How to deal with poison people

They’re the people in your family, workplace or friendship group who make you feel worthless, angry or sad.

It might be the person who is always ready with a sharp putdown, or the friend or family member who undermines whatever you do.

It can sometimes take a while to identify the toxic person in your life – but they’ll leave you feeling deflated or upset.

Counselling psychologist Dr Mandy Deeks says toxic people can be particularly problematic in a family.

“You can distance yourself from friends or colleagues, but it’s harder to break ties with family,” says Dr Deeks, of the Health Information Company in Melbourne.

“And we can have a false sense of security with family and assume that they won’t treat us badly.”

How to identify toxic people in your life

A toxic person may:

  • have different values to you
  • be a bully
  • talk about you in a negative way with nasty comments and put downs
  • make you feel worthless and uncomfortable

“A tell-tale sign can be when you feel happy and then sit with that toxic person and feel your energy drain away. You start to feel unhappy and leave them and feel exhausted,” says Dr Deeks.

“But because we want to believe friends and family have our best interests at heart, we can start to think, ‘It must be me, I must be doing something wrong, I’m not as good as they are’.

“Toxic people make themselves look good and leave you feeling bad.”

How to deal with toxic people

  • Turn the focus on who you are and how you want to behave. You can’t change them so instead stay true to how you want to act.
  • Think about the values of the toxic person and what matters to them to see the differences between you more objectively.
  • Don’t wait for a toxic person to change – instead, accept their behavior is about them, not you.
  • Put on your emotional “armour” when you see that person and find ways to minimise contact.
  • If you feel angry or sad after an encounter, talk about your feelings with someone you trust. Otherwise resentment will fester and next time you see that toxic person you may react more strongly to them.
  • Use “I” statements when talking to a toxic person, such as: “I’m sorry you feel that way but I have a different way of looking at this” to deflate an uncomfortable situation.

While you’re here, take a look at why gossip is good for youwhy real-life friendships matter in the digital age, and how friends can influence your mood and behaviour.

Written by Sarah Marinos.