We all know at least one. Maybe it’s someone you’re acquaintances with, maybe it’s someone you have to see everyday – OR live with! Whatever the case, HOW can we live with toxic people while still loving them as Christ?!
Toxic people defy logic & reason. They’re often irrational. What drives them? It doesn’t matter – just do you. They will always create unnecessary complexity, strife, and worst of all- stress (which leaves a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Science.) So, here are 3 ways to love like Christ & deal with these toxic people when they step into your life.
Consciously and proactively establish boundaries with that person. Letting things happen naturally might land you in difficult conversations, but if you set boundaries and decide when and where you’ll engage a difficult person, you can control much of the chaos. The only trick is to stick to your guns and keep boundaries in place when the person tries to encroach upon them, which they will.
Complainers and negative people wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.
Most of the time, you cannot trust a toxic person because things you say will be used against you, make no mistake. Don’t vent to them, confide in them, or reveal anything personal to them. But that doesn’t mean you can’t pray for your own heart! Ask God to soften your heart towards this person, to put off anger and irritability, to put on meekness and kindness, to understand this person’s struggles and meet them with compassion (Colossians 3:12–14). Give them grace, ask God to help you bear with them , forgiving them as He forgave you (Colossians 3:13).
Your self-talk can either intensify negativity OR help you move on. Choose to speak affirmations over yourself. When your sense of pleasure and satisfaction are derived from the opinions of other people, you are no longer the master of your own happiness. First – learn to draw your worth from things you CAN control. When emotionally intelligent people feel good about something that they’ve done, they won’t let anyone’s opinions or snide remarks take that away from them.
While it’s impossible to turn off your reactions to what others think of you, you don’t have to compare yourself to others, and you can always take people’s opinions with a grain of salt. That way, no matter what toxic people are thinking or doing, your self-worth comes from within. Regardless of what people think of you at any particular moment, one thing is certain—you’re never as good or bad as they say you are.
Your perspective is everything. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. When you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress.
Instead of fixating on how insane or difficult others are (which gives them power over you), choose to focus on how you’re going to handle them. Maybe a script you say to yourself – affirmations and establishing a support system. This practice will put you in control, and it will dial down your stress.
Find ways to encourage them, too! Spread your joy with them. Little emails that say “well done” or smile at them even if they return with a frown or snarky look.
Two Words: Emotional Distance. Approach your interactions with them pretending you’re their shrink. You don’t need to respond to the emotional chaos—only the facts. Sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod.
This will help you find their behavior more predictable and easier to understand. This will equip you to think rationally about when and where you have to put up with them and when you don’t. For example, even if you work with someone closely on a project team, that doesn’t mean that you need to have the same level of one-on-one interaction with them that you have with other team members.
Make no mistake about it; their behavior truly goes against reason. Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix? Don’t try to beat them at their own game.
Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognize when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward. Don’t be afraid to buy yourself some time to get it together.
Unchecked emotion makes you dig your heels in and fight the kind of battle that can leave you severely damaged. When you read and respond to your emotions, you’re able to choose your battles wisely and only stand your ground when the time is right. If you DO have to straighten them out, it’s better to take time & plan a logical, solution-based way to go about it.