as asshole, parasite or idiot etc. just to silence me. I am always furious. I always wonder how could I get worked up so easily. I quitter my job to stay home and take care of our children. I only work on Saturdays which won’t be enough to support myself and three children if I choose to get a divorce. I will try your ways. It’s not easy but I will try. Thanks for the article.

Reply
Lorraine Stammer

Its been lovely to see all the lovely comments on this website and has made me feel a lot better.
I have a ex family who are toxic, lie and cause nothing but trouble I really cant deal with it anymore. My son is part of this and blames me for things I have not done and always causes upset it doesn’t matter what I do nothing seems to make things better

Reply
Amy

I’m dealing with the same thing but with my sister. She is living with her boyfriend and his mom. He dont have a job and she hasnt had a job in like 4 or 5 months. She had a car and insurance that is in my dads name, hes paying for both which for both is 7 to 8oo dollars alongside gas. Shes not quick to getting a job. And on top of that mad that my life is in the opposite with a car I pay and insurance and a boy friend who works. Gets mad that everyone asks how come shes with her boyfriend when he has no job. Shes 24. All when she takes money from my parents my mom works Saturdays now just to have enough money, my dad is retired and my mom is working herself dead to supply my sisters life.

Reply
Rhonda G

Im glad to read that Im not the only one dealing with family like the one you described.
My siblings have tried to turn everyone in my life againt me.
They came between my daughter and me and now is working on my granddaughter.
They are no good and I dont trust them.

Reply
Faith

I’ve stumbled upon this site as I lay here asking for answers. Am I overeacting or do my feelings matter? Maybe someone out there is dealing with similar issues as me.. I’ve been with my fiance now 6 years and I honestly can’t bear the thought of living my life with his family. They are the type that suck every ounce of energy out of your body. They constantly call asking for money, they live in a shelter but are over every weekend destroying my house with their kids. They store their broke down vehicles in my yard and my fiance does nothing about it. We are now in financial debt because of the doings of his family and the accounts he has allowed to be put in his name that have gone delinquent. I’ve reached out to him several times about my feelings and the boundaries I want to set, but nothing seems to get through to him and he makes me out to be the evil witch. Honestly how could I start a life with a man who doesnt see the fact that I’m unhappy? I’m trying to build a future with this man because I love him but his family is always there and it’s suffocating me. So really all you can do is speak your voice and if the effort isn’t made and nothing changes then maybe it’s time to go it alone?

Reply
Sandy

Your situation will not get any better. I would move on before your credit is destroyed. The problem is with your fiancée and he doesn’t set boundaries. Certainly you can do better than a guy who had no boundaries (and no money) and allows his children to destroy and impede on his life. This man should make your life better, not worse. Make s list of advantages and disadvantages of being with him. I think you’ll find the disadvantages outweigh anything else.

Reply
Jammaster2000

This is only the beginning.I spent 22 years in a relationship like this only to find out my spouse was colluding with them
RUN!
You will meet someone else.

Reply
LJ

To Faith – April 7 2019
This is a tough situation you are in. The reality, the destructive drama you are getting sucked into is just normal for your husband. It will not stop. You will not stop it. This is his deep family legacy and your husband is choosing to be part of it. He does not respect himself enough to create healthy boundaries and cannot do it for the love of you either. Love has nothing to do with this. Trust me, I have been where you are. If you do not want a life of hell, then for your own self preservation and happiness leave, run, escape. Find a co-dependency group or support program and save yourself before it is too late. My life is wonderful now 20 years later – my toxic ex husband (who I believed was the love of my life) is still living in the same toxic family mess I left him for. I thank God every day I am not with him.

Reply
HMG

I am telling you from a lifetime (66 and female) that as difficult and heartbreaking leaving your fiancé may be, you will NEVER escape all that you are living with now.

Your fiancé is not supporting your feelings now, what in the world makes you think he will start miraculously any time soon.

You are here looking for answers, you are unhappy and in a black hole.
Swim up to the sunlight and imagine a more peaceful life on your own terms.

No offense intended, but I WAS as you appear to be co-dependent. You are worth such a better life, even if living on your own, on your own terms. Trust me on this.
For me Lakia Crawford and Merideth Miller (on youtube) saved my life. They speak from experience and gave me strength to see what I was blind to. I experienced a wonderful liberation that saved me. All you have to do is listen. Please try.

Your man I’m so sorry to tell you is not the man for you. If you decide to finally set firm boundaries, make your plans quietly, privately, and do NOT be swayed or charmed back.

I recognize myself in you. 6 years is a long investment into a man who doesn’t stand up for you. But a lifetime will be sure misery.
20 years for me, it never changed, until I said to myself – enough.

Good luck. You are worth it.
Of course, dear, you should follow your inner voice.

Reply
Liz W

Hello Faith,

How’s it going? It’s been a while since you posted and I’ve just read about your problems and hope there’s been a positive change since. I think the biggest curse about being a woman is that you love and care more than a man so you tend to do a lot before you resolve to leave the relationship. As I say I hope things have changed for the better and yeah I hope you’ve left him, especially with the bad debts being run up in his name as you’ll get stuck with that once you marry unfortunately. A hard line but like the article says, their problems are not your problems and he should be looking at it like he has a responsibility to foster your relationship, and really this should be easy for him as he should enjoy being in it with you. All due respect to men this is what they don’t u defat and and come at it like it’s the woman’s responsibility to make them happy. A dullard’s view and a sign of low imagination if I’m honest. I’ve been caught in that trap twice and learned the hard way, lost years but never again. Life isn’t about grief and pain and yeah we all take for granted the fact that we avoid it so to encourage happiness, so why forget that notion now? I hope all is well with you 🙂

Liz

Reply

Leave a Reply

We’d love to hear what you’re thinking ...

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

















Hey Warrior - A book about anxiety in children.








Hey Sigmund on Instagram







{"cart_token":"","hash":"","cart_data":""}