How to Manage Stressful People in Your Life

Older men in tense discussion
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Learning to effectively manage stressful people is no easy feat. Too many people suffer from co-workers who make their jobs harder or families and friends who at best may be unaware of their negative impact, or at worst derive some satisfaction from it. Of the many negative feelings that can arise from dealing with difficult people, most will eventually boil down to emotional stress, which is the killer. Stress has been the subject of many a study in research dedicated to health and wellness (or, on the contrary, disease) and it has been shown to have a lasting impact on your mental state and physical health.

Managing Stress and the People Who Cause It

Everyone encounters daily stressors. Some are expected or even routine. Others catch us by surprise. Either way, we must manage some level of stress every day, and much of the time, we do it without even thinking about it.

But there are still many times when we have to make a conscious effort to deal with the stress, and dealing with stressful or "toxic" people is just one of them. Whether their actions are frustrating, cruel, or simply negative, the best approach to working with stressful people is to be proactive and learn how to manage them and your stress.

Here are five great tips for learning how to manage stressful people:

1. Be Proactive

Because you have dealt with this person before, you can probably play the situation out in your head. You may even know exactly what they are going​ to do. Use that knowledge to decide what you are going to do. Be proactive and decide beforehand how you want to handle the situation and stick to that plan. You might just find this decision easier than dwelling in fear or negativity before the encounter, and it is certainly better than going in without a plan.

2. Control Your Reaction

A person who doesn't care has tremendous power. If someone upsets you because of how they act, what they say, or what they believe, ask yourself: "Why do I care?" You can't change or control people, but you can control how you react to them. By taking the power of your response and reaction into your hands you not only provide a protective barrier, but you may just take the power away from them.

3. Don't Get on Their Emotional Bus

Stressful people will try to take you on an emotional ride with them. They get angry, you get angry, and yelling happens. They get sad, you get sad, and everybody's sad. Don't get on their emotional bus. Listen, talk, and communicate, but don't let them control you by triggering unnecessary negative emotions.

4. Know What You Need and Your Goals

When meeting with a stressful person, know beforehand what you need from the meeting. What are your goals? Keep those objectives in mind as the conversation ebbs and flows. Bring the talk back to your goals. If you can get your goals met, you have learned how to deal with this person.

5. Don't Dwell

After your encounter with a particularly stressful person, don't dwell on it. If things went badly, do your best to rectify it or move on. You can be fairly certain that the stressful person isn't thinking about you and is on to the next victim. Don't allow a stressful interaction to ruin the rest of your day. That said, you can try to learn from your experience and create a plan for next time you are in that situation then let it go.

1 Source
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  1. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: a review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480