There is an old saying, “Love makes the world go round,” but occasionally (or maybe often) we run across people who seem determined to hate everyone and everything. They never see the good side of anything. They belittle and criticize others’ efforts and ideas. They always predict bad outcomes for any plans. They are Toxic People, poisoning the atmosphere where other people’s hopes, dreams, and ambitions grow. They’re the acid rain of humanity—caustically pouring down on everyone else’s garden.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that being around these people can really bring you down too. They can make you doubt your abilities, your goals, and your dreams. They make you wonder if it’s really worth the effort to even try to start a little project, much less put your whole effort into something big. Spend too much time listening to these cynical folks and you may find yourself believing them, being guided by them, and changing your aspirations and dreams to fit their views of the world.
This will not do! If you find yourself in the clutches of a Toxic Person, you owe it to yourself and your life to free yourself so you can be the person you need to be. However, this is easy for me to say; how do you do it?
Evaluate the Situation
Before cutting off ties with anyone in your life, first decide if you really need to go that far. This is especially true when we’re talking about family members or people who are close friends. It may work just as well that you can avoid the Toxic Person whenever possible. Is he active and healthy? Is she able to take care of herself without assistance? If the answer to these two questions is “Yes,” then you can know you can stay away without harm. Decline invitations to get together, cut back on visits, ignore texts and phone calls. If you genuinely feel up to seeing or talking to the person, go ahead, but don’t let yourself be bullied into accepting. Evaluate the situation each time and unless it’s an emergency, allow yourself the pleasure of choosing your own company.
Evaluate the Person
Empathy is one of the greatest traits we possess. It allows us to put ourselves into another person’s frame of mind and understand his or her’s thoughts and feelings. Before kicking a Toxic Person out of your life, you may want to try to understand why the person feels so bitter. Think back. Is this new behavior? Has this person always been so cynical, so pessimistic, and so crabby? If not, then maybe you can bring this up with the person in a loving, caring way. Sometimes people develop new personality traits and ways of thinking without even realizing it. You could be doing the person a favor by gently and carefully pointing out the changes in his or her’s personality. The causes could range from something simple to an undiagnosed medical issue. Keep in mind that it isn’t up to you to solve the person’s problems! All you can do is make the suggestion.
And what if it’s not new behavior? What is this person has always been the grumpiest, meanest person alive for as long as you can remember? What if he or she just seems to enjoy being hateful? Well, that very well could be true. I’m not joking. It won’t hurt you to try to figure out another cause if you want, but remember, the point of this is to rid your life of negative influence, not to become even more deeply involved. If you are up against someone who is happy as a caustic, spiteful person, you aren’t going to change him and chances are he won’t want to change himself. In that case, do yourself a favor and back off.
Make Your Decision
So now you’ve evaluated the situation and the person. Now what? Well, now it’s decision making time. Do you cut back or cut off? Either way, you’re going to have to be strong and stick with your decision once it’s made, even though though the person you’re leaving behind may try to make it hard. Don’t be surprised if you find that a Toxic Person may cling to you like a wait-a-minute vine, trying to keep you in place. Toxic People are often very controlling and will try to dominate you emotionally.
If you decide to cut back, you have to set the parameters you’re going to use. Are you willing to spend any time with this person or will phone calls, emails, or texts have to do? If you are willing to spend time with her, how much? Weekends? Holidays? Or maybe just a visit every now and then for a few hours. Either way, it’s up to you, it’s your decision, and you’re making it for a good reason. You’re doing it to save yourself.
Be firm. Refuse invitations you don’t want to accept without apologizing and if you do accept one, go to it with clear boundaries of what you will and won’t do and how long you will stay. If you will allow phone calls, emails, or texts, clarify how many and at what time. Don’t be bullied into answering the phone or replying to something that makes you unhappy. Set your limits and stick to them.
If you decide to cut off all ties with the person, how do you do it? Well, if it’s a friend, you can do it by slowly backing away until you’re out of sight by following the advice from above. Quit hanging out, make excuses about getting together, forget to return phone calls and texts, ignore the person on social media and over time he or she should get bored and move on. If he doesn’t or if it’s a family member, you may need to be more direct. Tell the Toxic Person in a calm, open manner why you are taking time away from the relationship. Don’t accuse, don’t denounce, just state your case in a firm, clear way and if you feel comfortable with the idea of leaving the door open for future communication, you can say so. But state what it will take for you to do that.
Remember, this isn’t about being right or being wrong; it’s about making your life better. So don’t allow the other person to try to argue, bribe, or cajole you back unless you’re ready and willing to go back on the terms you’ve set. And be ready to face that that time may never come. Once you boot someone from your life, it may be for good, whether you like it or not. But in the case of someone who does nothing but tear you down, damage your self-esteem, and destroy your dreams, what are you losing?
After all, we need people in our lives, but we need to make sure they’re the right people, the ones we can count on for love, support, and understanding. If you find yourself with a Toxic Person, remember you can do better. Take control and free yourself.
Photo: Briaanax by Chris Flucture