How To Handle Toxic People

I’ve struggled for years with managing toxic people. I still do. I struggle with how to handle them, how to avoid them and ultimately how to let them go as peaceful as possible (if I can). Sadly and yet strangely I feel a reassurance when reading and researching the topic, knowing I am not on my own. Most of us have experienced people or friendships that hinder rather than bless, that cripple rather than uplift, that steal and take from us rather than love, rejoice and cherish. 

But how do we end up in these friendships/relationships in the first place? How do we find ourselves in these situations and so far in? Sometimes it’s like you can never see a way out. You are in this harmful, doomed friendship FOREVER (forever, forever, forever) JOKING! Ha! But jokes aside, I have spent many sleepless nights and days I can never get back mulling over such people in my life. Hours thinking through what such a person has done, or how they interact with me. What they have said to my face. And then it gets worse, so much more worse… please tell me there is someone out there that does this too? I have these conversations in my head- where suddenly I’m sassy, sophisticated and socially apt. I confidently approach ‘said toxic person’ and nail them in a one liner. Or tell it to them straight. Calling them out on their lies or the way they have manipulated a situation. Sigh! Alrighty, I’m getting carried away here. 

Toxic people hurt and it sucks if you’re on the other end. I recently wrote a post about ‘The things I wish I knew in my 20’s’and one of the points I touch on is staying away from these people. Reader, what I’m about to explain and hopefully empower you in your journey is how to manage these people. The tools I still haven’t harnessed myself! But hear me now, YOU MUST SIFT HARMFUL PEOPLE OUT OF YOUR LIFE. And the younger you do it the better off you will be!

So, let’s look at the types of people you need to stay away from. Foremost, I will say this on the matter, if you don’t feel a clear indicator from the Lord on a particular person that doesn’t sit right with you, then keep praying and DO NOT (like I have many times) ignore it, thinking you know better. I have broken it down very simply for you to read and see if your ‘toxic’ person displays any of these characteristics. I will explain further on how you can work towards a healthy way of letting them go. 

  1. Those who spread negativity.
  2. Those who criticize you OR others all the time.
  3. Those who waste your time.
  4. Those who are jealous.
  5. Those who play the victim.
  6. Those who don’t care.
  7. Those who are self-centred.
  8. Those who keep disappointing you.
  9. Those who act out of fear and insecurity.
  10. Those who are narcissistic. 
  11. Those who create Drama.
  12. Those who bully and intimidate
  13. Those who lie.
  14. Those who cannot take responsibility for their own actions.
  15. Those who make you feel bad for being angry or hurt at them when they do you wrong.
  16. Those who never apologise.
  17. Those who are Egocentric.
  18. Those who seek to dominate and win at all costs.
  19. Those who cause you stress.
  20. Those who you feel you cannot be open, honest and share with.

Wow!! Just a few. ha! But these are the character traits that you need to be aware of. And not a one off. Yes we all make mistakes and fall short. If this is a recurring trait and more than one, it’s a strong indicator that you might want to think about ways of quietly pulling back from the relationship. Understand when you see the ‘Red Flags’, Its a warning. Deep down you know it’s not right. Trust your gut or I like to say, trust God and stay away. Love from afar. 

Alrighty friend, so you’re in knee deep. This relationship has been going on for a while. Well I have six healthy steps to free yourself up without hurting the other person… at least not intentionally. Understand that these types of people do not handle truth or reason so well. You cannot imagine a perfect world where you sit down for coffee, laugh and laugh till your bellies hurt… then you wack them over the head with ‘I can’t be your friend anymore because you’re a (*insert toxic trait*) and assume all will go well. 

Step: Pray, pray, pray. For guidance in handling and interacting with them. Remaining kind and friendly. Pray that God will help them to see the error in their ways. AND ALSO PRAY, God will reveal to you any wrongdoing in your heart. 

Step 2: Pulling away. You suddenly have a lot more commitments. More work, more running around with the kids etc, etc, etc. You are busy. Slip in a coffee every now and then to keep peace and allow the person to feel that you do love them. Pulling away can take time. A text here and there. Slowly pulling back and shifting the relationship. One coffee per week becomes one a fortnight, then a month and so on.

Step 3: Be honest when you say you’re busy. Be honest with things you have on and genuinely show a saddness that you cannot see them as often. (Because you will be grieving what was lost and what could of been).

Step 4: It might be a good idea to not allow them to see everything you do on social media. It will hurt them… again, be mindful and slowly post your outings or what you’re doing over time. There is also an option button where you don’t have to allow certain people to view your stories. Make it feel like a lost touch type of thing.

Step 5: Set boundaries. I cannot stress this enough. Explain that certain celebrations or times with your family are important. Your traditions are important. Explain you cannot stretch yourself more than what you are doing. ONLY IF THEY APPROACH YOU OR CONFRONT YOU. You may not even have to go this far. You can set boundaries without the person realising it. I know this first hand.

Step 6: What do you do if things get messy? If they confront you? If this is a confrontation face to face and you are caught off guard. Allow the person to speak and let them know you hear and understand everything they are saying. DO NOT allow them to yell. You can walk away if they are verbally abusing you. If fact, I say run if you feel at risk- however, if caught off guard allow the person to finish and simply say ‘Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings. I’m going to go away and think about it, process it all and respond *in an email/or over coffee* (if you’re stronger than I!!).

And there’s your boundaries and you won’t have to fumble over your words or say things you don’t want to say and regret later. If you are cornered or have to meet at a place to talk, keep it public. Keep a friend nearby. Stay safe. And please know I’m not a trained psychologist, if you need more advice go and see someone. I’m just sharing my musings, experiences and what the Bible teaches. I hope you can truly find some great ways to deal with what’s before you.

Friend, once a word is spoken it is out there forever. Reader, you can be sorry but you and the person it is directed at can never forget it. So use your wisdom and discretion. Stay above reproach at all times. And live a life where if anyone were to speak badly of you, others will know it is false. Let your character speak for itself.

Blessings on you as you handle the road ahead,

Jennifer X

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