Empathy is a solid strategy when it comes to handling toxic people, but it isn't always easy to dig up when faced with one of them. Here's how you can be empathetic towards them, even if they don't know it, and why it more importantly helps you to even bother.
The video above from School of Life explains that the key to empathising with the other person is to understand that they're actually the ones in pain — which sounds like a schoolyard justification for bad behaviour, but comes from a very real place:
The only reason they have hurt us is because somewhere deep inside they are hurting themselves. They have been catty and derogatory and foul because they are not well. However outwardly confident they may look, however virile and robust they may appear, their actions are all the evidence we need that they cannot, in truth, be in a good place.
Having empathy for the person moves you from being their victim to being an observer to their pain. Even if you never offer a rebuttal to their meanness, knowing that they're the ones suffering and trying to make you suffer as a result reminds you that you — by contrast — are actually the stronger party. The fact that you would never do so, or sink to their lows, is a reminder that you're the robust one here, and your assailant comes from a place of fear and personal pain. This switch in power makes them much easier to deal with.
Why People Are So Nasty [School of Life (YouTube)]