The “Tom Cruise Method” is the best answer to toxic people

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The actor’s cool handling of a prankster on the red carpet is the most gut-wrenching reaction we could have to toxic behavior

Many times, an insult, a bad behavior comes suddenly, unexpectedly, without you having caused it, from someone who aims to lower your self-esteem.

You have a few seconds to decide how to react to this toxic behavior. Will you give in to the feeling of anger that grows inside you? Will you turn your back and walk away? Or should you follow a third solution, the “Tom Cruise Method”?

The new TikTok trend suggests dealing with toxic people in a different way than expected: By asking questions.

TikTok user @ask_kimberly was inspired by an incident with the famous actor on the red carpet back in 2005. A man posing as a reporter started spraying water on the actor’s face through a fake microphone he was holding , hoping to humiliate the actor. The prankster’s surprise, however, was much greater than the actor’s when Cruise, instead of lashing out in anger, began asking the man questions: “Why would you do that?”, “What’s so funny?” and “Do you like doing mean things?” Watching Cruise exchange an angry reaction with genuine curiosity, a smile automatically formed on our face, admiring the composure with which he faced his plight.

This incident fatally “raises” questions: Is this reaction a behavior we should adopt when dealing with toxic people? PureWow gathered the experts’ opinions on the “Tom Cruise method”, when to use it and what questions to ask:

What is the Tom Cruise Method?

It is a way of combating abusive behavior or attempted manipulation by asking questions. This response will help you keep your cool when you are being verbally attacked, and may prompt the aggressor to reevaluate their behavior. After all, if it worked for a Hollywood actor, why shouldn’t it work for you?

Why the Tom Cruise Method Works

Asking questions is an effective way to defuse the tension that creates toxic behavior, says Dr. Nina Vasan. “It breaks the cycle of action, especially when that action involves malicious humor at someone else’s expense. It is likely that the person behaving in this way is thinking more about creating a funny moment than the emotional impact it will have on the recipient of the behavior.”

However, there are also those who deliberately try to provoke an explosive reaction. “A toxic person offends to lower the other person’s self-esteem. Over time, this allows him to gain control, play mind games and manipulate,” explains Dr. Alyssa Mancao. By keeping your cool and avoiding a flare-up, what you’re actually doing is reducing the energy of the toxic behavior you’re receiving.

1. Take a deep breath and think about the words you will use
“Approach the toxic person calmly. Keep calm, remind yourself that you can do it and get ready for action,” suggests Dr. Rubinstein.

2. Choose a calm tone of voice
The tone you set with your reaction will determine the continuation of the conflict. According to dr. Vasan, “when the toxic person sees you react coolly, they will be forced to adjust their behavior. You weaken, in this way, his whole original intention to offend you.”

3. Face the attack you receive with real curiosity
By confronting toxic behavior with questions, we turn anger into curiosity. As explained by Dr. Rubinstein, “questions are a good way of responding to manage a curious mindset, and they serve two purposes:

1) helps us regulate our emotions and

2) it allows us to recognize the other’s behavior more rationally

It’s like holding a mirror up to the face of your attacker. You can’t control his words or actions, but you can make him face his actions. “Through questions, you can de-escalate the other person’s behavior, bringing them face to face with their responsibilities,” comments Dr. Rubinstein.

4. Ask “open” and not aggressive questions
Dr. Rubenstein emphasizes that the goal of this method is not to “point the finger” at the aggressor. “Questions should be simple, short and non-accusatory,” he explains. For example:

  • What do you mean;
  • Can you help me understand why this is funny?
  • Can you explain it to me?
  • How would you feel if someone did/said that to you?
  • What happens;
  • Everything is fine;
  • What is the goal of this behavior?
  • Would you like me to talk to you this way?
  • How do you feel about the way you talk to me?

5. Don’t try to resolve the conflict
Dr. Rubenstein clarifies that the goal is to understand each other’s side. “When the other person is in a more relaxed, receptive, and rational state, then you can get to the heart of the issue, clarifying motivations, intentions, and feelings, and devising a plan of action to resolve the problem.”

6. Remember that your goal is to build better boundaries for yourself
During such a “crisis” you should remember that your goal is to create stricter boundaries for the behavior of others towards you. The essence, therefore, of such a confrontation is to finally say: “I cannot continue unless we speak calmly.” Give yourself the right to opt out of any discussion that displeases you. “Learning how to love and care for yourself and calm your nervous system is the best way to effectively deal with toxic behavior,” concludes Dr. Rubenstein.

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