Everyone wants to be considered nice, right? But, here’s some news for you: Allowing yourself to be easily manipulated doesn’t make you “nice.” In fact, it can make you very “not nice.” Because, over time, if you let toxic people push you around, your frustration and resentment will slowly build up. And we all know how well that sort of thing turns out.
tox·ic: poisonous. noxious. dangerous. harmful. injurious. capable of causing harm.
The funny thing about a toxic substance is that you have to actually absorb it in some way for it to be harmful. In other words, for it to do any damage, you have to actually get it on your skin, in your blood stream, inject it, or inhale it into your system through your lungs.
If someone tries to sell me a bottle of poison, I can refuse the offer. As long as I do that, I won’t find a trace of that substance in my physical body—I won’t suffer harm from just being offered poison, regardless of how persuasive or pushy the salesman may be.
The same is true with toxic people—people who bully, manipulate, or seem to leech the Southern hospitality (or patience) out of the nicest of people. In fact, people who view themselves as “nice” are often the easiest targets for toxic people.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. People can only drive you as crazy as you let them. Don’t give them the keys! Stay in the driver’s seat, and toxic people won’t have control—they can shout and whine and point in a different direction, but you’ll tootle along the road whistling your own tune…not theirs!
If you are leading a team, business organization, or ministry, you will likely find yourself dealing with toxic people from time to time. It’s our hope that these tips will help you on your path to helping others find freedom and success – without falling prey to some of the very people you want to help! So, let’s talk about a few ways nice people can learn to be more assertive.
I’m OK, You’re Crazy!
One of the most important things you can do in any relationship, not just toxic ones, is to learn how to say what you mean and mean what you say. If someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do—something you feel is unfair, unreasonable, or down right wrong, learn to say no!
Don’t convince yourself that you’re “keeping the peace” by allowing yourself to be ordered around. Trust me, you’re not doing anyone any favors, and it will eventually backfire on you. And, in the end, you’ll look like the crazy one!
We can all be “toxic” in our behavior at times. It’s called sin and, as we trust daily in Christ and His redeeming work on the Cross, He cleanses us from the “toxin” of sin, and we walk in freedom, rather than in bondage. This is called sanctification.
There may be times when you’re in a disagreement with someone who you feel is pressuring you to do something you don’t agree with. Maybe it’s a family member, a business partner, an employee, or a downline/upline member. Rather than purse your lips and mumble under your breath…all while going along with their plan anyway, learn to practice assertive speech by confidently sharing why you don’t agree. And I mean practice! Like, get good at it!
Don’t resort to dishonest excuses, passive aggressive digs, or dramatic “woe is me” comments. And don’t agree to do what you don’t want to do and then spend the rest of the day complaining (gossiping) to others about it either!
This type of behavior will damage relationships and earn you nothing but an ulcer. It’s also the very opposite of assertive! In fact, it’s a little toxic.
Even if, after working through an issue together (using assertive language), you realize that you were wrong and that the other person was actually right, after apologizing, you can be satisfied knowing that you are now acting out of your own free-will, rather than responding to manipulation.
But there are times when we will encounter people who are either truly stuck in the sludge and bondage of sin and despair, or they’re behaving as though they are. When that happens, we need to know how to respond lovingly and without sinning, but also assertively! In order to rescue people from the toxic sludge that’s hijacking their life, we have to be careful not to get pulled in with them!
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way… 1 Corinthians 13:4-5
Who is in Control?
There are people in this world who appear to thrive on controlling those around them. They are usually miserable, always demanding, and never satisfied. Nothing is ever their fault, they are focused on themselves, and they count on the insecurities of others to manipulate and get their way.
“You need to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to RUN!”
As a leader, you need to recognize when people are trying to manipulate you, and stand your ground. You’ll either be able to help these people or you won’t. As a leader, you have the opportunity to help these people out of their bondage; but remember, it’s ultimately their decision to change. So, if they choose not to listen, don’t get caught up in their drama. Leave the door open, walk away, and wait until they are ready.
“When the leader lacks confidence, the followers lack commitment.” John C. Maxwell
This type of person tends to be a self-proclaimed victim. They have dozens of reasons why they can’t succeed, and they will spend hours repeating the same well-rehearsed excuses. Nobody can please them.
In fact, their biggest excuse usually involves what people have done to them or aren’t doing for them—and, watch out, they may decide that person is you! Their situation always seems to be unique, and no one dares challenge this type of person to rise above their circumstances, for fear of their wrath (or tears).
When working with people like this, they need (literally) for you to be firm—to create boundaries and to give them objectives. If you don’t do this, not only will you fail to help them, they will suck the life right out of you!
When mentoring this type of person, it’s important to show them how to change their language! Show them “forbidden” words and phrases (I can’t, I wish, if only, if he/she would, I would have if). Don’t let them give in to the negative language.
“Your doubts create mountains. Your actions move them.” Mel Robbins
Buy them a copy of Switch on Your Brain by Carolyn Leaf; but only if they agree to read it. If they won’t agree, or if you give them a copy and they keep coming up with excuses why they don’t have time, you’ll know you’re spinning your wheels.
Remember, these are the types of people who are used to getting their way because of their whining. What they don’t realize is that they haven’t actually been getting “their way” at all, which is why they don’t ever feel satisfied!
They may have won a little lip service from those who throw them crumbs while making a run for it, but they’ve driven away any semblance of true success in life by embracing a negative, complaining spirit.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Help them out by being a solid friend and set real boundaries that mean something. Don’t let them manipulate you; it’s not what they really want anyway. You will become the one they trust to help them out of their self-inflicted rut; and perhaps then, they can finally pursue true success!
This type of person typically has a strong, commanding presence—sometimes to the point of bullying others. Often, they are charismatic and well-liked because they can be absolutely charming…as long as you are going along with their plan (whether or not it’s a good one). But, if you don’t give in to their demands, look out!
You must show this type of person that you are not shaken. If you get angry, upset, or flustered, they will sniff out your weakness and go in for the kill.
Stay calm, loving, and firm. Let them know where you stand, but don’t give in. Walk away, if necessary, but don’t be intimidated into doing something you don’t want to do.
Few people can negotiate with a bully, so it’s best to give your advice and let it soak in for a while. Then, come back later to see if they are ready to have a fair discussion.
While you need to stand your ground, don’t accidentally try to micro-manage this type of person (or anyone else for that matter!). These are typically natural born leaders who are simply functioning in the negative (sinful) side of their personality. Don’t give up hope though—these people have a huge potential for greatness! Help them to see it! And then get out of the way!
The Drama Queen
The drama queen always turns everything into a huge production. She creates her own misery by worrying about every small issue; turning it upside down and inside out.
She wants your “opinion” on every conversation associated with whatever her current “issue” is. That is, until you give her advice. Then she will throw her head back and wail about how that won’t help!
The best way to deal with a drama queen is to repeat to her the situation she has presented in a calm, logical way. Let her know that she’s allowing her emotions to amplify the negative in her mind, and that it’s harming (if not destroying) her efforts to succeed. Help her to see the positive side and give her practical ways to focus on that.
If she tries to tell you that “you just don’t understand” her particular situation. Agree with her that you may not have all the details, but you have seen enough to know that her attitude towards it will keep her in bondage to her negative thinking.
Give her practical ways to focus on the positive things in her life. Help her to see her strengths and gifts, and give her practical tips on putting them to good use! Cheer her on, because the Drama Queen can be a huge and encouraging force for good once she learns to focus her love for drama on the healthy, positive side of life!
Again, all of us can operate in toxic (sinful) ways at times—in ways that negatively affect those around us. So, it’s good to practice assertive speech in all of our relationships—say what you mean and mean what you say! Remember, just as complaining, whining, and negative, toxic speech can bring everyone down; excitement, positive admonitions, and edifying words are contagious! Choose your words wisely.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” – Proverbs 25:11