4 Ways to Deal With ‘Toxic People’ 📽️

Video script of ‘4 Ways to Deal With Toxic People’

Today I shall be meeting with interference, ingratitude, insolence, disloyalty, ill-will, and selfishness – all of them due to the offenders’ ignorance of what is good or evil.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 2-1

We all know someone in our lives that’s so exhausting to be around. There’s always some form of drama going on, and if we happen to be in a good mood ourselves, the person in question manages to turn the tide within a few minutes. This walking vortex of negativity seems highly contagious and robs us from our joie de vivre. In a previous video, I’ve talked about how to stop caring what people think. Now, let’s go a bit further by exploring four ways to deal with so-called ‘toxic people’.

Don’t we just love labeling each other? I love it too: sigma male, doomers, zoomers. My channel is full of labels. Now, in the world of psychology and self-help, we’ve got these highly popular terms like autism, Asperger, narcissist, borderline, which quite a few people use to label each other without restraint.

Yet another popular label is ‘toxic’. We can speak about toxic parents, toxic relationships, a toxic friend and perhaps also a ‘toxic pet’ or a ‘toxic pizza delivery guy’. The word ‘toxic’ indicates that there’s something wrong with a certain person, object or situation that, in some way, poisons you. It depletes your mood, it angers you, makes you sad, frightens you; it basically affects you negatively.

Now, I won’t deny that people can radiate negativity, but I don’t really believe in ‘toxic people’, because I don’t think anyone is inherently toxic. What I do believe is the most people have their demons – or shadow as Carl Jung called it – which is part of the human condition. However, within some people, the demons are simply more dominant than usual. The negative, inconsiderate and often manipulative behavior of these difficult individuals is what we perceive as ‘toxic’.

For this video, I prefer the term ‘difficult people’. Now, how can we deal with difficult people? Let’s start with the first method.

1) Walking away | Beginner

Now, walking away from someone may be the best option if you really don’t see any other way to be unaffected by this person. Perhaps he or she is extremely violent or extremely manipulative. In other words: downright dangerous.

It takes great skill to deal with such a demon-ridden human being and chances are that you’re not equipped for that. And that’s okay. Not everyone is a Zen master. 

By walking away we demonstrate our autonomy and that we’re not going to put up with destructive behavior any longer. The disadvantage of this method is that we’re still affected if we happen to encounter this person.

Here’s a quote from Stoic philosopher Epictetus to show you want I mean:

Remember that following desire promises the attainment of that of which you are desirous and aversion promises the avoiding that to which you are averse. However, he who fails to obtain the object of his desire is disappointed, and he who incurs the object of his aversion wretched.

Epictetus, Enchiridion, 2

Aversion is a tricky thing. In this case, it’s great when you’re away from that person but it’s terrible when you’re not. Nonetheless, I think walking away can be an effective method for dealing with difficult people that affect us negatively. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

However, walking away isn’t always an option. Sometimes we have to deal with difficult people on a daily basis because they are colleagues, roommates or family members. Luckily, there are other options.

2) Indifference | Intermediate

Indifference is truly a power; it’s a way to keep our faculty unshaken by outside events. Because it’s not what happens outside us that hurts us, but the way we position ourselves towards it. Being indifferent towards something you averse (or even hate) is easier said than done, so it’s an intermediate method.

I’ve noticed that the most trouble with the people in my life takes place in my mind. I’ve had discussions with people in the shower, I’ve been arguing with annoying coworkers while sitting in the train to work, I’ve fought with my uncle while having dinner at home and all of these negative experiences are products of my noisy thoughts. So, when we meet these people in real life, it’s like they’ve been plaguing us all day. But in reality, it was the mind that plagued us.

So, it’s much easier to be indifferent towards people – and I mean truly indifferent – if we don’t think about them. Detach. Even in their presence. The way to do this is by living in the present moment. By focusing on the now, the negative behavior of other people has a minimal effect on us. We won’t think about them during the day. And when they are around us, the things they say go in one ear and out the other. We can even give these encounters a positive twist by seeing these people as our teachers because they give us the opportunity to practice the art of indifference. 

3) Seeing the temporary nature of things | Intermediate

There’s a Sufi story about a king who noticed that he’s happy when things are going well in the country and sad when things aren’t going well. Basically, his mood was tied to the comings and goings of his environment. When he was happy he celebrated by throwing huge parties in the palace, but when he was sad he retreated in his personal quarters being depressed.

So, he asked the wisest men of the kingdom to create a ring for him that will make him happy when he is sad. Thus, days later, the wise men handed over a ring to the king, with the words “This too will pass” etched on it. This worked. Because in times of despair it reminded him that the universe is ever-changing. Not only he felt better in bad times; he also felt less overjoyed in good times, keeping his euphoria in check and saving resources that were normally wasted on festivities.

Reminding ourselves of the temporary nature of things gives relief. We might be bothered by someone right now; it won’t last forever. When we see that everything is impermanent, it’s easier to look at life as a series of manifestations that come and go and pass us by, like clouds in the sky. We won’t be overjoyed when the person is gone and we won’t be irritated when the person is around. We’re just dealing with another appearance which, like anything, eventually disappears. Knowing this prevents us from feeling trapped in the moment like we’re forever burdened with the negativity of another human being, which is just an illusion.

4) Kindness & compassion | Expert

Now, this is ‘Expert Level’. When we’re able to react non-passionately when confronted with negative or even hostile behavior, we can choose to fight back with kindness. At the root of genuine kindness, there’s compassion and empathy. Because if we’re able to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and feel with them, we’ll realize that they must truly suffer to radiate such levels of negativity into the world. Who’s more affected by these people? You or the people that have to live with themselves for 24 hours a day, seven days a week? The knowledge of them suffering may give you the strength to answer their behavior with kindness.

Here’s a quote by Marcus Aurelius:

Kindness is invincible, but only when it’s sincere, with no hypocrisy or faking. For what can even the most malicious person do if you keep showing kindness and, if given the chance, you gently point out where they went wrong— right as they are trying to harm you?

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 18

When you’re kind to these people and show them understanding you might be able to relieve them from their suffering as well. This way, you kill two birds with one stone; they feel better and you don’t have to deal with their previous behavior anymore.