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How to Set Boundaries with Toxic People

Toxic people are a rare breed. “Then why do they always seem to find me?” is a question I hear frequently in my Christian counseling practice.

I work with women who want to reinvent their lives and move forward into a greater purpose and without fail, every woman that I work with seems to have toxic people in her life. If you are not careful, these toxic people can hold you back from moving forward.

My first advice when dealing with toxic people is to get away—far away. But sometimes that isn’t possible. Perhaps the toxic people in your life are co-workers, ex spouses or even your own mother. (Sadly I’ve seen this often.)

When getting away from these toxic people is not an option, you will need to establish boundaries to keep from being “infected” by them. It’s vital that you do something to establish boundaries with toxic people because the stress that they cause can affect your health and mental state in big and harmful ways.

But boundaries go beyond just getting away or saying “no.” Here are 10 ways that you can begin to establish healthy boundaries with toxic people and get your sanity back.

  1. Determine what you want. Toxic people can have either extremely charismatic or domineering personalities and if you are not aware of what you want with regards to the relationship or the situation, they can easily bully you into getting their needs met. It’s important to determine what you want before you can begin to stand your ground.
  2. Be direct. Toxic people can’t or won’t take a hint. They don’t care about how you feel so don’t assume they think like you do. They are not understanding and empathetic.
  3. Don’t dismiss the signs. The first signs that you are dealing with a toxic person are guilt, resentment and anxiety. These are signs that something is amiss. Don’t dismiss or ignore them.
  4. Master the art of saying “no.” Boundary violators know that if they persist long enough they will eventually get what they want. Instead of automatically saying yes, consider saying “No” right away. You can change your mind later if you choose to.
  5. Don’t bother fighting. Proverbs 26:4 says, “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.” Resist the urge to try to explain yourself or tell them why they are wrong. You will spend all of your energy and get nowhere.
  6. Stay in the fight. Proverbs 26:5 says, “Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” This may seem like a contradiction but there are times when you need to tell toxic people that they are wrong. The key to doing this right is to keep your emotions in check. Toxic people play on emotions. If your emotions are in check they become uncomfortable.
  7. Lean on God’s grace. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, Paul was dealing with a thorn in his flesh. Many believe that this thorn was actually people who were sent by satan to annoy and aggravate him and keep him from his mission. Sound like toxic people to you? It does to me. But despite how many times Paul asked for the thorn to be removed God said “My grace is enough for you.” Lean on God’s grace to help you handle these devil-sent individuals.
  8. Stay focused on the solution. Toxic people love to suck you into the problem and run you around in circles to either try to prove their point or simply because they find tremendous joy in arguing. Stay focused on finding a solution to the problem, not the problem itself.
  9. Don’t give in to the manipulation. Toxic people are master manipulators. They will use guilt or charisma to manipulate you into their web. If you fight this manipulation you will keep your sanity everytime. Don’t give more than you’re comfortable giving. And don’t worry about the guilt—what you give is never enough for them anyway.
  10. Practice self-care. If you are tired, hungry, angry or otherwise suffering from not taking proper care of yourself, you can become a target that is easy to take down. When you are dealing with toxic people you need to be ready for battle.

Not all toxic people are created equal.  Grab a copy of your FREE “Toxic People Survival Guide”  to learn how to identify and deal with difficult people.

Remember that toxic people thrive on toxic relationships and toxic environments. Despite how often they will point the finger at others for being toxic, they are the ones who can’t have healthy relationships.

This is not your problem. Keep your boundaries with toxic people and you will begin to see either an improvement in that relationship or you will see them move away from you and onto an easier target.

When that happens, please feel free to share this info with them so they can begin to create their own boundaries with the toxic people in their lives.

By Kris Reece, Counselor, Coach, Speaker

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