We can all become toxic, on some occasions. However, there are particularly difficult people who try to manipulate, dominate or even humiliate the others. These people make us feel bad, infecting us with their negativity. And since we cannot always get away from them, sometimes we have no choice but to raise a protective shield to protect us from their influence.
In this regard, Taoism gives us valuable lessons that are transformed into useful tools to face life. Taoism is a philosophy that encourages us to get rid of conventional thought patterns to learn to live in a more balanced and serene way, to reach our goals with minimum effort.
Protect yourself from difficult people with the wisdom of Lao Tzu
1. Flow without resisting
In Taoism the similarity of the river is often used to explain how we can live with less stress and conflicts. The idea is simple: learn to flow like the river, naturally and without resisting. The idea of confrontation, struggle and resistance are opposed to harmony.
A phrase by Lao Tzu perfectly summarizes this concept: “If you do not give your enemy anything to oppose to, he will disappear by himself”. This means that it is not worthwhile to be engaged in discussions that will only serve to strengthen the person who wants to destabilize us. In fact, in psychology there is what is known as the “principle of extinction”, according to which, those behaviors that we do not pay attention to, tend to disappear.
That does not mean we should allow the others to submit us, it only encourages us to be wise enough not to feed the storm, letting the water return naturally to its level. Sometimes ignoring someone is the best way to avoid new conflicts.
2. Keep your serenity
“The whole universe surrenders to the mind that remains quiet,” said Lao Tzu. It is important to be aware that toxic people often harm us because we give them the power to do so, letting their words and attitudes have an emotional resonance within us.
These people influence us because we react automatically to their unpleasant comments, letting them press our “red buttons”. But if we learn to keep calm and breathe deeply, we will let go the first emotional reactions, emptying ourselves of emotions like anger, bitterness and bad mood.
It may help you imagine that your mind is like a house. It is important to leave the windows open so that the air circulates. If we close the windows, the air will become heavy and will not be able to follow its natural current. Thoughts and emotions work the same way, if we do not cling to them, they will go away as they came.
3. Answer intelligently
One of Lao Tzu’s wisest advices is: “Respond intelligently even to an unintelligent treatment”. It is essential not to put ourselves at the level of toxic people who try to manipulate or destabilize ourselves emotionally. Do not respond to attacks with another attack because violence, although well intentioned, always comes back to you like a boomerang.
Remember that the best warrior is one who does not get angry, who is able to control his emotions and, instead of reacting, responds intelligently, rationally evaluating the situation and weighing pros and cons.
When you just react, you’re giving the control to the other person, letting him impose his answers. On the contrary, responding intelligently means taking control of the situation and deciding which way you want to go.
Lao Tzu said: “Worry about what others think and you will always be their prisoner”. He meant that we often become “prisoners” of toxic people because we continue to brood their words and attitudes.
These people are usually specialists in finding our sensitive points and know how to touch them to cause damage or destabilize us. When we are unable to disconnect from this situation and continue to ruminate it in our mind, we deliver ourselves to them on a silver platter.
Therefore, to deal properly with toxic people it is essential to learn to disconnect and not to give their words and attitudes more importance than they deserve.
5. Be like the bamboo
Another natural element that inspires many Taoist parables is bamboo. Lao Tzu said that “The weak and the tender win the hard and the strong”. He meant that there are times when we need the strength of bamboo to face the attacks of those around us. The bamboo is flexible enough to bend in the wind, a flexibility that allows it to suffer less damage than a rigid tree trunk, but at the same time, this flexibility allows it to regain strength after it has been folded to return to its original position.
This similarity emphasizes the importance of developing inner strength and resilience, our ability to emerge strengthened by adversity and even use the attacks of the others in our favor. Sometimes falling is not bad or a sign of weakness, but it allows us to take the necessary time to reflect and respond with the strength that has its roots in serenity.