The Toxic Avenger: Dealing with Negative People

3 years ago

The Toxic Avenger

November 29, 2013 by Zoie at TouchstoneZ

Important: Everything in this post assumes that you are in a safe place and that you are not being physical or emotionally threatened or abused. If you are in an immediately dangerous situation, please call emergency services. If you are in an abusive situation that is not immediate, please get help. Some resources: Abuse Help Guide. The core message in this post is that the only thing you can control is yourself, please reach out for help if you need it. For you. Because you are worth it.



How do you give compassion to those who seem least deserving? When you’re in a situation with someone that has harmed you in the past or a person whose negative energy drains everyone around them, where do you find the balance between keeping yourself protected and not causing greater harm to the toxic person?

When you are honest with yourself about your own feelings when around this person, then compassion for yourself can expand to include the person who is causing the suffering. But, this is not something you can make happen because you decide to. It can only occur after you have surrendered into self-acceptance and self-forgiveness.

Choosing to excise the person whom you feel toxic around may be the most compassionate choice. However, reality is that we will have to deal with these situations when we do not have the opportunity to escape. So, while you either mindfully choose to set aside  the practice of digging into why these feelings of toxicity arise or are walking the path while still dealing with the person, this is list of five things to do when dealing with toxic people.

1. Set Boundaries

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • The first boundary is around yourself. Think about the things that happen during toxic interactions that are harmful to you. Decide ahead of time on a limit, such as length of time or offering help once then leaving the interaction.
    • The second boundary is around the other person. Picture a shield or bubble around the other person that cannot be broached by negativity. The words they say will stay with them instead of you. Get clear with what you need where you need to draw the line so that once you feel that boundary being pushed against, you can end the interaction.
  • In the moment:
    • It’s easier to remain calm if you already have your boundaries in place. If you know that you will make an excuse to leave the conversation after a certain limit has been reached, it is easier to feel like there is more choice available to you.

2. Act, Don’t React

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • If you know that someone else is going through some upheaval in their life, reflect that there will be some blowback and prepare how you would  like the interaction to go ahead of time. In easier conversations, practice listening without reacting so you will feel better prepared when confronted with a negative one.
  • In the moment:
    • Pay attention to what the other person isn’t saying by listening. If acknowledgement of their situation feels appropriate, express it. If noting something from the past that can remind them of something positive, do so. It might change their train of thought or at least provide a distraction for them.

3. Don’t Take It Personally

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    •  Become more familiar with what the negative person is triggering in you. Remember that you, in particular, are incidental to most people’s negative talking points. Most of the time, they are unaware that they are being hurtful, tactless or cruel. Even if the person seems to be intentionally mean, the object of their displeasure is only reassigned by some criteria unrelated to you. Once you’ve created personal boundaries and become comfortable with your reactions, the toxic person will receive less of whatever it is they think to get from you.
  • In the moment:
    • When you begin to feel like the toxicity is hitting a little close to home, check in with your triggers and try to set them aside until later. For example, if the volume of their voice triggers you, change your proximity, have headphones or ear plugs handy when you see them coming. If they’re being harshly critical, repeat to yourself that it’s okay to review any healthy criticism later, but you don’t owe the other person any response in the moment that doesn’t treat everyone with kindness.

4. Support Without Enabling

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • If the negative person knows that they can drag you down with them, they will continue attempting to do so. If you research some concrete help or prepare some words of empathy that can help you sort out whether the person needs to feel heard, needs resources or is trying to pull you under with them. You can offer the life jacket, but not give them yours as well.
  • In the moment:
    • Temper your responses so that you can still offer kindness without a big emotional reaction. It’s important to balance your emotional health with lending a shoulder. After you have offered what you have decided to and listened to them, try to change the subject to something innocuous or that at least feels safe for you.

5. Return to Compassion

  • Inner Reflection before or after:
    • Research has shown that people who express more negativity, often have depression or anxiety. If you remember that the other person is in pain, it helps to diffuse the anger and frustration you feel for them. You can still keep yourself protected from toxic people without allowing yourself to be drained by them.  Remembering that the only thing you can control is how you react to them, can release your own anxiety about upcoming interactions. Once you see things are they really are, you can make the best choices. Be gentle with yourself when you recall past interactions and visualize yourself reacting to them the way you wish you had.
  • In the moment:
    • Remember that most people are so absorbed with their inner self to notice that their words or actions hurt others. Recall that they most likely have no way to deal with their inner pain other than to give it to other people. If you feel your ire rising because of the conversation, give yourself some empathy. Remind yourself that you are in control of how you react to the toxic person. What you offer to yourself and to them reflects whether you are reacting from your heart or not.

A final note:

Remember that there is no way you should behave during these toxic encounters. It isn’t about being the way you envision a compassionate person would behave. Be truthful with yourself about where you are. Accept yourself and your reactions. Let them be and let them go. The more you’re able to not identify with your feelings around toxic people, the less these encounters will trouble you.

Walk away before the relationship becomes damaging to you or others. This can mean walking away for the moment to compose yourself, walking away for however long you need to fill your bucket or to get clear on your boundaries and needs or walking away permanently from those who are too toxic for your mental and emotional health.


In an upcoming post, I will address how to deal with toxic people when you are ready to dig deep into what they are there to teach us about ourselves.

How have you dealt with toxic relationships in your life? I would enjoy hearing from you.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Post for NaBloPoMo
(Since I’m writing most of these late at night, in bed, while tandem nursing twins, I’m choosing to concentrate on writing rather than formatting, proof-reading, researching or editing as much as I’d like. Please forgive the extra typos and non-nonsensical grammar. Thank you.)


Please visit me at TouchstoneZ: Gentle Parenting & Mindful Living off the Mat

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

More from parenting

by Julie Sprankles
| 3 days ago
by Kelcey Kintner
| 3 days ago
by Sara Lindberg
| 3 days ago
by Jennifer Mattern
| 3 days ago
by Claire Gillespie
| 5 days ago