5 Emotionally Intelligent Ways Of Dealing With Toxic People

There is no getting away from Toxic People - they are every where : at office, in school, on the streets, in your home. While you can and must minimize your interactions with toxic people, there is no practical way to avoid them altogether. Emotional Intelligence teaches us to understand and manage our selves first; here are 5 emotionally intelligent ways of dealing with people who get under your skin.


Great managers take the time to really know their employees. They make an effort to understand their team members well because of their personal interest and investment in the growth and development of their team. How many of you take the time to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with the employees you lead? The extent of your ability to answer these questions about them well and accurately will more or less reflect on how much you truly know the people you lead. 

1. Hit Pause

My grand mother used to say, if you're angry, take a deep breath and count to 10. It seems grandma was right. It is currently accepted that even a short pause ( 1 deep breath) is enough to alter your neurochemistry, prevent the hijacking of your brain, and stop you from mindlessly saying or doing something that you will regret later

2. Don't add Fuel to Fire

Emotional contagion is real. When two people are engaged in an emotionally charged conversation, they respond to each other's emotional state. This can either escalate the situation (if both are emotionally agitated) by increasing the level of agitation. Alternately, if one of them is able to stay cool, the other person's emotions will also start to settle down.

3. Zoom Out

Unless you happen to be dealing with a total stranger in an unexpected situation, you have access to both - their common behavioural patterns and the context (backstory) of the issue. Even a cursory review of the big picture can sometimes yield a number of insights into the triggers, or even the resolution. Sometimes, you have to intentionally shift your focus from the immediate challenge, to address it effectively

4. Zoom In

We are wired to defend our ego - to hold ourselves innocent, and to assign blame elsewhere - to situations and to other people. While there is no denying that some of the people in our lives are toxic, we need to look within ourselves to better understand why we respond the way we do, or even if we somehow trigger others. (A reader's comment on a recent post on identifying a potentially toxic boss, also suggests that we should also reflect on whether we ourselves, show up as a toxic person in someone else's life!)

5. Be Curious

In a customer service workshop I attended several years ago, the instructor emphasized the importance of not reacting (defensively or aggressively), and understanding the irate customer's complaint - by hearing them out, and also asking questions. I don't remember the name of the workshop of instructor - but this advice has proved useful over and over again. When someone is yelling at you, and you don't react, but ask questions like "Could you please tell me what happened?", it helps them and us - by moving focus to the issue, rather than their emotional reaction to it

It may not be possible to avoid interacting with toxic people, but there are emotionally intelligent ways of avoiding the toxic impact of these encounters : not reacting instantaneously, not escalating the situation by becoming emotional ourselves, stepping back to look at the bigger picture, looking within ourselves, and being curious about the situation..

Questions for Reflection

What are your favourite ways of dealing with toxic people around you?
How do you know that you are not the toxic person in someone's life?

Like This? Spread the Word!
Narayan Kamath

I'm a Leadership Coach and Mentor. I help successful leaders take their leadership to the next level. My mission is to make positive and significant impact in the lives of at least 100,000 people by 2020 - by helping them unleash their true potential to achieve greater success and fulfilment - at work, and in life.

%d bloggers like this: