If you’ve ever had a toxic coworker, or have lived with a toxic person, you know how much the wrong people in your life can negatively affect your performance.
And you also know that their real power lies in their ability to manipulate your emotions.
This is why emotional intelligence is such a powerful counter to toxic people: it gives you the ability to see through their tricks, manage the damage, and create defenses.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to navigate and effectively manage one’s emotions. However, it also includes social intelligence: the ability to effectively navigate social interactions with a keen awareness of the emotional element that is at play.
So then, how do emotionally intelligent people handle toxic people?
Truly toxic people will never be worth your time and energy – and they take a lot of each. Toxic people create unnecessary complexity, strife, and, worst of all, stress.
Here are some strategies that emotionally intelligent people employ to handle a toxic person:
1. They employ a strong support system
It’s very difficult for a toxic person to control a highly emotionally intelligent person. That’s because they know how to employ the most powerful counter to toxicity of all: support.
A toxic person depends on their ability to isolate and control you. But a strong, consistent support system is the most hardline counter to that which exists.
A strong support system sees you regularly, so they know when something is off.
A strong support system will meet and engage with the person at some point, so you can be sure they’ll defend you regularly and offer their (strong) opinion of the person sooner than later.
And a strong support system will, perhaps most importantly, assure you that you’re not crazy (or wrong, screwed up, etc.) when they start to pull the heavy manipulation tactics.
2. They utilize defined, unbreakable boundaries
Emotionally intelligent people know how to establish systems in advance to protect themselves against people who might harm them.
A strong support system is one way they do this but there are other strategies that don’t involve having other people around.
One of those ways is by establishing clear, defined boundaries right from the get-go.
By establishing boundaries, the emotionally intelligent person is able to set up a kind of “tripwire” which is triggered once the toxic person has gone too far. They can see that the line has been crossed and this serves as a warning sign that this person isn’t acting in their best interests.
3. They choose when to engage wisely
Emotionally intelligent people stay closely attuned to their energy level. They know when they’re exhausted and they notice the types of interactions and experiences that make them feel exhausted.
Toxic people often seek to absorb every bit of energy from you, whether through neediness, anger, or fear, and so emotionally intelligent people learn to pick and choose their interactions with those people wisely.
They can tell when the person wants to pick a fight, when they need attention, and know when and when not to engage based on the situation and their own internal state.
4. They forgive but don’t forget
There’s a careful difference between forgiving and forgetting and emotionally intelligent people know where that line is drawn.
Forgiveness is about you: to hold onto a grudge is to bring yourself down because the hate exists only within your own mind. But to forget means to allow the other person free reign to do what they did to you once again.
For this reason, emotionally intelligent people forgive those who wrong them but they don’t allow themselves to be taken advantage of again, so they do not forget and often consciously choose to distance themselves from the other person.