‘People inspire you or drain you. Pick them wisely’ (Hans F. Hansen)
As an Executive coach, I have observed that many of my clients who are leaders navigating changes, are dealing with what they perceive as toxic people.
Some people are blissfully unaware of the negative impact they have around them. What makes them behave like this? It may be a lack of self-awareness, lack of feedback, denial? It is important to learn how to deal with different kinds of people. Truly toxic people will never be worth your time and energy. They leave you exhausted, drained and fearful because you wonder ‘what next’. Toxic people create unnecessary complexity, strife, and, worst of all, unnecessary stress for you.
Recent research from Friedrich Schiller University in Germany shows just how serious toxic people are. They found that ‘exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions—the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with toxic people—caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response’. So the stress that you feel is happening to many other people. You are not the only one to feel the way you do and this should reassure you. The trick is to separate those who are annoying or simply difficult from those who are truly toxic. Once you’ve identified a toxic person, you’ll begin to find their behaviour more predictable and easier to understand. This should start to make you feel more in control.
We all have emotional intelligence. Use it:
- Choose your battles and do it when the time is right.
- Set your boundaries and decide when and where you will engage with that person.
- Distance yourself from them emotionally, and approach your interactions with them as if they were a science project. You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts.
- Plan how you will talk to them and focus on the points that you will raise. Those points are about solutions only. Keep it short.
- It’s OK to say ‘no’ when they become unreasonable.
- Buy yourself some time and surround yourself with positive people and your friends.
- Plan for your own well-being: food, sleep, exercise…
Choose the best way forward for yourself. Forgive and forget. Life is too short. I would love to read what strategies you have put in place to deal with toxic people.