We meet many individuals in our daily life and with some we build long term relationships. These friendships serve as our daily dose of motivation or reason to keep us going even when times are low. Why not? The meaning of life is having a bunch of good friends for whom you wouldn’t mind walking that extra mile. But all of a sudden you realize that this friendship begins to drain you out more than filling your cup.
You must have heard a million times when people said “do not have expectations”. But is this statement enough to put up with a friendship that is toxic? I have come across a few people in my own life who have been toxic. While it is not always you can avoid such people, you can definitely learn how to deal with them.
But how will you identify the toxic people in your life? Barrie Sueskind, a therapist in Los Angeles who specializes in relationships, shares some key signs of toxicity (as cited in healthline.com):
- self-absorption or self-centeredness
- manipulation and other emotional abuse
- dishonesty and deceit
- difficulty offering compassion to others
- a tendency to create drama or conflict
I do resonate with above with my own experience and hence, I have picked the following top five ways to deal with toxic people in your life:
- Pay attention to how they make you feel
This one tops the list for me. We often ignore the early signs of toxicity just to keep the friendship alive. This is a big mistake unless you can talk things through and rectify the situation. I had a particular experience where my friend and I had gone out for lunch. As we stepped out, I felt the urge to use the wash room urgently. I immediately handed over my hand bag to her so I did not have to bother about its safety. She immediately refused by saying “no”. Although I found it weird, I chose to ignore it until more of such things came my way. Pay attention to such a behavior and if does not change with conversation, you know where you are heading to.
2. Set your boundaries
You may feel that you are contributing more than the other person in this relationship. Despite this you may feel that you owe them more. Toxic people do have a way of making you feel guilty. They also have a way of doing something hurtful and then explaining that they did all of for your good. Workplace is often where you see such behavior. Some examples are “I went out for lunch without you. I thought you wanted some time alone after that failed deal.”, “I responded to the boss on your behalf. Thought you would appreciate that I filled in for you”. “I called you yesterday afternoon in spite of my busy schedule. You did not pick up my call.” Such instances that aim at taking you on a guilt trip is certainly not good for your mind. Communicate what is acceptable to you, set your boundaries and follow it yourself.
3. Put yourself first
A healthy relationship is where you do not need to constantly explain yourself. But with a toxic person you will listen to loads of reasons why they did what they did. This means that even if they did something nice, they will remind you about it after some time. You then excuse them and continue to accept their reasons putting yourself on low priority. A person who sees the need to justify every action, is not doing it because they value friendship, but it is because they feel the need to keep you happy for their own benefit. Watch out!
4. Limit your time together
You end up supporting their growth but their enthusiasm is not high when it pertains to your growth. After a few months you realize that a conversation leaves you in a very low state. These are energy vampires who only take from you and do not believe in giving back. When you realize this, instead of ignoring it take conscious step to limit your time with them. If it does not improve then have your exit strategy in place.
5. Learn to walk away
Sometimes cutting toxic people from your life may seem the only solution but may not be always feasible. While some consciously do it, few have hidden reasons behind their behavior. One of my friends suffered with childhood trauma of insecurity and bullying as a result of which his expressions would always seem toxic. The objective is not to end the friendship from the beginning but learn to walk away at the right time. Please bear in mind that you cannot change everyone but you can certainly identify early signs that can help you keep them at bay.
There are many more ways in which you can deal with toxic people but the above scores on the top of the list for me. In conclusion, there is no one size fits all but what is common to all is to not ignore the early signs and make a conscious decision to put yourself first.