While one toxic person may use manipulation and lies, another may resort to intimidation and incivility. And if you’re not careful, people like that can take a serious toll on your well-being.
Mentally strong people, however, deal with toxic people in a skilled manner. They refuse to give away their power and they continue being their best selves no matter who surrounds them.
Here’s how they effectively deal with toxic people and limit the influence they have on their lives:
1. They set physical boundaries.
You get to decide how much time and energy you want to devote to people in your life. When someone is toxic, you may need to set clear and firm boundaries about the time you’re going to spend together.
Whether you tell your mother-in-law she can’t show up unannounced several evenings each week, or you refuse to stand around the water cooler and gossip, limiting your contact with toxic people can be key to helping you stay strong.
2. They establish emotional boundaries.
You can’t always limit the amount of time you spend with certain people. After all, you don’t get to choose your co-workers, professors, or bosses.
When you can’t limit your exposure to toxic people, limit the emotional energy you spend on them. Don’t complain about them in your spare time, refuse to allow them to dictate the type of day you’re going to have, and remind yourself you can regulate your feelings.
3. They work on controlling themselves, not others.
It can be tempting to think, "I wish my mother didn’t make such snarky comments to me all the time," or "I hope my uncle doesn’t drink too much at the holiday party," but you can’t control what other people do. Investing energy into wishing other people were different only wastes your time.
Focus on controlling how you respond to others. Whether you speak up or walk away, you have choices in how you deal with the situation.
4. They follow through on what they say.
Repeatedly threatening to cut someone off or warning someone that you’ll never lend them money again—only to turn around and give them money the next time they ask–makes the situation worse.
If you are going to set limits with someone, be a person of your word. Otherwise, you’ll be contributing to the dysfunction in a relationship.
5. They regulate their thoughts.
Thinking things like, "She always ruins my day," or "He makes me feel bad about myself," gives toxic people power over you.
When you catch yourself thinking in a destructive manner, have a healthier conversation with yourself. Respond by reminding yourself of your choices and that you don’t have to be a victim.
6. They engage in healthy coping skills.
Even when you establish healthy boundaries with toxic people, they can still be draining on you. It’s important to engage in healthy coping strategies that will help you stay strong.
Experiment with a variety of coping skills—from gratitude to meditation. And take good care of your health. It’s impossible to stay mentally strong when you’re abusing your body with alcohol, sleep deprivation, or junk food.
7. They stay true to their values.
Quitting a job to escape a toxic environment doesn’t mean you weren’t strong enough to hack it—instead, it may mean you decided to prioritize your well-being over money. Similarly, cutting a loved one out of your life doesn’t mean you’re cruel, it may mean you decided the healthiest thing you could do was end contact.
When you know what you value, prioritizing your life becomes easier. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes sometimes—toxic people have the ability to be a negative influence on us. But, before you can behave according to your beliefs, you need to what your values are.
Build Your Mental Muscles
Just like physical muscles will atrophy without exercise, your mental muscles will too. So it’s important to keep building your mental muscles. It’s also key to give up the bad habits that are draining you of mental strength.
The stronger you grow, the easier it is to deal with toxic people. And the less power you give them over you, they’ll be less likely to take a toll on your life.
The article originally appeared on Inc.com.