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Surprising Science

Calm and confidence will slay the toxic people in your life

You're worth sticking up for.

Photo credit: Ollyy / Shutterstock

According to psychologist Margarita Tartakovsky, the best way to overcome the toxic influence of overly critical people is to disassociate with them. Of course, this isn’t always a possibility; these folks tend to be in positions we can’t simply avoid. They’re our bosses, parents, co-workers, family, etc.


Nevertheless, their behavior has a significant impact in our lives. “[W]e can only process so much negative emotion and take so many hits to our self-esteem before we start to become angry, depressed, anxious,” Ashley Thorn, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Salt Lake City, Utah, told Psych Central, of which Tartakovsky is an associate editor.

In response to this dilemma, Tartakovsky, with help of Thorn, has outlined several strategies for dealing with these people in a recent article. There are two things to remember when communicating your gripes to an overly critical observer: First, you’re not going to change them, so don’t try. Second, being silent sends a tacit message that their criticisms are working, thus encouraging them to criticize you more. That’s definitely not where you want to go.

“We teach people how to treat us by how we act, what we say, and what we do or do not allow,” Thorn said.

This said, Tartakovsky says, you have to find the happy medium in which firmness is wrapped in kindness: “Thorn likened it to dealing with young kids: To set a limit with a 3-year-old, you don’t yell or belittle them. Instead, you’re clear and direct, and you can always end with mentioning what they mean to you.”

That’s a fun image, isn’t it? Talking to your nosy co-worker like they’re wearing Thomas the Tank Engine pajamas. Thorn says to allow your behavior and body language to reflect this new firm approach in which you effectively train your critic to be more cognizant of what is acceptable.

All throughout, it’s vital to maintain your own sense of self-worth — remember that you’re worth sticking up for.

Read more at Psych Central.


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