Many of us have a family member we feel uncomfortable every time we see them. Maybe they make fun of our appearance and try to manipulate us into doing whatever we want, or maybe they’re just people who have the right to not respect anyone’s boundaries.
That person may be toxic, but if they are close contacts, you may be reluctant to cut them out of your life entirely. That doesn’t mean you have to put up with their bad behavior, though. Weekly newspaper Ask a psychologist how to identify a toxic person and how to deal with one.
How to identify toxic people
Psychologist Chloe Carmichael, author Dr. Chloe’s 10 Covenant Commandmentsbelieve it’s important to make a clear distinction between toxic people and people you simply don’t like or share your values with.
She told us that there are usually two kinds of poisonous people Weekly newspaper: “A person who clearly shows extreme disrespect or genuine malice toward you, and someone whose disrespect and malice toward themselves causes them to disrupt the lives of others around them.”
According to Carmichael, the first type is highly toxic to others—people who physically abuse you, abuse you, or constantly try to destroy you.
For another toxic person, the level of disrespect or negativity in their own life makes them toxic around them. “It’s like an active alcoholic who just wants to sit back and complain about how bad their life is, but they refuse to accept any help,” she said.
Greg Kushnick, a Manhattan-based psychologist, adds that a toxic person often doesn’t respect others’ boundaries and can steal your energy and drive, affecting your sense of agency.
“Toxic people often fail to put themselves in other people’s shoes and adjust their behavior accordingly. They often have their own version of reality and don’t accept other people’s perspectives,” he told Weekly newspaper.
How do you deal with toxic people?
According to Kushnick, one of the biggest challenges of dealing with toxic family members is that whenever you are triggered by them, you have to deal not only with the current moment, but also with memories of previous interactions. So, the first thing you should do is decide how much is too much.
set your boundaries
In order to protect yourself, it is important to know yourself. This will allow you to identify when a toxic person is insulting or manipulating. “This self-knowledge includes your morals, values, and acute awareness of triggers,” Kushnick said.
Define your boundaries. “What are you willing to put up with? What is considered too much? To be more prepared to face a toxic person, you need to remind yourself of options for how to deal with toxic behavior,” he added.
Kushnick also recommends getting the opinion of a third party who can help you see your blind spots and provide perspective.
try to say it
If you want to leave a toxic relative in your life — or at least maintain a cordial relationship when you see each other at family gatherings — it’s worth having a conversation with them about the issue.
The first thing to do in that conversation, Carmichael said, is to admit that you’ve allowed a toxic pattern to build because you’ve allowed that person to abuse you without setting boundaries, and you’re no longer willing to accept that. a little.
She gave the example of a mother-in-law who often made unpleasant comments about her daughter-in-law’s weight or fertility. A woman in this situation can politely ask her mother-in-law to talk.
Carmichael said the discussion could start: “I want you to know that I realize I’ve allowed a pattern to develop, and you’re making comments about my weight or my fertility, and I’m not as clear as I should be about me The fact of disagreement. So I’m telling you now, I really disagree, and I hope you don’t comment on those things. Do you think you can do that?”
Giving the person a chance to respond to more “radical” boundaries can help, she explained. In many ways, toxic people are like bullies—hold back when someone resists.
Carmichael added: “If they stick with it, you can say, ‘Look, I tolerated it with you for a while. I shouldn’t have done that, I talked to you about it, I told you it wasn’t acceptable. . So, at this point, if you stick with it, then what’s going to happen is…’ and tell them what your next steps are, for example, ‘My husband and I are going to get up and leave for family visits. ‘”
Assess if you need them in your life
If their behavior doesn’t change after that conversation, Kushnick said you need to assess whether it’s worth keeping the person in your life.
“If the toxic person doesn’t adjust based on multiple attempts to provide feedback, it may be necessary to distance the person, at least temporarily, to restore balance, perspective and feel protected,” he said.
In that case, Carmichael recommends telling them: “I’m starting to realize that the way you treat me is unacceptable. I don’t feel willing or able to work with you anymore, so this will be our last conversation.”
She adds that facing a toxic person can be scary, especially if they can become aggressive, so you might want to bring an ally with you.
If you take a toxic person out of your life, how do you get over them?
It’s not easy to cut someone out of your life permanently, especially if you’ve ever been close. Carmichael offers three key tips for dealing with this situation.
admit to missing them
First, she said, “it’s important to remember that just because you miss someone doesn’t mean you made a mistake in saying goodbye.”
She added: “When a relationship ends, even if it’s an unhealthy one, it’s usually just a familiar pattern, or even just being able to count on that person being there, even if it’s negative. So it’s normal to be like loneliness. Things will come up because before, that toxic person took too much of your mental space.”
Write a “10 Worst Things They’ve Ever Done” list
According to Carmichael, listing the “Top 10 Harmful Actions They Do” or their unpleasant behaviors will remind you why you’re excluding them from your life.
“When we’re in that lonely, vulnerable state of mind, we sometimes wear rose-colored memory glasses, but it’s hard to remember everything about that person anyway.”
plan some self-care
Self-care is always a good idea, but it’s especially important during times of stress or sadness.
“If you’re going to have a goodbye conversation with a toxic person, consider planning a lunch or dinner with a good friend and follow up right away. Also consider activating your social support network and explaining what’s going on in your life,” says Carmichael .
She recommends planning to meet up with friends at least three times a week for the first few weeks after the conversation, so you have a lot of built-in social support and can arrange for some additional therapist trips if you feel you need it.