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I’m no stranger to them, and neither are you. We all have experiences with negative or even toxic people.
Maybe you’re dealing with a toxic relationship in the form of a:
- Extended family member
The first step is identifying toxic patterns so you can deal with them. According to relationship experts, a “toxic person” is defined as someone manifesting behavior “that adds negativity or upset to your life” on a continual basis.
Some common traits of toxic people include:
- Inability to respect boundaries
- Emotional manipulation
I’m assuming you already know who the toxic people are in your corner of the world. Your question might sound more like: How do I deal with toxic people in a healthy and mature way?
Let’s look at three boundaries every woman needs in order to protect herself, her kids, and her sanity from toxic negativity.
1. Don’t Engage
One of the most predictable patterns of toxic people is that they leave a trail of drama everywhere they go. In fact, they are masters at stirring it up.
The next time you find yourself being lured into a conversation or situation with a toxic person, don’t engage.
This might look like:
- Change the subject.
- Leave the room.
- Get off the phone.
- Don’t respond to texts.
- Scroll past certain social media posts.
- Hold your tongue when you’ve been baited to enter a negative conversation.
With especially toxic people, you might need to push your boundary a little further:
- Don’t answer phone calls.
- Keep face-to-face interactions brief.
- Unfollow someone on social media.
- Find a new community/church/school/friend group.
Bottom line: you don’t have to engage.
2. Learn to Say “No”
Sometimes not engaging isn’t enough, especially if you’re dealing with a toxic person in your family or closer community.
As uncomfortable as it can feel for some of us, learning to say the little word “no” is so important.
Depending on who you’re dealing with, “no” is typically not well received by toxic people.
Here are a few creative (but firm) ways to say it:
- That’s not going to work for me right now.
- I can’t commit to that.
- I already have plans.
- We can continue this conversation when you’re willing to be more respectful.
- I don’t want to hear/talk about that.
- Just a simple “no;” toxic people are often pros at talking you out of your explanations, so don’t give them a chance.
Bottom line: Unless you’re willing to answer every demand of a toxic person, learn to say “no” and stick with it.
3. Stay in Community with Safe People
One of the most effective boundaries is simply staying connected to emotionally healthy people.
I’ve noticed in my own life that when I have thriving, healthy friendships, I’m less willing to put up with the drama of toxic people.
Safe people will improve your emotional health in many ways. They will:
- Model what healthy conflict resolution looks like.
- Respect your boundaries and priorities.
- Support your personal growth.
- Affirm differences (versus feeling threatened by them).
- Celebrate your personal achievements.
Gates, Not Walls
More than a decade ago, I made the decision to seek out professional help from a Christian counselor. It has literally been a life-changing decision that continues to yield many positive results in my life as a wife, mom, and friend.
Because here’s the truth: Avoidance doesn’t win the game with toxic people. And giving in certainly doesn’t win.
Until you learn how to implement healthy boundaries, you’ll just keep running from (or being controlled by) the next toxic person. Do the hard work of personal growth and learn how deal with toxic people in a healthy, mature way.
My counselor has helped me grow in more ways than I can count. One of her hallmark statements is this: Boundaries are gates, not walls.
In other words, remember that it is safe to let some people in. We just have to learn how to keep the negative stuff out so that we have capacity for the beautiful friendships safe people can bring.
If you feel like enlisting the help of a professional might be a solution you need to explore, seek counseling. There are many faith- and secular-based options in the Fort Worth area.
Also read: Takeaways from Therapy That Have Changed My Life.
Resources to Help Deal with Toxic People
Outside of in-person or virtual counseling, here are some resources that can help you built the tools necessary to live a happier life and handle toxic relationships.
- Boundaries, by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
- Boundaries workbook
- Boundaries membership course (just $9-a-month)
- Safe People, by Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend
- Safe People workbook
- Will I Ever Be Good Enough? Healing the Daughters of Narcisistic Mothers, by Dr. Karyl McBride
- Virtual workshop with Dr. McBride (this is a big help for adult women with a toxic mother)
Are you dealing with a toxic relationship? What’s ONE healthy boundary you can start leaning into right now?