The culture is full of ideas about so-called “toxic” people. These are people who have a habit, even a pleasure, of making others feel small, unappreciated and humiliated. Being about these types of people have the effect of being poisoned, hence they are labeled “toxic”. Some will say they deserve that label, but labeling in itself can be very toxic because it reduces a human being to a simplified concept.

So, what is the best way to deal with people who seem to have a pattern of bringing people down?

Compassion and Empathy

The first way of dealing with of this nature is to understand there are very few people who have not made mistakes and suffered traumas. Most so-called toxic people are dealing with life that has been filled with unhealed trauma. Their behaviors are simply the best they could have come up with based on their experience. One could try teach these people there are better ways of interacting and treating people, but change is usually slow. While people often want change they often resist being changed themselves. Often, the best you can do is to acknowledge their position and remind them there are other ways of looking at the world and treating people that could be more effective.


There is only so much you can do to influence and change so-called toxic people. Your own mental and emotional health are more important. Decide how much you are willing to exposure yourself to treatment and behavior that hurts you. Setting those limits can be very liberating because it does not obligate you to take any more than you can deal with. Such a limit could be measured in time, an hour or 90 minutes, or it could be limited by behavior, for example you will be present and interact as long as the certain topics or behaviors are not brought up. When such a boundary is crossed you agree to leave.

Have Strong Coping Skills

If your situation demands you expose yourself to these people, have a strategy, that includes:

1) The mindset you are going to bring to the interaction. Your mindset begins BEFORE your interaction with so-called toxic people. That means deciding how you will feel about your interaction BEFORE the first word is spoken. Think long and hard and decide how you are going to keep yourself from losing your cool no matter what happens.

2) Your boundaries. This include the boundaries you will set for yourself, like agreeing not to yell or argue, and boundaries for the other person. These could be not lending money, not permitting belittling treatment, and not accepting angry yelling. If these boundaries are violated you may decide to say nothing or even leave.

3)  Decompress. After any stressful interaction you can take time to calm yourself and reevaluate how you did. This will help you reestablish the proper mindset. Consider how you can do better next time and plan and rehearse accordingly.

Conclusion. Only a rare person has never been exposed to a dysfunctional relationship and to toxic people. Under certain pressures we all can become “toxic”.  Your first obligation is to yourself and the people close to you. Take time to always examine your interactions objectively.


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