Before you read the rest of this post, pause and think of all the people in your life. Think of your family members, friends, co-workers, social media connections and more. Now, ask yourself this question: Are there toxic people in my life? Who came to your mind? Define “toxic person” as anyone who makes you feel emotionally drained and exhausted. Is there someone who is unsupportive or abusive, often negative, who usually brings you down?
We each get one life. It’s time we start protecting ourselves from toxic people. That can be a tall order, especially if the person in question is a spouse or someone else you are especially close to. Loving one another and putting others’ needs before your own, however, doesn’t mean you must allow unhealthy relationships to ruin your life.
Learn to identify toxic people
There are many types of toxicity. If you can apply one or more of the issues included in the following list to a person in your life, your relationship might be toxic:
- Is there someone in your life who often creates drama or conflict?
- Many of us struggle with being self-centered from time to time. However, a toxic person is typically so self-absorbed that he or she lacks empathy and compassion.
- Do you believe a particular person is being deceptive, manipulative or coercive?
- Does someone in your life tend to make you feel bad about yourself or just generally make you feel down?
- Toxic people are often narcissistic although not always. A narcissist will blame you for all that’s wrong in his or her life.
- Is a specific relationship in your life a one-way street, with you doing all the giving and the other person taking?
- Are you uncomfortable with a specific relationship in your life? Might it be that it is toxic?
Sometimes, we struggle to acknowledge that there are toxic people in our lives. The sooner you admit it, the better off you’ll be. The good news is that you can be proactive to protect yourself from toxicity, even if you can’t totally distance yourself from a particular person.
Practical tips for dealing with toxic people
Let’s assume you know who the toxic people are in your life. What can you do about it? By implementing as many of the ideas in this next list as you can, you’ll learn to protect yourself:
- Ground yourself in reality and rational thinking. If there’s someone in your life that is often irrational or has a skewed perception of reality, don’t get dragged in.
- Without being accusatory, calmly state that you see whatever the situation happens to be in a different light. Don’t allow him or her to tell you your feelings are “wrong.”
- If someone is always complaining about life or acting like a victim, politely tell him or her you prefer not to hear about such things. You might suggest that he or she explore options for rectifying a situation.
- You don’t have to expose yourself to gossip. Confidently and calmly tell the toxic person in your life that you don’t want to hear it, the moment he or she starts trashing someone else.
- Resist the urge to defend yourself against a toxic person’s accusations. You might say you’re sorry to hear he or she feels that way, but leave it at that.
- You can end a friendship or acquaintance if it doesn’t bring light to your life.
If there are toxic people you can’t separate from completely, the tips in this post will hopefully help you avoid stress. In such cases, you can tell the person that you value your relationship but feel uncomfortable about certain issues. Don’t let yourself be drawn in to toxicity, especially if someone uses apology as a passive-aggressive tool.
When toxic people are physically abusive
If someone is physically abusing you, get away from him or her, no matter who it is. Protect yourself and reach out for immediate support.
If you’re unhappy in a relationship with a family member, friend, co-worker, boss, etc., decide what to do about it. Toxicity can wreak havoc on your emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health. Studies show that the stress of having a toxic relationship increases your risk for heart disease and other illnesses. Even if there’s a relationship you can’t end (such as with a parent or spouse or adult child, etc.) learn to protect yourself. Do what you can to eliminate or keep toxicity to a minimum in your life.