When your interactions with another person are having a negative impact on your life, it’s so tempting to fight back and defend yourself. At first you might try to reason with them and get them to see things from your perspective and explain why their behavior upsets you. If that doesn’t work, you might become more blunt with your language and tell them that their behavior is unacceptable.
This direct approach will often work with people who were simply unaware that their words or actions were making you uncomfortable. But if it’s a truly toxic personality that you’re dealing with, they may be too self-absorbed to hear you. They simply can’t see that their behavior keeps pushing everyone else away from them.
Common examples of toxic personalities might be people who always take and never give; people who constantly demand more of your time and energy no matter how much you give them; people who don’t appreciate the time, energy, and help that you have given them in the past; people who refuse to take responsibility for their own actions and blame you or others for their troubles; and people who refuse to respect your boundaries, even when you clearly define them. Earlier this year, I wrote a lengthy post about toxic people that you can check out here.
Trying to have healthy relationships with toxic people is a futile pursuit because they have no interest in healthy relationships. They are usually so focused on themselves that they really can’t connect with anyone else in a genuine way. Some of them might even deliberately try to sabotage, gaslight, and stir up as much drama as possible.
You may often feel like it’s your duty to call them out on their behavior and try to get them to change their ways, but it’s a game that cannot be won. Why? Because for many of them, the game itself is the goal. They get a thrill from the drama and turmoil they create. And this might not even be on a conscious level.
In these cases, the very best thing you can do is refuse to play their game. If the person is an acquaintance or distant relative, you might choose to cut off all contact with them. However, if they happen to be a work associate or immediate family member, that can be more challenging. Even if you are unable to avoid them completely, you can at least strictly limit the amount of time you spend with them.
Most importantly, when you do need to be around them, make it your mission to refuse to be drawn into their game. Remind yourself that their whole goal is to get a reaction from you. Being aware of this will make it easier to keep your cool and not react. You can simply smile and change the subject whenever they try to draw you into an argument.
This can be more challenging if the person knows you well and knows how to push your buttons. They know exactly how to trigger you into a state of anger or guilt, and they will use it to their advantage. But if you can keep telling yourself mentally, “They’re trying to get a reaction from me and I refuse to give them one,” it will get easier and easier to simply ignore their jabs. Eventually, they will lose interest in fighting with you since it’s clear that they can no longer win.