Do you have a toxic person in your life?
When I asked my twitter followers this question, over 75% responded that they do.
Given the amount of us who are struggling to deal with toxic people and while doing research for my book Captivate, I turned to my friend, Xochitl Gonzalez, for her advice. As a wedding planner in New York, Xochitl has to work with all sorts of difficult people from stressed out brides to their highly opinionated mother-in-laws. She told me that the key to dealing with difficult people is to understand that, more often than not, they are just afraid of something and are acting out on their fear.
Check out my video to learn more:
Difficult People are Just Afraid
Unlike other negative emotions such as sadness or anger that people either express them in ways you would expect such as crying or making frustrated comments, or by trying to hide the emotion altogether, people rarely show their fear for what it is. Rather, people often disguise their fear by displaying all sorts of annoying behaviors ranging from anger to being overly loud or quiet to being rude or any number of other things that distract from the fact that they are feeling vulnerable and scared in a situation. So, before you judge a person too harshly for their actions, take some time to consider if they are dealing with any underlying fears that you can help them resolve.
How to Embrace the Toxic People in Your life
The key to embracing the toxic people in your life and stopping them from having such as negative impact on you is to understand that their irritating behaviors come from a place of fear and acting on that. Here’s how:
#1 Understand that they can’t make rational decisions
One of the worst things you can do to a person who is displaying bad behavior is to force them to make decisions. According to Dr. Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University, fear turns off the exploratory and risk-taking functions of your brain so they’re only able to react defensively, preventing them from assessing all them options and making smarter decisions.
#2 Ask them questions to get to the source of their fear
People become afraid for three reasons:
- They encounter things and situations that they don’t understand.
- They are in a situation that they can’t control.
- They risk being harmed physically or emotionally.
In my book Captivate, I dive into a 3-step process for dealing with toxic and difficult people. It’s one of my 14 hacks for succeeding with people.
Whenever a toxic person is acting up, consider if they have a reason to feel any of the three things mentioned above. If nothing immediately comes to mind, ask them questions about how they are feeling about the situation they are in to get them to reveal what is driving their behavior.
#3 Address the problems fueling their fears
Once you understand the fears driving people’s toxic behavior, you can take action to resolve fears and lead people to become more positive presences in your life.
Here are some examples:
- For the friend who is obnoxious when she is feeling insecure…reassure her that you enjoy hanging out with her.
- For the client who becomes angry and demanding when he’s worried about the success of projects…prove to him that progress is being made and everything is going to turn out great.
- For the family member who is a constant source of stress and complaining…offer to take care of all of the logistics when you are together and let them know that you value spending time with them.
This is just the start! If you want to learn more human behavior hacks check out my book Captivate
Ever wonder what makes people tick? Want to know the hidden forces that drive our behavior? In Vanessa Van Edwards new book Captivate, she explains a simple blueprint for hacking human behavior. In this science packed, anti-boring guide you will learn:
- The formula for fascinating conversation
- How to walk into a room full of strangers and make a killer first impression
- What to do to increase your impact and income using people skills
- Our strategy for hacking the people code–we call it the matrix (Keanu Reeves not included with each book sale)
- The art and science of understanding people
Learn the new–science based way for winning friends and influencing people.