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

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.

[bctt tweet=”Personal power is everything to do with what you believe – and nothing to do with what they think.”]

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.

    [irp posts=”1086″ name=”Teaching Kids How To Set & Protect Their Boundaries (And Keep Toxic People Out)”]

  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.

    [irp posts=”793″ name=”Toxic People: 12 Things They Do and How to Deal with Them”]


  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.

    [irp posts=”1021″ name=”The Rules for Being Human”]


  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.



Their is a toxic man who has peeped at me and my husband in bed in our home, stalked me, prevented my employment with violence and drama, peeps somehow in my phone, put my information on a terrorist website among other things and I’m not the only one who this has happened to and it’s only a small portion of his disgusting disrespect for life. Your not alone


Toxic behavior is like pond scum it will choke out all life of the environment and it’s not good to look at or hear. What a sad thing to realize about life. It doesn’t have to be that way they choose that and those who can fix the pond didn’t oh well I guess.


Boundaries. Build a strong relationship with yourself. Protect it. If you are sensitive, and kind, and helpful, but make doing for others the center of yourself, the main way you and others value yourself, others will pour in to occupy the place meant for you. They will disrespect you. Carve something out for yourself and keep it. Take care.

Sharon A

I have just days ago cut a toxic friend out of my life and I feel so much better for it. Don’t waste your time on toxic people get those people out I’d your li completely. Don’t waste any more time and energy on them they are not worth it.


And what to do when you love someone, but that someone has a best friend, who tells your loved one that you are toxic and the relationship gets destroyed? It’s like you have lost the battle the moment you made your mind to fight. I am a master manipulator, ok, but I use it to deal with bad people. I have given complete space to my loved one but that person is too weak to handle me. I’m tired of being called toxic when I am the one who always says “Good Morning” and “Have a good day” 🙁


Wow, thanks so much. I’m trying to understand why now, after 50 years, I can’t brush the bullying under the carpet all the time. I now am so very depressed about it all. My sister can’t understand why, after a row, I’m not back to normal a day or so later. I apparently now am ‘brooding’ on it. I now realise it wasn’t just a row, it was bullying. Everything this article says makes sense. I’ve got chronic fatigue with long covid and I’m in the first stages of deciding to see whether interactions are worth my emotional stress. So, I’m having a meal at my in-laws on Christmas Day – rather than with my family. My sisters birthday the next day – we will be going for a meal – so I’m not there yet – but I now feel as though I’m on my way.
Thank you.

Marina V

Hi Tracy I just finished reading your post and I am in the same situation that you are dealing with. I have a toxic husband who is selfish, and vindictive. I have wanted to leave for a long time but also have nowhere to go. He too makes everything about him and years of arguing have got me nowhere, so now I leave too and don’t come back until I want to. I’m an adult and as long as I’m not breaking any laws, I do what I want, when I want, and I no longer care how he feels. He’s free to find a girlfriend if he wants to. I used to cry and get so upset by his behavior but not anymore. Some day I hope to be on my own again and I have been working towards achieving that. I have a job of my own. I don’t make much money at it, but it’s better than having to ask him for anything. I would like to hear from you again if it’s ok with you. Thanks Marina V


This sounds like my brother who used to be very nice to me until the time I was in school. Later he started to control everything I used to do. It become worse when I graduated and started to have my independent life. He always has emotional drama. He puts me down in front of others.
He used to falsely blame me in front of our parents to gain the attention of our elder brother. When I got fed up with this, I got the support of friends. He never let me talk to other people. I got into a relationship and when he found out, he threatened me and tantrumed to keep me away. I exposed his relationship and he moved out of country for higher studies. I was relieved when he was not around. Following that, that I have realized I can stay happy and I can go anywhere I want. It finally feels like I am alive.

I have been doing great in my life since then. I’ve never felt so much confidence and independence. My parents are nice but they are scared of his behavior. He has recently come back to stay and everyone is still traumatized with his behaviour. He never admits his issues and he is still the same even after 3 years. The problem is he explains everything with extreme emotions, and imposes his behaviour on to us. I don’t want to be in the same house. He makes me feel uncomfortable and I hate been around him. I want to get married to a man I like and he is not only disagreeing, but he is pressuring and threatening our parents about this. He always says, “If things don’t go my way I can kill anyone and go to jail but I would not let anyone do anything without my consent”.


thank u very much …this gives me the motivation i need to stop cycles that are not in alignment with my growth n journey

Tracy P

My hubby and I have been together 8 years, married just over a year, he has constant mood swings is very huffy if he doesn’t get his own way he doesn’t lift a finger to help me with absolutely anything cooking cleaning ect he’s is least supportive person I’ve ever known he makes everything about him if I have a headache he has a headache, if I’m having a crisis he has to have a crisis but worse than mine. I have now started to show him I will not tolerate his action or behaviours, when he starts I walk away and don’t return until I am ready to. He is also very obsessive with money he gives me housekeeping but is constantly on my back about how it is spent so now I refuse the housekeeping and just use my own money to live, due to bad health I am unable to work so I receive personal independence allowance each month. I did tell him why I refuse the housekeeping was because I won’t tolerate him constantly having a go about how it is spent. When he doesn’t get his own way like a spoiled child he go’s of in a right huff and starts referring me to his ex who was an alcoholic and very nasty abusive woman. I myself don’t dink alcohol. Unfortunately I am unable to leave this marriage as I have nowhere to go so now I’ve dug my feet firmly into the ground and have set firm boundaries of what and what not I will tolerate this has resulted in husband ignoring me most of the time.


My husband passed away 5 yrs ago, since then my sil has leaned on me for her personal issues. When her hisband became ill and had to go to a nursing home, when she fell at her home and was diagnoised with cancer she asked me to step in. At that time I was told she had only 5-6 months to live. I cooked, packed her home, paid her bills, gave away personal items as directed, took her to appts and was at her beck and call for 5 months. Now she is home, misdiagnoised and doing well. Except I misunderstood a conversation and donated some cothing and she is furious. If ahe cant find something I’m accused of taking it, giving it away or losing it. Once its found no apology, not even a “my mistake”. I have tried to distance myself but she still calls and txt multiple times a day. I have apologized for the mistakes I made trying to help her prepare for a downsize move while she was ill (and she still has to do for financial reasons) but she makes me feel guilty and like I intentionally hurt her, these are not family items, they are 3 coats I donated after she said she would never wear again and I could donate, now she says she never said that. After all this I just want to be left alone and to stop having to explain myself.

I feel bad, she has used and abused all her friends so they keep their distance, thank me for helping her but dont offer any help. She has one nephew (my husbands son from 1st marriage) she hasnt seen him in years but she has him in the will since he is her only “blood relative” in the meantime i am exhaused and feel guilty for just wanting to get away.


My 43 yo step daughter is toxic. Her dad finally sees it! It’s been very difficult, between the 65k in damages to the home we rented her! The vulgar verbal attacks on me and my husband. I am saving this article so my husband and I can sit down together and go thru it! Thank you, I don’t feel so alone, or crazy!


Excellent article
This article reflect my ex partner
And defo I read this too late 😔
The main problem is bigger now .
But thanks because this article help me to not continue with that toxic problem
I was very close to start another one again

Many thanks 🙏🏽

Patty B

How can I deal with my daughter and her family. I put her first and go out of my way for absolutely everything. I do a lot for her and her family and they keep shitting on me. I need to get over this. How do I deal with it? She is my daughter. She was not raised that way and everything is her father, which is good, but her father does not do for her, but he is the one that gets all the pricing for everything. I am not wanting to be put on a glass platter, but I keep getting shitting on all the time. I’m a loving mother and grandmother, but need to know how to deal with this.


Boundaries. Build a strong relationship with yourself. Protect it. If you are sensitive, and kind, and helpful, but make doing for others the center of yourself, the main way you and others value yourself, others will pour in to occupy the place meant for you. They will disrespect you. Carve something out for yourself and keep it. Take care.

Neil W

This reflects my sister since our Dad past away and won’t let me have happiness with my partner claims l ignore my mum although l see her twice a week and hates l don’t live with mum now l have my own life with my partner.


This article describes my aunt to the T…it had me nodding to every sentence!!


Your articles on toxic relationships have been incredibly helpful as I’ve recently transitioned to 1 year with no contact from a toxic ex. They still call from their blocked number and every once in a while I get the urge to answer — even knowing it will lead down the same path. I’ve seen my situation reflected so many times in your advice. It really helps me stay strong and focused. Thank you so much!


Oh describes the next door neighbor perfectly. We live in a open concept apartment in Toronto complex so hard to avoid your neighbors when you go outside. It didn’t take me long to figure out the new next door neighbor’s snide comments towards me weren’t a sign of friendly fun behavior but of an angry toxic individual. She only moved in less than a year ago and has already had several unprovoked outbursts of anger towards other neighbors so has alienated herself pretty much from the entire block. I can’t stand her but have spoken to other neighbors and none of them like her either which has been a tremendous support so am feeling empowered not angered anymore which I’m assuming is a good thing.


Thank you for your kind, powerful words. I am so grateful that I found you in my path. I have 2 sisters who I cut ties with and still grieving for the relationship we could have had. Love you and big thank you!

Yvonne C

I to have had to cut ties with a sister and brother who have been absolutely horrific to me it has been breathtaking..
And my sister has been manipulating a situation that my brother has been taking in by..
I know there is 2 sides to a story but there is also the truth , and hopefully one day that will be proven..
but it the mean time I can’t forgive and I certainly won’t forget the wickedness that I have had to endure for years ..
they have lost me forever.


Been there, done that! I have a narcissistic sibling, with whom I cannot be around, nor care to communicate with. Disgusting, vile, selfish, narcissistic behavior – no thank you.


Thank you. This is so helpful, and gives me hope, as I feel I live next to quite possibly the most toxic people on this planet.


Married with 3 adult sons all by my husband there grown and out of the house we are grandparents now things just never seem to get better hes disconnected on every level with me our sons and our grandkids he just checks out and doesn’t participate with any of is I’m left to be a mom by myself and a grandma by myself he refuses to communicate on any level with me period he does work but he throws that in my face for an excuse of his like I owe him something because he works I’ve also worked over the years he still was the same way so it cant be that just because I dont work he can he has a reason to no be a part of anything that has to do with us on a healthy level I’m always by myself when I have my grandkids our grandkids he doesnt take part in nothing it’s sad and very lonely I get such joy from them and our kids but when your married to someone that’s toxic its exhausting if I need help with something he refuses to help its always a struggle so I just give up on it its draining to much from me so I try to just stay clear from him so he can live in his head by his self I dont want any part of his dysfunctional ways that he seem to think is ok it’s a will turn for me to look at a 53 yr .old man that has no want to participate with us in a healthy way I leave it god to deal with him and his situation that I want no part of .


Life really is too short, take control and get out of that marriage so you can enjoy your children and Grandchildren! You can be in a room full of people and still feel lonely, you will manage so much better without him.


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When you can’t cut out (their worries), add in (what they need for felt safety). 

Rather than focusing on what we need them to do, shift the focus to what we can do. Make the environment as safe as we can (add in another safe adult), and have so much certainty that they can do this, they can borrow what they need and wrap it around themselves again and again and again.

You already do this when they have to do things that don’t want to do, but which you know are important - brushing their teeth, going to the dentist, not eating ice cream for dinner (too often). The key for living bravely is to also recognise that so many of the things that drive anxiety are equally important. 

We also need to ask, as their important adults - ‘Is this scary safe or scary dangerous?’ ‘Do I move them forward into this or protect them from it?’♥️
The need to feel connected to, and seen by our people is instinctive. 

THE FIX: Add in micro-connections to let them feel you seeing them, loving them, connecting with them, enjoying them:

‘I love being your mum.’
‘I love being your dad.’
‘I missed you today.’
‘I can’t wait to hang out with you at bedtime 
and read a story together.’

Or smiling at them, playing with them, 
sharing something funny, noticing something about them, ‘remembering when...’ with them.

And our adult loves need the same, as we need the same from them.♥️
Our kids need the same thing we do: to feel safe and loved through all feelings not just the convenient ones.

Gosh it’s hard though. I’ve never lost my (thinking) mind as much at anyone as I have with the people I love most in this world.

We’re human, not bricks, and even though we’re parents we still feel it big sometimes. Sometimes these feelings make it hard for us to be the people we want to be for our loves.

That’s the truth of it, and that’s the duality of being a parent. We love and we fury. We want to connect and we want to pull away. We hold it all together and sometimes we can’t.

None of this is about perfection. It’s about being human, and the best humans feel, argue, fight, reconnect, own our ‘stuff’. We keep working on growing and being more of our everythingness, just in kinder ways.

If we get it wrong, which we will, that’s okay. What’s important is the repair - as soon as we can and not selling it as their fault. Our reaction is our responsibility, not theirs. This might sound like, ‘I’m really sorry I yelled. You didn’t deserve that. I really want to hear what you have to say. Can we try again?’

Of course, none of this means ‘no boundaries’. What it means is adding warmth to the boundary. One without the other will feel unsafe - for them, us, and others.

This means making sure that we’ve claimed responsibility- the ability to respond to what’s happening. It doesn’t mean blame. It means recognising that when a young person is feeling big, they don’t have the resources to lead out of the turmoil, so we have to lead them out - not push them out.

Rather than focusing on what we want them to do, shift the focus to what we can do to bring felt safety and calm back into the space.

THEN when they’re calm talk about what’s happened, the repair, and what to do next time.

Discipline means ‘to teach’, not to punish. They will learn best when they are connected to you. Maybe there is a need for consequences, but these must be about repair and restoration. Punishment is pointless, harmful, and outdated.

Hold the boundary, add warmth. Don’t ask them to do WHEN they can’t do. Wait until they can hear you and work on what’s needed. There’s no hurry.♥️
Recently I chatted with @rebeccasparrow72 , host of ABC Listen’s brilliant podcast, ‘Parental as Anything: Teens’. I loved this chat. Bec asked all the questions that let us crack the topic right open. Our conversation was in response to a listener’s question, that I expect will be familiar to many parents in many homes. Have a listen here:
School refusal is escalating. Something that’s troubling me is the use of the word ‘school can’t’ when talking about kids.

Stay with me.

First, let’s be clear: school refusal isn’t about won’t. It’s about can’t. Not truly can’t but felt can’t. It’s about anxiety making school feel so unsafe for a child, avoidance feels like the only option.

Here’s the problem. Language is powerful, and when we put ‘can’t’ onto a child, it tells a deficiency story about the child.

But school refusal isn’t about the child.
It’s about the environment not feeling safe enough right now, or separation from a parent not feeling safe enough right now. The ‘can’t’ isn’t about the child. It’s about an environment that can’t support the need for felt safety - yet.

This can happen in even the most loving, supportive schools. All schools are full of anxiety triggers. They need to be because anything new, hard, brave, growthful will always come with potential threats - maybe failure, judgement, shame. Even if these are so unlikely, the brain won’t care. All it will read is ‘danger’.

Of course sometimes school actually isn’t safe. Maybe peer relationships are tricky. Maybe teachers are shouty and still using outdated ways to manage behaviour. Maybe sensory needs aren’t met.

Most of the time though it’s not actual threat but ’felt threat’.

The deficiency isn’t with the child. It’s with the environment. The question isn’t how do we get rid of their anxiety. It’s how do we make the environment feel safe enough so they can feel supported enough to handle the discomfort of their anxiety.

We can throw all the resources we want at the child, but:

- if the parent doesn’t believe the child is safe enough, cared for enough, capable enough; or

- if school can’t provide enough felt safety for the child (sensory accommodations, safe peer relationships, at least one predictable adult the child feels safe with and cared for by),

that child will not feel safe enough.

To help kids feel safe and happy at school, we have to recognise that it’s the environment that needs changing, not the child. This doesn’t mean the environment is wrong. It’s about making it feel more right for this child.♥️

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