We have all had the experience of meeting people whose manner is off-putting or displeasing. Perhaps they are overly aggressive, rude or mean. In some circumstances it may be easy to avoid being in their presence, but what happens when a toxic person plays an important part in your life?
The term “toxic” can refer to a variety of personality styles – those who constantly complain, those who try to “pick a fight,” those who manipulate. Recent research has shown that regular exposure to toxic behavior causes major stress responses in the brain. For your own well-being, avoidance is the key whenever possible. (For the purposes of this article we are not addressing when a toxic person is truly abusive – in that case seek help immediately.)
But sometimes avoidance is just not possible. Under these circumstances it is very important to remain authentic and true to yourself, rather than accommodating or people-pleasing to keep peace with that person. It is never healthy to stray from your own standards of behavior and ethics. If you are a confident person, remain confident in spite of any negative or harsh criticism from the aggressor. When provoked, do your best to not react in kind. Respond where necessary (sometimes “response” is a lack of action), but try not to react while in the presence of the toxic person.
Consider how you will handle uncomfortable situations with the toxic person and what you can accept and cannot accept. Then set firm boundaries.
If you find yourself reacting emotionally due to a toxic person’s words and behaviors, get some space if you can, and then be still and go inward for a moment. You can recognize how you feel and have compassion for that feeling, just as you would offer compassion to someone else in that situation. Rise above – listen to that still, small voice, your Soul Wisdom, and choose to keep your peace no matter what.
Seek help from your support system, the family and friends who know you the best, and in a therapeutic setting when that would benefit you.