4 tips to help you deal with gaslighters and other toxic people.

Jason Brien.

Have you ever had an interaction with a toxic person where it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, they are simply resistant to logic and reasoning? It’s like they have some sort of superpower that makes them immune to common sense and completely incapable of listening to your perspective. They could literally drop a piece of paper in front of you and swear black and blue that they did not drop it and that you must have been seeing things. It doesn’t matter if you try and explain to them that you literally just watched them drop the paper they will gaslight and BS you until you either agree with them or you walk away completely befuddled and exhausted.

Interacting with these kinds of people can be extremely frustrating to the point that it causes ‘healthy’ people to go temporarily insane. All the healthy person wants to do is resolve the issue and move forward but the toxic person only wants to gaslight and BS regardless of how ridiculous and farfetched their lies are. A short interaction with a toxic person who gaslights and BS’s can have a long-term effect on the ‘healthy’ persons emotional and cognitive health and well-being. So, when you eventually figure out that you can’t crack a nut with words, how do you stop yourself from going crazy or flipping out in frustration and slapping the toxic person silly? Here are some tips.

Shift your mindset from problem focused coping to emotion focused coping: 

Problem-focused coping targets the causes of stress in practical ways which will result in reduced stress. Problem focused strategies aim to remove or reduce the cause of the stressor. When it comes to toxic people who are resistant to logic and reasoning, and you are stuck with this person (i.e., family members), talking to them to try and get them to understand your perspective is pointless. For the times when you are stuck with a stress that you cannot eliminate, emotion focused coping is your next best strategy. Emotion-focused coping is a type of stress management that attempts to reduce negative emotional responses associated with stress. This involves dep breathing, calming yourself down and generally monitoring and containing the influx of negative emotions.

Do the bare minimum: 

If, for whatever reason, you are forced to interact with this toxic person, because maybe they are your in-laws and you are obligated to attend family functions to keep the peace within your intimate relationship, do and say the bare minimum. Fake a headache so you don’t have to talk much. Spend as much time in the toilet or away from the toxic person/s as possible. You are simply there to say hello and goodbye and as little as possible in between. When dealing with toxic people, anything you say and do can be used as ammo against you so its better to do and say nothing. If the toxic person tries to bait you by saying things like “So what are your views on this topic”? simply reply “I have never thought about it so I have nothing to add”. That’s it and just count the minutes until it’s time to leave.

Reduce contact: 

Do you remember how earlier I said that short interactions with toxic people can have long-term negative effects on healthy people? If a 5-minute conversation or interaction with a toxic person leaves you confused, annoyed, angry, etc for 5 weeks, you have to assess whether that 5 weeks of misery is worth the 5-minute conversation. Ideally it is not as you should always seek to preserve your mental and emotional health as much as possible, but in the real world there are people we simply cannot escape especially when it comes to families and in-laws. In these situations, a 5-minute conversation and the 5 weeks of misery thereafter may be worth it if it only occurs every 12 months.

Go no contact: 

If you decide that reducing contact is not effective enough, your next option is to cut off contact completely. A lot of people do this step incorrectly though. They may cut off all contact with the toxic person physically, but not emotionally and cognitively. You need to go no contact with both the physical person AND your internal object of that person. There is no point in having fictional arguments with your internal object of them because you are just perpetuating your own misery for no reason at all. It takes time and patience to stop interacting with your internal object of the toxic person but once you eventually do, you will feel a great sense of relief and peace.

Whenever deciding to reduce contact or go no contact with a toxic person, you always need to make the decision carefully. Toxic people don’t respond well to boundaries and reducing contact can trigger feelings of anger, abandonment or betrayal which may cause them to seek you out and cause you harm. This is where you have to use your emotional intelligence. Whilst it is always easy for a mental health professional to advise reduced or no contact, you ultimately know the person better. In saying this though, you are never trapped. It may just mean seeking professional help to detach from the toxic person (i.e., lawyers, police, etc).