Pin It

How to Handle Toxic Relationships

by Evelyn on February 17, 2011

Toxic relationships are those which have become extreme. You experience a sense of dread, misery, illness and nervous energy, whenever you have to handle people with toxic energy. They can be people in the office, friends or even family members.

Going Bananas Over Bananas

Toxic people are either skilled in poking holes or dampening your aura. You cannot help but feel affected by their energy. You feel drained energetically after a mere 10 minutes with them. You find yourself having to make excuses to go to the bathroom, just to take a breather. I recall this being my experience, whenever a particular friend with lots of toxic energy came over for a visit two years ago. My article today shares 25 ways on handling toxic relationships.

Signs of toxic relationships

Lei provided some helpful descriptions of what toxic relationships can look like. In the question that she posted in response to my 70 Ways for Self Care article, she wrote…

“I work full time with the most toxic people I have ever met, people that complain, gossip, criticize, are sensitive, and quick to retaliate if you put them on edge. I haven’t been in this position for a year yet, and at first I would find myself talking in conversations about people I never even knew until I realized this was the reason why I’d feel so drained at the end of the day.

I figured since my co-workers aren’t going to change, I decided to change my attitude and simply tune them out, but now I feel as if they purposely ignore me because I ignore them, except they don’t know why. I cannot avoid the toxicity spilled out by these people and I can’t change jobs. I don’t feel I should have to either, but how to cope in the mean time without coming off as stuck up?

I have no reason to suggest my ideas to these people, because I already know they will not consider it since they find no fault in themselves and anyway who am I to judge? I just want to be happy and have energy at the end of my work day. Please offer any advice. I’m new to your site and absolutely love it. Thank you for sharing!”

More than just having the ability to press our buttons, I would classify toxic relationships as having overt control of some kind. In extreme cases, they can be manipulative, abusive and aggressive. The hold that they have over you feels lethal. You are unable to feel “safe” in their company. You feel as if your survival – whether physical or psychological – is being threatened.

Toxic people are prophets of doom. They have a poor outlook on life. Toxic people shift all the blame to everyone else but themselves. They refuse to take personal responsibility. Toxic people feel as if everyone owes them a living. They make their lives sound as if they are on spikes all the time. They thrive on repeating stories, whether their own or gossips about others. Toxic people have a knack of blowing up stories into catastrophic proportions. At first, we are drawn to their stories and feel bad for them. And then, we began to feel physically, mentally and emotionally ill ourselves from hearing the same thing over and over again.

It is also possible that you let toxic people take away your individual right to choice. You unconsciously allow your happiness be dictated by their irrational fears. If your toxic relationship is in a romantic or family situation, you are likely to experience trauma and pain. You will find it hard to walk away immediately if there are blood ties involved.

25 Ways to Handle Toxic Relationships

It can be hard not to be affected by people who are toxic. There may be a variety of reasons of why people become negative or difficult in the first place. Here is a list on how to deal with them in a variety of situations:

1. Avoid investing yourself emotionally into the content of their stories. It’s okay to feel sympathetic but understand that there can be more sides to the same situation than what they are sharing. It’s a bait that toxic people often put out. They like to draw you into their dramas, gain sympathy points and get a pat or two on their heads from you. Over time, they also keep expecting the same “poor thing” reactions from you.

2. Learn to say no to unreasonable demands. It is important to set limits. While you are compassionate, you also need to be firm in where you stand. Be clear in the values that you hold.

3. Refrain from wanting to take charge of their lives or make decisions for them. Toxic people can have a hold over you. Being sympathetic, you want to help. However, you cannot learn their life lessons for them.

4. Avoid taking what they say to heart. Difficult and negative people have toxic things to say about everything and to everyone. So don’t take what they say personally, unless the scathing remark is intentionally directed at you. In which case, you may want to see if their remark is worth doing something about.

5. Learn to take charge of your own emotional well-being. Avoid letting toxic people determine your mood. Release any absorption of negative emotions through the use of Emotional Freedom Technique. Take charge of your own well-being.

6. Create an energy shield before meeting people who are toxic. I share this in my last article. Read how to create a personal energy shield for protection here.

7. Keep a focused attention on the blessings that you enjoy.
Don’t allow their cynicisms about life affect you. Instead, always count your blessings.

8. Consider a change in perspective. Can the negative remarks be made with good intent? Can it be possible that the remarks are made because they care enough about you?

9. Learn to steer the conversations in a more positive direction. Be mindful about how the conversations are going. Avoid getting pulled along into the deep hole.

10. Avoid lengthy discussions. To avoid going into a lengthy argument, recommend a third party or a book that can help your negative friend see things in better perspective. Sometimes, it is best to let an external authority be the one to give advice.

11. Take walks in the park or garden. Allow Mother Nature to help you clear the negative energies that you have absorbed.

12. Wear clothes of cooling colors before meeting people who are negative or difficult.
Avoid colors that will make them “see red”, for instance.

13. Walk away, if you need to. If you cannot hold your space, be prepared to make an excuse and walk away. Take a short break and breathe.

14. Be mindful about your non-verbal communication cues in front of them. The reason of their negativity may stem from the signals that you have putting out. Unconsciously, you may be pursing your lips, crossing your hands or shaking your head in disagreement. Sensing your disapproval, they become defensive.

15. Stick to safe topics. Choose topics that are non-controversial like the weather for instance.

16. Maintain a sense of humor. Having a light-hearted perspective is always helpful for all kinds of situations that life presents. If you can slip in a joke during their negative tirade, it might just distract them from continuing their usual script.

17. Compliment the person. For this, you need to be sincere. You need to able to see that every person has a positive side. You focus on making him or her feel good first before making a request.

18. Simply observe, don’t judge them.
Refrain from reacting. Assess whether it is important if you respond or not. Don’t sweat the small stuff that they love to obsess over. Avoid allowing your ego in taking over.

20. Plan for the meeting. If you know that you are going to meet someone negative or difficult, be prepared for what he or she may say. Have an idea about what you can do and how you can respond. Here is your chance to develop better relationship and communication skills. If you are able to cope with a toxic person, you can handle anyone!

21. Send the other person showers of love, compassion and healing, when you meditate. The other person is merely projecting his inner reality through his toxic behavior. In reality, he or she is really “suffering”. It is likely that he or she is feeling insecure and fears losing psychological control.

22. Avoid feeding the situation with more energy.
Stop going around telling others that you have suffered under the wrath of this person. You are merely feeding an already toxic relationship with more negative energy.

23. Learn how to cut binding cords energetically.
Break the bonds that bind both your souls on an energetic level.

24. Visualize for a better tomorrow before bedtime. Visualize for a growing, healthy and positive relationship. You would be amazed how just this simple tip alone can work miracles!

25. And most importantly, learn what the toxic relationships are really trying to tell you. Questions to ask yourself: Why are you attracting them? Are they indicative of your low self esteem, lack of clear personal boundary, your need to practice patience or simply a need to use any one of the 24 tips above?

Share a Tip

Ever been in a toxic relationship? Share what happened and what tip has worked for you.

Take care,

evelyn lim signature

P.S. Today’s post is part of the Abundance Alchemy Answers series. Final post, How to Align with Financial Abundance Consciousness, will be posted in 3 days’ time on Monday.

Related Posts with Thumbnails

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Sile February 17, 2011 at 8:40 pm

A truly excellent article!

I’ve noticed that some migraine sufferers may have a toxic relationship or two without realising it and if they do realise, they may then be at a loss when it comes to redressing the situation and effectively handling toxic people. This article goes a long way to establishing good boundaries and side-stepping stress altogether.

Thanks, Evelyn!

The Vizier February 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Hi Evelyn,

I too have experienced toxic relationships. It is as you say, I felt a sense of dread whenever I had any contact with such people. As you say, “More than just having the ability to press our buttons, I would classify toxic relationships as having overt control of some kind. In extreme cases, they can be manipulative, abusive and aggressive. The hold that they have over you feels lethal.” Toxic people can feel like emotional vampires, they just suck the life out of you. As such, I definitely enjiyed the 25 ways you have suggested to handle toxic relationships. The following stand out for me.

2. Learn to say no to unreasonable demands.

This is important. If we do not draw the boundaries, toxic people have no qualms about crossing a line that is not there. They could do so intentionally or unintentionally. But the effect is the same. You will feel fear and dread when they do. Better to learn to say no to unreasonable demands.

10. Avoid lengthy discussions.

I once had a friend who could whine for hours without end about how miserable her life is and how hard she has it. She would keep on going around and around in circles for hours in self-pity. It was just awful listening to her. Everytime I tried to get her to focus on the solution, she refused to listen and just kept on yakking about how pitiful she was. Avoiding lengthy discussions is really important if that person is toxic. Do not waste your time or energy listening to them if they refuse to help themselves.

25. Learn what the toxic relationships are really trying to tell you.

I agree with this fully. Unless we see the bigger picture and learn the lesson behind it, we will not be able to break out of the cycle. I learned that I could not be responsible for everyone’s life. There are some people out there who are not willing to or ready to listen to what I have to say. If that is the case, there is no point getting upset and it would be better to avoid them where possible.

Thank you for sharing this article! :)

Irving the Vizier

Stephen February 17, 2011 at 9:38 pm

Hi Evelyn, this is a very important topic. Your 25 cures remind me, in summation, of a verse from Romans 12:2 “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind”.
Patterns of the world in this context include gossiping, prophets of doom, lack of taking responsibility, constant complaining and criticising. Take care, Stephen

Mel Clifford February 18, 2011 at 4:41 am

Hi Evelyn
Great post today, it clearly comes down to ones ability to communicate to others where they are and to maintain a positive focus so as not to allow tocxic issues to get a hold. The 25 points to me are all around communicting ones feeling and stopping toxic relationship from starting or ending now the ones people may have lived with. Once again great post
Kind Regards

Jonas February 18, 2011 at 6:34 am

To me “toxic relationships” already carries quite a bit of judgment.

In addition to your points, I would like to expand point 18 which I think is absolutely vital (especially since many of the other points are in some form already reactions):

Our shadow is the person we would rather not be. It is all the attributes and impulses in ourselves that we find inacceptable and thus repress. Much of what people call “toxic relationship” is actually repressed energy, shadow being released and creating a reactive, unaware, aggressive, black-out kind of scenario.

Ken Wilber says: “Projection on the ego level is very easily identified. If a person or thing in the environment informs us, we probably aren’t projecting; on the other hand, if it affects us, chances are that we are a victim of our own projections.”

If we are able to identify the major parts of our shadow and which aspects of the other person trigger it, we can actually reduce the amount of reactive energy that we are introducing into the situation to a minimal amount and can calmly act any way we feel right, without even taking any actions or words “against us” personally.

Thanks for an inspiring post,


NANCY February 18, 2011 at 7:40 am






Dandy February 18, 2011 at 8:25 am

Gosh Evelyn, this is such a good post! I love the tips. I’ve been in toxic relationships and have leaned healthy detachment is a positive thing. We don’t have to get wrapped up in someone elses negativity. We need to create a healthy and safe place inside ourselves. A place that cannot be reached by others negativity. Thanks so much for this peice Evelyn! I just love it!

Ronald Patrick Marriott February 18, 2011 at 10:26 am

And what when its your wife? After 20 years and many situations of unreal personal insult and out of sort comments that an enemy would get smacked in the head for, Im done. The personal cuts digs and lack of communication both daily and no sex life has ruined the situation past tolerable to hate. Enough, the soaking of ego and the selfishness has ended. Nice article , well written and the suggestions at the end are well covered.

Lance February 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm

This is a wonderful resource for more fully living with everyone we interact with, not only toxic relationships we might be in.

I really love this idea of “avoiding taking what they say to heart”. It’s in those moments, I know personally – that these relationships can become even more strained for me. It reminds me of don Miguel Ruiz’s “Four Agreements” book. One of those agreements – it’s about what others say/do – and how that is really about them, and not us. This has been such an eye-opener for me – and for me moving forth in all areas of my life (including those challenging and toxic relationships).

cammy February 18, 2011 at 9:59 pm

I’ve lived around toxic people, most of my life. But what’s frightening, is that I believe I’ve become a toxic person. Most of the descriptions you listed now fit me. But, I also deal with toxic people.

The thing is, Evelyn, would you write an article how to become more positive, and unlearn toxic, negative behavior for those of us who’ve “become” the very thing we detest? Thank you.

Bryan Thompson February 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Hi Evelyn, you are right on with toxic relationships. I have worked in some toxic environments, too. As a pastor, you have to see a lot of crap that people allow into their lives – negative thinking, drug & alcohol abuse, and other things. All because people have allowed such toxic attitudes into their lives. I had to learn #1 on your list early on. Not to attach myself emotionally to their stories. Yes, sometimes you need to listen. But one thing I learned, too, was to ONLY share advice and tips with them IF I knew they were open to breaking out of their funk and listening to it. And you can always tell.

Thanks for sharing this, my friend. You are wise beyond your years! :)

lei February 19, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Hello Evelyn,

Bravo again on another excellent article. I can’t express to you enough the gratitude I feel for the attention to the matter and time you’ve invested to share these tips with us. I also appreciate the information and feedback that everyone has shared regarding their experience with toxic people and it’s no surprise that I am not alone in dealing with these frustrating energy zappers.
I have dealt with a lot of negativity growing up but only within the past year have I started to research and tap into the wonderful resources that allow me to be a happier and calmer person. My co-workers are definitely difficult to be around but I’ve already started utilizing your tips and I find myself having a lot more energy at the end of my workday, enough so that I am able to do a second workout (I do my first workout before work). That’s a wonderful sign of progress to me.
I’ve tried to share your tips with someone I work with and they had a “but” objection to everything. I ended up changing the subject because I was trying to share something positive that I care about and she wasn’t able to relate, understand, or accept what I was trying to share. I brushed it off instead of being sensitive to her lack of enthusiasm since I’ve come to realize that everyone is exactly where they need to be at every given moment in time. We all do what we have to do with the knowledge we know at the time, and in my experience it takes reason, motivation and dedication to seek the truth and incorporate it to our lives as needed. My co-workers have been through some difficult experiences as have I, but I’ve been able to release the negative baggage whereas they haven’t yet. I pray for them and wish them well.
Anyway, I look forward to reading more articles and post on your website. Your expertise and ability to share it with others is a blessing.
Mahalo and Aloha,

Christina Dian February 19, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Dear Eve,
Me now is surrounded by toxic people at the office. Sometimes i feel lost and drown. I’m scared. They say bad things about another person and never consider about their mistakes. I feel intimidated. I cannot speak out what’s inside my mind. Above you have mentioned wonderful tips for going through the negative aura. Thank you Eve : )

Chris Edgar February 20, 2011 at 3:17 am

Hi Evelyn — sometimes I wonder we tend to think of another person as “toxic” when we don’t feel completely free to be who we are around them. A number of people have mentioned work situations, and I think these are a great example — because we believe we have to create a smiling, docile persona for ourselves in the workplace, the environment and the people in it start to seem “toxic” because we aren’t allowing ourselves to genuinely communicate with them. I wonder if people and environments would start to seem less toxic if we let down our own guard a little bit and told people what was really going on for us.

Angela Artemis February 21, 2011 at 9:57 am

This was a fabulous article. I thought your tips were brilliant. I especially love the last one where you advised us to look to why we might be attracting these toxic people into our lives. Frankly, I believe that’s the crux of the problem. Everything that happens outside of us is really a reflection of what’s going on inside of us – which I know you know, but it’s worth repeating. We can only change ourselves and your tips pave a fine path to doing just that.

Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom with us!

Stacy February 22, 2011 at 2:13 am

This is my first time at your site and I am really impressed with this article! In my younger years I had a knack for attracting these types of people into my life: friends, bosses, etc. Even in my childhood I had these types of relationships and I was never taught how to deal with them and I was very fearful of standing up for myself.

As I got older I looked for help in dealing with these relationships but found very little help. Most of what I heard was either, “That person isn’t like that!” and therefore got no help. Or else I heard, “You just need to walk away from that person/relationship” which wasn’t generally possible or helpful. If you run away from problems they have a tendency to show up again in other situations until you learn what you it is that you are meant to learn.

What little help I did find I applied to my life as best as I could and I have learned some other skills on my own. I really appreciate this list and I will apply the ones that I am not already using with the people in my life that are toxic to me. I especially like the point about visualization.


Honey April 13, 2011 at 4:23 am

These tips are wonderful, I can think of a few people in my life I can apply these to.

On the other hand… I often feel like the negative one and would love to come across a way to stop myself from being this way. I read a lot of different things on the internet related to self help and spiritual awareness etc and I try a lot of different things but it must be a slow process or I just haven’t found the right ‘one’ to work for me… yet.

I feel that being aware of this negativity is a step in the right direction, though, and I’m ever hopeful I’ll one day be enjoying more happy and positive personal relationships than ever before.

Thanks for your fantastic articles :)

Annette June 20, 2011 at 10:12 am

Get away from the negative person ASAP

Donald June 26, 2011 at 2:08 am

Hi Evelyn,
Excellent article. Anyone around a toxic person should also keep in mind the toxic person may be possessed with one or more entities. These entities depending on their strength can and do transmit very unloving thoughts or energies. What you can not see can still hurt you. Praying daily for protection and having an energy shield is so important. If one has taken in toxic energies please keep in mind an Epsom salt bath at this will help cleanse one’s aura. Peace and Love!!!

Jo August 14, 2011 at 5:22 am

Do not delude yourself further about a toxic relationship ONCE you realize you are involved in one. WALK AWAY. It is hard to do but if you don’t YOU MAY END UP DEAD. Ask yourself “is the toxic relationship worth YOUR LIFE?” WHY? Most toxic individuals are also ABUSERS in some way, shape or form.

Deepsha August 31, 2011 at 1:18 am

Wow! Wonderful article Evelyn! From last week I m kind of addicted to your web site. Going through blogs after blogs.. Each of them turns out to be better than the previous one. Tell me some thing Evelyn! Can a toxic person change his/ her aura? it is also possible that he is not aware of his aura and the negetive vibration he is spreading there anything to transform such aura into a better one? Can we take a lead to help such person out of it effectively?! i wanna try it in my life.. pls advice..:)

Sheri Adams September 16, 2011 at 3:07 am

I have just cut ties with my parents who are toxic. I’m 42 years young but I’ve decided I cannot take the anger, manipulation, accusations, shame, jealousy etc., anymore. I’m tired of walking on eggshells at my parent’s place. It was the hardest thing for me to do, to cut off contact with my parents. I had to block their email addresses, change my phone number to a new and unlisted one and even go so far as to get the police involved. But I am better without them, sadly. I have less pain, my apartment is more orderly etc. My life is much better without the people who brought me into this world.

a October 6, 2011 at 1:17 am

Thank you. I’ve been trying to find a way to de-toxify a relationship and kind of noticed I am starting to become a bit toxic myself.
Thanks for reminding me of my own optimism.

Veronica October 7, 2011 at 12:44 am

This is so amazing.. I have had toxic family and now in my 3rd toxic relationship..I guess I will learn with this one. It’s amazing how it keeps repeating itself. We have to step back and look at ourselves and see how toxic we have become. And yes migraines are what I suffer from. All this pain has caused quite a bit of damage to my health. Thanks for such a great article.

Starshine November 21, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Erm, what if you’re the toxic person?
I’ve been struggling with this for a while, knowing that certain people invoke a toxic response in me and feeling awful about it. However I am normally fine with most people. Any tips would help greatly!

chris60 April 6, 2012 at 5:37 am

Sometimes people just want to be heard. A good listener reflects back feelings without offering advice. Toxic people are often in pain and by listening to their stories you may learn to appreciate the impact that trauma, sickness, loss and hardship can have on a person. Life is not all good and positive and cheery. Personally, I find Pollyanna types somewhat delusional, childlike and shallow, as if they have been skipping through life wearing rose-tinted glasses but often avoiding “the elephant in the room” or running away from anything that seems “unpleasant” or makes them feel “uncomfortable”. Those who shy away from criticism tend to be narcissistic. The trick is to know yourself and your environment well enough to gauge whether the criticism is valid. If it is, acknowledge an area that may require change or improvement. However, outright unsubstantiated abuse is often a case of projection or a sign of insecurity and inadequacy. Most people are insecure, including all of those who shy away from valid comments and valid criticism. Sometimes it takes great courage to speak a truth among a group of people caught in denial. Demanding constant praise and validation leads to an inflated ego and sense of entitlement that can be as damaging as constant criticism and invalidation. A healthy mix of both is often needed for personal development and growth. An honest person accepts their strengths and weaknesses and accepts that life consists of both positive and negative elements. Demanding that people remain cheery and positive at all times creates clones. Some people are too scared to confront their darker emotions, or harsh and painful realities, and appear phony as a result. However, I agree that some people are capable of bringing negative energy into a clear space. Approached with humour and firm boundaries, such people should not have a great impact. Personally, I like Scrooge and Oscar the Grouch as their difference offers some comic relief in a world of vacuous, happy, chatty fools. Some environments create misery and all the fantasy, manipulation and distraction used to survive will not improve that reality. Modern life is stressful and I sometimes wonder whether the recent surge in positive thinking, perpetual optimism and pursuits of happiness are not diversionary ploys and band-aid fixes to mask this fact. Are the happy Nazis the ones with the problem, and the grumps more real? Depression is increasing and yet people are made to feel ashamed for being sad or negative. Masked depression can be endemic behind a sea of smiling faces, and that to me is sadder than people daring to be themselves and reveal how they feel. Those who put on an act of constant cheer and perpetual positive spin sometimes appear to be performing puppets. Ultimately, a society that does not appreciate difference, dissent and diversity is dangerous. The modern world is entering a period of complicated grieving from which it may learn to recognise and appreciate, and maybe restore or at least address, some of the things, values and qualities lost in the name of progress.

Jon Michael September 17, 2012 at 6:28 am

Great post. Thanks! Toxicity in others is something I’m becoming more aware of, yet I have a tendency to want to help others or ‘fix them’ which can drag me into the negativity. Even though I’m cognizant of the looming danger, I egoically enter into the relationship thinking it won’t affect me. Over time, though, it always does in some capacity.

Any thoughts on balancing empathy and boundaries to maintain longterm equanimity?

I thought #12 (Wear clothes of cooling colors) was very interesting. I never thought of using color and apparellel in handling toxicity.

I very much agree with #17 (Compliment the person). If the compliment is sincere, it has a powerfully disarming effect.

Thanks again!

Caterina November 29, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Thank you for an incredibly important article. I am using your tips to heal the pain and upset of having yet been entangled in a toxic friendship and sudden “break-up” when the toxicity became too much.

This is not the first time and even before reading your article I have been asking myself what is in me that attracts people like this? How can I help myself?

I really want to grow through this latest friend upset, but am not sure how to go about it. Thank you for any help.

eJ February 6, 2013 at 10:06 am

shielding is really important. it allows you to be around the person and they dont affect you. Another way of looking at is by not letting there negativity affect you so in other words anything they do is really not important and you can let go of it easily

vibhor March 11, 2013 at 7:35 pm

I have been trying to find a way to Detoxify my relationship. I have learned alot from this article. Thanks guys :)

Angie Esquivel November 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Hi Evelyn,
Thank you for the article. I was wondering if you had more specific advice on how to shield and protect your emotional health from a toxic spouse. I have been married to a toxic man for 6 years. I normally have a good level of self esteem and I try my best to protect myself from the emotional damage he’s toxicity can cause through prayer, surrounding myself with positive loving friends, regular excercise and diet, and simply doing the things I love the most. I can say that I have had to put up a brick wall toshield myself from the incredibly pain and damaged I once experienced with him. And although I normally feel strong and in control of my emotions there are times where I feel my husband is trying he’s best to wreck my wall like a wrecking ball, and sometimes this can result in him getting a reaction out of me. I was wondering if you have any advise that could help me to strengthen my wall and continue to stay strong and not allow myself to succumb at he’s attempts to wreck my sanctuary?

heather romanskroll May 29, 2015 at 4:24 am

I’m in love with a narcissistic sociopath. We are separated now and have been for nearly four years. This person actually snaps and becomes very mean and violent, physically abusive then doesn’t remember the act of violence towards me, even with visual residual harm. Denies it and says it was self inflicted. How do I get help for him? He seems to genually be a real great guy with this split evil personality. We were together since 2004 I love him and want to be together with him but, it scares me. Please help.

Leave a Comment

{ 5 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: