How To Handle Difficult And Toxic People


10 effective ways to prevent their negativity from harming you

Not everyone who raises their voice the loudest is a difficult person.


A difficult person can be soft spoken, articulate and even charming. But at the same time, they are the ones who continuously make your life unbearably miserable.

No matter how nice a difficult person seems or pretends to be, they’ll generally raise your stress levels, make you uncomfortable and invite chaos and anxiety into your life. The more exposed you are to a difficult person, the higher the chances of ending up being harmed by their negativity.

Anybody can be a difficult person to anyone and you owe yourself that duty of identifying those people who constantly bring chaos into life.

It doesn’t just stop there..

You’ll also have to learn how to handle them and place yourself in a position where they won’t be able to harm you any further.

Let’s get started.

1. Set your expectations straight

Imagine that you’re in your office, working on an important task and everything is going just fine.

Suddenly, your boss walks over to you and starts shouting at you, in front of your colleagues for an error in your report or something you may or may not have done.

You’ll probably feel embarrassed, demotivated, agitated and more than a little angry!

Now imagine the exact same scenario, only this time your colleague warns you about your boss being in a bad mood. This time you already know about your boss’s mood, so you double-check the report before sending it in.

Even at that, your boss still yells at you (in front of your colleagues) for something you may or may not have done.

This time your reaction will be quite different. Yes you’ll still be kind of startled, but not nearly as much because you already knew what to expect.

Learning how to see people the way they are and not the way we want them to be saves us the stress of expecting too much from them.


Because expecting so much from difficult and irrational people will ultimately get us hurt and disappointed.

Your expectations deeply influence your emotions and by regularly reminding yourself that unpleasant people can show up and act funny at any time, it won’t startle you as much when it happens, and you’ll be better able to deal with them.

The idea behind this practice of setting your expectations straight by visualizing the way they are is not to think ill about anyone, but to stay prepared if difficult people inevitably cross your path.

Read also: How to recognise opportunity

2. Limit your exposure

This is most relevant in situations where you have to put up with a difficult person more frequently — like your boss at work, a colleague, a study partner, business associate or maybe a family member.

Limiting your exposure to negative people means you’re fundamentally reducing the number of hours you would have normally spent with them in a day.

Doing this will reduce the amount of negativity you have to endure in a day and you can find creative ways to do it.

Let’s say you have a difficult boss, you can ask for an option to work remotely for 3 days in a week and then ensure that you’re most productive whenever you work remotely so that it becomes permanent.

Other ways to reduce your exposure to negative people would include;

choosing virtual meetings over physical ones
phone calls over lunch dates
going to bed early if you live with them
move out of the house

3. Don’t engage

If a difficult person mistreats you, it’s because at that moment, they don’t know any better. Their actions must be either intentional or unintentional.

If they are unintentional, it doesn’t make sense to waste your time and energy on their negligence and if they are intentional, then there’s something wrong with their character and you can’t control how other people behave.

In either case, all you can control is how you respond to their behavior.

As Marcus Aurelius would tells us,

“The best revenge is to be unlike the one who performed the injustice.”

So the next time you experience rudeness or are called a name, or are spoken to in a tone that you find offensive, ask yourself: are you actually being harmed by it?

It’s all in your head..

Practice active mindfulness, calm yourself down in the heat of the moment, count 1–10 in your mind, practice the breathing techniques you’ve learned, walk out of the scenario if you can, hang up, stop responding to their e-mail and stop getting triggered by their ignorance.

Just let it go and try not to engage physically, mentally or emotionally then or thereafter.

If you do, you enter the same low consciousness state with them and things can get really nasty, and nothing good ever comes from that.

As Confucius would say,

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves”

4. Be an excellent communicator

Sometimes the real reason a difficult person is being “difficult” is because you don’t understand yourselves clearly.

Before you label someone as being toxic or difficult, you must ensure that you both understand the expectations and roles each party must play to ensure that the relationship is mutually beneficial.

In much simpler words, have a talk with that person, ask them what exactly they expect from you and why they are making that kind of demand.

On the other hand, you also have to tell them what exactly you expect from them too and why you’re making that demand.

It could be a difficult talk, but you’d be glad you had it.

5. Retrace your steps

Following the tip on number 4, you can reflect on the outcome of your discussion and think about why you’re actually in that situation with that person.

Doing this will help you make the necessary adjustments that will strengthen the quality of your relationship with them.

This is fine as long as the adjustments you’re making are acceptable to you and don’t violate your personal boundaries.

Sometimes it takes just a little adjustment from both parties to convert a toxic relationship with a difficult person into one of the best relationships that you’ll ever have.

6. Be a good judge of character

Sometimes the reason why we never seem to make any headway with difficult people is because we have branded them as permanently toxic human beings.

You’ll never think of having a meaningful discussion with anybody that you think will never listen or reason with you.

You have to learn to separate the person from the behavior.

It’s important to understand that somebody is being toxic but it’s even more important to be a good judge of their character as well.

When you notice they have done something good, give them their duly earned accolades. Treat them with respect. Don’t talk ill behind their back all the time and expect them to treat you nicely.

You stand a better chance to work things out with a difficult person if you see them for who they truly are instead of viewing them as the enemy.

Being a good judge of character is something you get better at with age though, so remember not to force it upon yourself.

7. Set clear boundaries

Some difficult people just keep violating your boundaries perhaps because they are chronically addicted to it, or they just want to see how far they can get because you’re keeping quiet about it.

This is wrong.

It’s your job to communicate your boundaries to difficult people and not to assume that it’s their job to magically sense where they are.

Have a talk with them and tell them where they cross the line. (It’s gonna be a hard talk.)

Some will realize they’ve taken it too far and retreat. Some will revolt and get defensive. But if you keep quiet about it, you’re exposing yourself to the many dangers of their consistent negativity.

If you don’t set boundaries, they’ll keep on trying to see what they can get away with, and they’ll keep getting away with a lot more than you think.

If you don’t speak up for yourself now when you can, you’ll regret it later on when you can’t.

8. Protect yourself

Maybe you’ve tried all these things and the difficult people in your life are still violating your values. At this point, it seems nothing you do or say will ever make them stop.

If this is you right now then you should know that not everyone deserves you. in their life. Your first loyalty should be to your mental health and you have to protect it with all you have.

Perhaps it’s your boss, co-worker, clients, friend, family or business partner that keeps giving you the toxic vibes in your life, time after time, month after month and year after year.

The first step to take is to ask yourself why you’re allowing these kinds of people into your life, why you’re in this kind of situation with them and what you can do immediately to take yourself out of that situation.

Second step is to consider cutting them out of your life.

Hey, there’s no one that can’t be cut. Even family can be cut. Right now, just agree with yourself that there are circumstances where you will cut anybody out of your life to stay sane.

It’s not as hard as you think it is..

Just tell the person not to contact you again and don’t contact the person in return. Block or delete their number. Block them on social media too. If you’re dating them, break up.

If you’re married, convince your spouse to see the therapist together. If it’s not working, consider a divorce. It’s not a good option but it’s better than sitting in a toxic marriage for 20–30 years.

If you’re working with a boss who’s constantly making your life a living hell at work, apply for a change of department or quit your job. Fire bad employees, cut off toxic business contacts. If you’re staying in a toxic environment then consider relocating.

Learn to recognize that you’ve endured too much toxicity and know when to pull the plug.

9. Redesign for long term

Redesign your life for the long term so that you’re no longer exposed to toxic and difficult people.

This is especially true for those people you can’t cut out of your life just yet because you depend on them for one thing or another. For example, relying on a toxic job for money, or a toxic partner or family member for basic needs like food and shelter.

This would require that you plan critically and take necessary action to actualize your plans.

Your main aim here is to start putting things in place to help you rely less on those toxic people — like up-skilling yourself in order to find a better job so that you quit your current job and get rid of your boss.

An effective method to redesign your life is to use time chunks to set your goals and make your plans.

For example, you can ask yourself: “I’m currently trapped in this ‘job’/’business’/’relationship’, but over the next year or two, what steps can I take to get myself out of this mess?”

10. Surround yourself with positivity

Handling difficult people can be extremely overwhelming and emotionally drenching. This is why you should add some positivity into your life while you’re at it.

Start with making a few good friends that can help you cool off whenever you’re stressed out. Go digital. Listen to quality self-help audiobooks. Watch inspirational videos. Follow uplifting and inspiring social media influencers. Join support groups. Attend seminars and read autobiographies of high achievers.

If you can’t cut the negative influences in your life just yet, at least raise the positive ones.


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