How to Handle Toxic People - EmployeeConnect HRIS
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toxic people, toxic employee, Toxic workplace, signs of toxic people

How to Handle Toxic People

Individuals with a toxic disposition usually defy all kinds of logic. Some of them may be genuinely unaware of the negative impact that they may have on people in and around them. There may be some who seem to derive a sadist kind of pleasure and satisfaction by creating chaos around and pushing the wrong buttons in people. Irrespective which of the ways they resort to, they certainly create unnecessary strife, complexity, and above all stress.

Research has established that stress has a negative and lasting impression on the brains of individuals. If an individual is exposed to even a couple of days of stress, it leads to the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus being compromised. Hippocampus is a crucial segment of the brain that is responsible for memory and reasoning. Studies have revealed that if an individual undergoes weeks of stress, it may cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites. Neuronal dendrites are small arms which the brain cells use to communicate with one another. If an individual undergoes weeks and months of stress, it can lead to permanent damage of neurons. Stress can be an alarming threat to your success story, especially if it gets out of control. It makes both your brain and performance suffer.

It is relatively easier to identify the sources of stress at work most of the times. Stress is likely to harm you the most when the sources of stress are unexpected. According to the research conducted at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany by the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology, if an individual is exposed to certain stimuli that evoke strong negative emotions, it is similar to the exposure that you get while dealing with toxic individuals. Be it cruelty, negativity, the victim syndrome, or just plain form of craziness, people who are toxic drives your brain into a stressed-out state. Such a state needs to be averted at all costs.

How well an individual is able to manage his or her emotions and stay calm under extreme pressure has a direct connection to your performance. Research has discovered that around 90% of individuals who are top performers are seen to be excellent at managing their emotions during times of stress and can stay in control and remain calm. One of the greatest gifts of such individuals is their ability to neutralise toxic individuals. They are seen to possess well-honed coping strategies which they seem to employ to keep toxic individuals at bay.

Listed below are some of the best strategies that successful individuals employ while dealing with toxic people. To deal effectively with toxic people, you need to adopt an approach that enables you to control what you can and eliminate what you cannot. However, the most significant thing to remember is that you are certainly in control of far more that what you are aware. Let’s take a look at some of these effective strategies.

Set Your Limits and Distance Yourself When Necessary

Toxic individuals have a very common trait that they tend to wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions to the issues. They seek support from people to join them in their wallowing so that they can feel better about themselves. Most of the times, people feel pressured to listen to complaining individuals, as they do not wish to appear rude or callous. However, there is a very fine line lending someone a sympathetic ear and getting caught up in their negative emotional spiral. One of the ways in which you can avoid this is by setting your own limits. Distance yourself if required from such individuals. One of the great ways to set limits is to ask the individuals who wallow how they intend to fix the issue at hand. This will either quieten them down or it may redirect the conversation to a productive direction.

Choose Your Battles Wisely

Individuals who are successful know the importance of living and fighting for another day, especially when the opponent is a toxic individual. If you are unable to keep your emotions in check during a conflict, it will lead you to dig your heels in and fight an unnecessary battle which will leave you severely damaged. It is only when you can read and respond to your emotions, that you can select your battles wisely and decide to stand your ground when the time is apt.

Distance Yourself Emotionally from Toxic Individuals

Toxic people are quite adept at driving you crazy, as their behaviour is unpredictable and irrational. You need to be well aware of the fact that their behaviour defies all reasoning. So avoid responding to them emotionally and getting drawn into their drama. The more an individual displays an irrational and off base demeanour, the easier it should be for you to distance yourself from them. More than physically, you need to distance yourself mentally from them. Respond only to the facts and not their emotional chaos.

Have an Awareness of Their Emotions

To distance yourself emotionally from toxic individuals, it needs a certain amount of awareness.  If you do not have the awareness when it is taking place, you won’t be able to stop them from pushing your buttons. There may be times when you find yourself in circumstances where probably you may need to regroup and select the best way forward. It is absolutely fine, and you should not worry about buying some time for yourself to deal with this right. To straighten them out, it is better  you give yourself some much needed time to plan the best way forward.

Consciously and Proactively Establish Boundaries

This is mostly a sensitive spot where people tend to find themselves falling short. They feel that since they work closely with a toxic individual, they do not have a way to control the chaos. However, it’s far from being true. Once you can find your way to rise above a person, you will find their behaviour to be entirely predictable and easier to comprehend. This will help you think rationally when and where you need to put up with them and when you need not. For instance, even if you are working with a colleague who is toxic, day in and out on a project team, it does not mean that you need to have a personal one-on-one kind of interaction with him or her. In fact, you need to especially build a boundary consciously and proactively. If you allow things to take place naturally, you may find yourself embroiled continuously in challenging conversations. On the other hand, if you set boundaries and decide when and where you will interact with such a person, it is possible for you to control a lot of chaos. The trick up your sleeve here is to stick to your guns and maintain your boundaries when the person tries to encroach upon them, as they will for sure.

Be the Master of Your Own Happiness

When you give the reigns of your sense of satisfaction and pleasure to the opinions of other people, you no longer remain the master of your own happiness. People who are emotionally intelligent do not let themselves to be affected by anyone’s snide comments or opinions when they are feeling right about something that they have done. If you do so, you are giving away the control to such individuals. While it is practically impossible to switch off your reactions to the opinion that others hold of you, you can always take such reaction with a pinch of salt. If you pick up this attitude, then irrespective of what toxic people do or think, your self-worth is bound to emerge from within. You know for a fact that no matter what people consider you at any particular moment, you will never be as bad or as good as they say you are.

Focus on Solutions Instead of Problems

When you tend to focus only on the problems that you are facing, you generate and prolong stress and negative emotions within you. In context of toxic people if you continue to focus on the fact how difficult and crazy they are, you will be handing them the power to control you. Hence, you should stop focussing on how difficult the individual is and instead focus on how you shall handle them. By taking this approach, you place yourself in control, and it will automatically reduce the amount of stress that you experience while dealing with them.

Refrain from Giving them ‘Another Chance’

People who are emotionally intelligent are quick at forgiving. However, that does not necessarily mean that they forget as well. While it is okay to forgive and let go of what has happened so that you may move on, it does not indicate that you give the wrongdoer another chance. Avoid being bogged down by other’s mistakes. In fact, let them go quickly and yet be assertive in protecting yourself from future harm.

Refrain from Negative Self Talk

It is normal for you to sometimes absorb the negativity of toxic people. While there is nothing wrong in feeling bad about how someone is treating you, your self-talk can either amplify the negativity or it may help you to move on. Any kind of negative self-talk is unnecessary, unrealistic, and self-defeating. It takes you into a downward emotional spiral which makes snapping out of it difficult for you. Hence, you must avoid negative self-talk at all costs.

Limit Your Caffeine Intake

Whenever you drink coffee, the caffeine in it triggers the release of adrenaline. The source of either fight or flight emerges from adrenaline, which is the source. It a natural survival mechanism which compels you to either run for the hills or stand up and fight whenever faced with a threat. This flight or fight attitude stems from the thought that such behaviour will evoke a faster response compared to rational thinking. This attitude may serve you if you are being chased by a bear. But it is certainly not a great attitude when you are caught by surprise in the hallway by an angry colleague.

Try and Get Some Good Sleep

The importance of sleep in increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels is quite significant. Whenever you sleep, it is recharging time for your brain in the literal sense. It shuffles through the memories of the day and either store or discards them so that you can get up clear-headed and alert. When you do not get enough or the right kind of sleep, it reduces your level of self-control, memory, and attention. It raises the stress hormone levels automatically even without the presence of a stressor. On the contrary, if you get a good night’s sleep, it makes you creative, proactive in your approach towards toxic individuals, keeps you more positive, and gives you the perspective that you need to deal with them effectively.

Avoid Tackling Everything Yourself

No matter how tempting it may seem, it is highly ineffective if you attempt to tackle everything by yourself. To deal with toxic individuals, you need to be aware of the weaknesses in your approach towards them. You should tap into your support system to gain a better perspective on a toxic individual. We all have some of those individuals at work or outside work that you can depend on, and they are ready to offer help as well in difficult times. You need to identify such individuals around and make an effort to seek their assistance and insight when you need it the most. It may be as simple as explaining the situation to them, which may lead to an altogether fresh perspective. Most of the times, other people can see a solution to a problem that you can’t, because they are not emotionally involved in the situation.

Before you implement the above-mentioned strategies, you need to adopt healthy stress relieving techniques to deal with difficult people. It will train your brain to tackle stress much more effectively and decrease the likelihood of side effects.


Byron Conway

Content Coordinator at EmployeeConnect