Bad attitudes kill. Not literally, of course, but a toxic person’s perspective sucks the life out of everyone around them. They’re usually pessimistic, and highly critical, and demeaning to co-workers, schoolmates or family members. Their bad attitudes are contagious, so spreading discontentment and dissatisfaction. It can be challenging to understand fully how to deal with this kind of person. So, what are some comebacks to kindly squash a toxic person’s bad attitude?
Don’t just stand there, say something
Not only are toxic people annoying, but they can also be downright intimidating. Studies show that bad behavior has power; it influences people more than good behavior. Don’t let a toxic person’s intimidating attitudes leave you powerless. Speak up. Ask a question to help them see you’re not going along with their toxicity.
- “You sound upset. Are you okay?”
- “It sounds like you’re having a bad day. Maybe you should take a break.”
- “You seem so unhappy.”
- “What are you grateful for today?”
Respectfully push back
Be kind-hearted, but don’t be a pushover. You can be kind and strong at the same time. Speak politely but honestly to the toxic person. Your lack of push back may encourage the person’s toxicity. You may be feeling intimidated or overly helpful to this person. Here are some positive comebacks you can use to push back on the toxic person.
- Use “I” statements to demonstrate to them how you feel about what they’re saying.
- “When you say_________I “I want you to understand this because you’re my friend.”
- “Life is too short to complain about everything!”
- “Sorry, I’m not going there.”
Don’t get drawn into their toxic behavior, but counteract it with humor. Keep it light for your peace of mind, so you’re not drawn into their web of complaining, anger, and bad attitudes. Don’t fall prey to their tactics. They’re looking for a victim, don’t let it be you! If they’re manipulating you or trying to draw you into their gossip. Give them a funny answer to let them know you’re not buying what they’re trying to sell you.
- “Today is national don’t be manipulated day! Let’s celebrate!”
- “Sorry, I’m all out of drama!”
- “Let’s change the subject. I’m bored.”
- “Did you know being happy will make you live longer?”
- “I’m going to get you some happy pills.”
Don’t feel pressured
Don’t feel like you must agree with a toxic person. They often feel the need to control those around them. Plus, they hate being wrong. Don’t negotiate with them. Be your person with your own opinions and stand up to the toxic person’s control with statements like:
- “I need to think about that; I’m not sure I agree with you.”
- “I’m still thinking about that issue right now, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t pressure me.”
- “I’m not committing to anything new right now, so please stop asking.”
- “I don’t think I feel as strongly about it as you do, but that’s okay.”
Refuse to respond to their negativity
Toxic people like to get others to agree with them. Like the story of the spider and the fly, they want to draw you into their mean spirited gossip and backbiting. It’s easy to be drawn into this scheme. But rise above their toxic attitudes. When they spew their poisonous words, take a deep breath, and respond in a positive, firm way.
If they say, “Did you hear what ______did yesterday?”
You say, “I’ve always liked_______. She seems genuine.”
Turn the conversation to a positive one, if possible, with affirming statements about people or situations. The toxic person may be surprised or even angry that you don’t agree with them since they love being right. That’s okay, stay true to yourself, your faith, and your goals for growth. If they get nasty, look at your phone and say, “I need to get back to work” or walk away.
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (NIV, Proverbs 15:1)
Toxic people are needy. They are angry, stubborn, and need to feel important to be the “go-to” person at work or school. When they aren’t getting the attention which they crave, they spew toxic, bad attitudes everywhere. For that reason, answering them with a gentle answer gets to their heart’s needs. They may not respond well, they may be angry or laugh at you, but deep down inside, they are listening. They are hurting, and they probably need counseling.
Try using “I” words, be firm, but kind-hearted. Offer them help if they want it, but be sure they know you’re not going to participate in their toxicity. Many people see this as being a Pollyanna, but kindness never goes out of style. Whether the toxic person deserves compassion or not, they are a human being, so that’s a good reason to be kind to them.
- “I’m praying for you to be happier in life.”
- “I won’t participate in your backbiting, but I’m still your friend.”
- “It’s not my style to be angry like you are.”
- “Sorry, but I”m not going there.”
- “I’m happy here at________, You’re missing out by being so angry all the time.”
Don’t overstep your boundaries. Never offer help to someone who doesn’t want your help. Be self-preserving enough to keep your distance from someone who is trying to hurt you.
Tell the truth
It’s hard to believe, but toxic people don’t always know they’re poisonous. They’re blind to what they’re like. Their co-workers or schoolmates don’t tell them the truth about themselves, because they’re afraid they’ll get an angry outburst. If you are a friend or a caring enough person, you can tell them the truth. They may not like it; they may yell at you or gossip about you. That’s okay, their opinion of you isn’t your identity. Don’t allow them to dictate your decisions. You make your own decisions based on your convictions. Approach them privately, over coffee, or outside the workplace.
- “Hey, may I speak with you for a moment privately? I value our friendship, so I wanted to tell you truthfully that you come across bitter and sort of toxic. I know this may be surprising to you, but I’m worried about you.”
- “I feel uncomfortable saying this, but you seem so unhappy all the time. You’re an angry person. Do you think you might need counseling to help you? I’d be happy to help you find one.”
Talk to them one time; don’t keep bringing it up. Never feel like you must change a toxic person. That won’t happen. You can’t change people, but you can be strong and courageous enough to tell them the truth. In time, they may respect you for it. Or they may never speak to you again. That’s okay. You were true to yourself, and that’s all you can do.
Sometimes, when you’ve tried everything to live with the toxic person, the only thing you can do is to say goodbye to your friendship. It is sad to need to do this, but you need to take care of yourself. Stand your ground and say keep your goodbye short and sweet. If you’ve been truthful with them and told them in the past that they’re toxic attitudes affected you, then they won’t be surprised you’re ending the relationship. Simply tell more truth. Say something like, “I need to end our friendship. Your negativity isn’t healthy.” Or say, “Your toxic view of life is affecting me too much, I think it’s best if we part ways for now. I do want to be your friend, but I need a break.”
They may get angry or yell at you, but that’s okay. Walk away, and remember this is the best thing for you.
Toxic people will always be around. Whether it’s at work, at school, or perhaps even in your family, you’re going to experience bad-mannered, cynical, and angry people. It takes courage and pure strength of character to have a good comeback with these people. Good chance you won’t change them. That’s not your job, but you can take control of your life and stand up to them. Your words matter, you’re accountable for how you live and what you say, but it’s not your fault that the toxic person is so negative.
Don’t let them blame you! Stand up for yourself when necessary. Speak up and push back kindly when you need to. Believe it or not, deep down inside, a toxic person may respect you for it. You never know when your strength and courage affects them. Stay true to yourself with a positive outlook on life, and pray for them to change their ways in due time.