Great minds discuss ideas, average ones discuss events, and small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Having that person who is always raising questions or doubts around you may not be fun. Difficult people make our days more stressful but at times their perspective can lead to reflective discussions, positive insights and eventually successful performance. But how about that person whom you dread to see or talk to? Or how about feeling drained every time you interact with a certain person? That is a “toxic” person for you. Why do we call them toxic? Because they are not good for us, they always make us feel bad after we interact with them.

How do you know whom is toxic person for you? Dr. Travis Bradberry, author of Emotional Intelligence 2.0, provides us with a comprehensive description of who these people are. “They are the ones with hurtful remarks, constant sarcasm, belittling behaviors and passive-aggressive interactions with others.” By knowing how these people behave we can identify them quickly and stay as far away as possible.

Here is a partial description list cited by Dr. Bradberry’s:

  • Gossip: they love to talk about other people’s misfortunes;
  • Temperamental: they can not control their emotions and you feel bad for them, all the time;
  • Needy: always the victim, their “me” time is all the time; they suffer for very little;
  • Self-absorbed: it’s always about them, and you must not have other friends. You start to feel alone;
  • Envious: the grass is always greener on the other side;
  • Manipulator: they suck time and energy off of your life. You feel exhausted after every encounter;
  • Judgmental: it is their way or the highway; they do not accept anything different than they are.
  • Arrogant: no one is ever good enough; they see everything you do as a personal challenge or affront.

Some “toxic” people seem pretty unaware of the negative impact they cause to those around them; however others seem to be totally satisfied with creating chaos, hurt and pushing people’s buttons. With or without knowledge of their effects on others, toxic people create stress. And months of stress can permanently destroy neurons so it is really important to identify them, know how to deal with them and to control what we can.

So how do we deal with them? Here are some suggestions:

  • Set limits (specially with complainers) – listen to what they have to say but stop them if they are going on for too long.
  • Don’t fight – or argue with toxic people. Just don’t. It never works.
  • Rise above – toxic people are irrational. Don’t try to help them. They can’t be helped. Don’t try to beat them at their own game, it’s just impossible.
  • Stay aware of your emotions – recognize these people are irrational; smile and nod and walk away whenever possible. If you need to straighten them up give yourself time to think of a plan.
  • Establish boundaries – set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos.
  • Don’t let anyone limit your joy – you are in control of your happiness. Toxic people are always negative. Don’t let them dictate when you should be happy. “Your self-worth comes from within.”
  • Don’t focus on problems – only solutions – our emotional state is determined by where we concentrate our attention. Don’t give these people too much of your time.
  • Forgive yes, forget no – forgive people but don’t forget what they do, you need those memories for the next time you see them.
  • Squash the inner-critic – spending time with toxic people create the inner-critic. Negative self-talk is unrealistic, unnecessary, and self-defeating – don’t do it to yourself; the other is already doing it for you.
  • Take deep breathes – when you feel emotions rising, take a couple of deep breathes before opening your mouth. Stay in control.
  • Get enough sleep – sleep increases emotional intelligence and manages stress levels. A good night sleep makes you more proactive, creative and positive.
  • Use your support system – tap into your support system, talk and listen to them, they are rooting for you. Seek their insight and assistance when needed. Most of the times, they can see a solution you can’t.

Remember, some people can’t be pleased and not all people will be good for you – and many times that will have nothing to do with you. Be confident and own your own faults, your quirks and the things that make you shine. You can’t change who people are, so don’t even try. However, you can control your reactions. Learn and put to practice these stress-relieving techniques for dealing with difficult people, it will train your brain to handle stress more effectively.


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