Each year, as you sit through those Right to Know meetings, do you ever wonder if the really dangerous toxins are actually some of the people in your life and not the Clorox wipes you have hidden in your file cabinet?
Let’s be honest. Some people really need a clear label saying, Danger: Hazardous to Your Health.
A toxic person is harmful to your well-being. Simply put, they don’t make you feel good.
Here are some key clues that someone in your life is toxic.
For optimum health and wellbeing, toxic people should be cleansed from your life. But, just like any other cleanse, it will take time and determination — and be a tad uncomfortable. While cleansing yourself of toxic people doesn’t always mean you have to cut those people out of your life entirely (think judgmental mother-in-law), it does mean that you’ll need to be strong and consistent in the actions you take with them. And sometimes a clean break is just what the doctor ordered.
Honesty may be the best answer. It can be scary to tell someone the truth about how you’re feeling, but your physical and mental wellness are riding on it. It’s entirely possible that the person in question has no idea how their words and actions have been negatively affecting you. Your honest heart-to-heart could very well be the wake-up call they need to get themselves back on track and treat your relationship with the respect it deserves.
Don’t blame, shame, or attack. Just state the facts as clearly and neutrally as you can. And be prepared for backlash. It’s hard to take criticism, even when it’s constructive, and not everyone will be open to what you have to say. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t say it. Just be ready to face the outcome, knowing it might not turn out all roses and champagne.
Sometimes the most toxic people have some sort of hold on us, and we keep going back for more. End the relationship and then tell people about it. Use the buddy system. This kind of accountability will make you more likely to stay away. Sometimes shame can be empowering. No one likes the embarrassment of slinking back to someone we know is flat out bad for us.
Find yourself busy. Really busy. Too busy to chat on the phone — have an exit strategy before you say hello. Be too busy to meet up — your kids’ busy schedules can have benefits. Delay your responses. Don’t make promises for the future. Tell them you’ll need to play it by ear. Then avoid it. Don’t be rude, just be busy.
Like those unwanted emails, sometimes the only way forward is to trash the relationship. Cut them out of your life and eliminate contact. You don’t have to tell them goodbye. Some relationships don’t deserve it. Erase their contacts, block them if you need to. Unfriend them on Facebook. Unfollow them on Twitter. Take them out of your life and move forward. They don’t deserve you and you don’t deserve their poison.
If your toxic relationship is with someone you can’t purge, like a close family member, make the conscious decision to censor the interactions you have. For instance, if they are unsupportive of your career, don’t talk about it. Keep those things that are important to you out of the exchange. Change the subject. Talk about something else. Avoid their toxicity by eliminating their opportunities to hurt you.
In the end, it all comes down to this: We all need relationships, but we don’t need every relationship. Surround yourself with those people that will lift you up and have your back — no matter what. People who inspire you to be a better person. People who energize your spirit and add value to your life.
Your time on earth is too short to spend it feeling drained, hurt, and dreading your next interaction. If someone is genuinely bad for you, take control of the relationship dynamic and cut the ties.
Ashley is an award-winning copywriter and content expert with more than a decade of proven results for national and local clients. From brainstorming high-end conceptual content to styling sentences that engage and convert, she’s got a knack for shattering the status quo. When she’s not in full-on writing mode, she’s hanging out with her rascal of a puppy and discussing the plausibility of unicorns with her 8-year-old daughter.