A few years ago, I was facilitating a workshop and a participant asked me this question, “My mom is just an unintentionally toxic person. How do I handle my agitation around her coming to visit us over the next few days?” Toxic interactions can slip into family life before you realize it, especially when you’re stressed. Let’s take a look at an example of what toxic parenting might look like first. A mom in the show interacted with her daughter in front of her book club. Gathered were six middle-aged women sipping wine and discussing their latest read. A tween girl walked in, a bit shy. Without introducing her to the club ladies, her mom looked her up and down and snarled, “Did you tell your father yet that you flunked two classes at school!?” 

Toxic parents or other people in your life can be very upsetting and can cause a lot of heartache, especially if you are very close to them, such as your mum, dad or partner. Remember you can’t change them or motivate them to change. Only they can choose to change or motivate themselves. However “For things to change first I must change”, so I’m going to give you some tips on how to handle these toxic people in your life. 

Learn what your triggers are…  If you’ve grown up with this behavior in your life, first you must realise that you get to choose how you react. Stop trying to please them and realise that toxic people are very hard to please. You have your own set of values and I encourage you to live by these.  Giving toxic people in your life “Power over you”, allows them to determine your self-worth – are you smart, successful, a good person, a caring person and so on. 

Set and enforce clear boundaries Boundaries help us set clear expectations and limits for how others can treat us. They create emotional and physical space between you and the toxic people in your life. This is probably something you didn’t have as a child, so at first, it can feel uncomfortable to set boundaries and start telling these people how you want to be treated. Also toxic people tend to resist boundaries as they want to be in control. Practice assertiveness by speaking your truth about what is just, and showing strength by not letting others hurt or influence you in negative ways. 

Practice courage by saying what needs to be said with compassion, even when it is really hard or scary. Courage is going ahead even when you feel like giving in to a toxic person. Also sometimes depending on the relationship that you have with this person, learn to forgive them, and learn to forgive yourself. Don’t punish yourself or them by taking revenge or holding a grudge. Look at what has happened, honor your feelings, think, and then decide what needs to change to make things right. Here’s some reflection questions that will help you with learning to deal with toxic people:

  1. What do you do in order to please a toxic person in your life, even though it doesn’t work well for you? What do you need to do for yourself, even if this person disapproves?
  2. What boundaries do you need to set? What’s one step you can take toward setting these boundaries?
  3. How do you try to change or fix a toxic person in your life? How do you feel when you inevitably fail to change them? With regards to your relationship with them, what’s in your control?
  4. Ask yourself this question, “What action can I take today, that would create a shift in this relationship?”
  5. How can you take care of yourself or disengage when this toxic person can’t see your point of view or is not  interested in your perspective?

Leave a comment if you have read something of value that you can apply in your life right now. We also invite you to join our PeopleSmart Inner Circle, a mentorship and community for busy working parents. If you are passionate about becoming your best self and want to lead and inspire your children to also become the best they can be, then join now. Your first week membership fee is ONLY $1! It’s led by myself and my friend and business partner Carol Dysart. We bring a combined 60 years of experience in coaching CEOs, leaders, managers, coaches, consultants, teachers and parents. Join now and be empowered to have harmonious and loving relationships at home and at work.” https://ic.peoplesmartworld.com/